Robert Moskowitz may not be the most important artist ever to have been given a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, but in certain ways he’s among the most interesting. His paintings of emblematic images—lighthouses and skyscrapers, for example—isolated on flat, neutral grounds don’t offer the viewer much to look at, and in a fundamental way they are far too narrowly based to amount to any kind of major pictorial statement. A mural-scale exercise in figure-ground relationships is all we get in his weaker pictures.

Yet his paintings are noteworthy for what they say about some of the problems—dilemmas, even—faced by abstract painters in recent years. Also, they raise questions about just what the recognizable images that have made their way back into painting are supposed to mean, or, rather, whence their meaning should come. Both of these questions carry far beyond the individual artist...


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