Art: Abstractions, Limited

My hair is grey, but not with years.

—Byron, The Prisoner of Chillon

Ordinary people, before & after the prisoner of Chillon's day, have had little difficulty visualizing the look of men imprisoned by oppressors. Stories and pictures—from Dachau to the trial of Cardinal Mindszenty—keep the human image fresh: men of flesh & blood, sometimes vacant-eyed and shuffling, with faces white from lack of sun.

At Manhattan's Museum of Modern Art last week, an interesting new version of the political prisoner made its appearance: the abstract artist's. The occasion was an exhibit of models by eleven U.S. prizewinners in a world-wide sculpture competition on...

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