“Contrasts of Form,” the retrospective of seventy years of geometric abstraction currently at the Museum of Modern Art, surveys a vast territory: seven decades, one hundred and seven artists, and two continents. [1] Yet the show doesn’t feel overstuffed or chaotic. The individual works reinforce and clarify one another as if in a one-artist show, and there’s a start-to-finish coherence generally associated with the really well-organized overview of a single career. Only in the last section, covering the years i960 to 1980, does one feel a drop in energy; it’s like an aesthetic slowdown.

In a way, “Contrasts of Form” is about a career—the career of an idea. The Cubists and some early abstractionists banished from their art the physics of reality: the sovereignty of gravity and solid, three-dimensional form. But the artists...


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