Art: The Joyless Spaniards

Had Generalissimo Franco followed the script that other modern dictators have written, he would have declared almost every living Spanish artist a degenerate and banned his works. But Spain's artistic roots go deep. Last week in two major exhibits in Manhattan—one at the Museum of Modern Art, the other at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum—U.S. gallerygoers could see that the heirs of Goya and El Greco had plunged headlong into their own brand of abstract expressionism.

For many of them, mere paint and canvas are not enough: a novel end can apparently justify any...

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