ART: Modernism's Russian Front

The birth of abstraction is illuminated in the energetic work of two compatriots

! Sometimes, as though by a benign but unforeseen planetary conjunction, exhibitions in New York City will light one another up. So it is with the present retrospectives of two of the leading figures of Russian modernism: Kazimir Malevich (1878-1935) at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Liubov Popova (1889-1924) at the Museum of Modern Art.

Malevich, inevitably, comes out as the more powerful artist (which is not at all to denigrate the brilliant gifts of Popova). His show was seen in Moscow, Amsterdam, Washington and Los Angeles before arriving in New York, but it has special resonance in Manhattan because...

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