Art: Fistprints & Abstractions

A conventional figure in rug designs, from Shiraz to Sears, Roebuck, is the tadpole-shaped fistprint of a moppet. This–according to Persian legend–is why: a rugmaker one day reprimanded his infant son for playing recklessly among his dye pots. The child, incensed, brought down his dripping little fist on a nearby rug. Regarding the curly imprint of the tot's clenched hand, the artist gave the Persian version of a cry of joy.

In an effort to restore to rugmaking a little ancient Persian fun, Manhattan's Museum of Modern Art last week put on an...

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