In 1961, the art historian Clement Greenberg published a collection of 38 essays titled Art and Culture, in which he proposed that abstraction was the end of art’s “process of self-purification.” The book was hailed as a masterpiece, and Greenberg’s teleological narrative was accepted as fact. But there was one problem. Across the Atlantic, thrilling forms of abstraction weren’t a result of purification. At the School of Casablanca, for instance, abstract painting was influenced by the ornamentation found in artisanal work. The Moroccan story, plus overlooked art from the past—think Hilma af Klint and Emma Kuntz—reveals Greenberg’s theories to be Western-centric, based narrowly on French and American history. This exhibition attempts to correct Greenberg’s hidebound narrative by exploring abstraction that originated in the Arab world. —E.C.
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