Art: The Reappearing Figure

Manhattan's Museum of Modern Art, which was probably the chief critical influence in developing the great outpouring of American abstractionism of the last 15 years, this week puts on a significant show of new U.S. figure painting. The mere fact of the show certainly means that abstraction is going to have to move over and make room for a new kind of U.S. representationalism. Yet much of the excitement of the figure paintings traces back to abstraction. The paintings come from artists who learned color, brushwork, emotionalism and intuition through abstraction—or, conversely, from...

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