Painting: A Bird's- & Worm's-Eye View

An abstract picture, by definition, refers to no reality but its own. But lately several abstract painters have begun to create works that utilize one of the most venerable conventions of representative painting—perspective. Though the impressionists made light of it, the cubists deliberately flouted it, and abstract expressionists ignored it, perspective now seems to be staging a comeback—with a significant difference. Where the Renaissance relied on it to convey an illusion of reality,* the new painters use it as a playful device for emphasizing the gap between reality and illusion.

Manhattan's Gerhardt Liebmann, 39, recently exhibited a series of canvases that...

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