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Gopnik's Daily Pic: Naum Gabo was a contender

By Blake Gopnik

By Blake Gopnik

The latest feed from my morning musings about art and objects at


"Construction," by the great modernist sculptor Naum Gabo, installed on the ceiling of a grand staircase in the Baltimore Museum of Art in 1951. The museum is reconsidering Gabo and his peers in an excellent little permanent-collection show called "Advancing Abstraction in Modern Sculpture." (It also includes one of the first welded pieces by David Smith, recently rediscovered and gifted to the BMA.)

When we now consider modern art, Marcel Duchamp and his brainy heirs loom large, as do the world-bound complexities of Picasso, Rauschenberg and Guston. But as recently as the 1970s, when I was a kid, Gabo's brand of clean-cut, empyrean formalism seemed to be running neck-and-neck with irony and mess, or even beating it.

The BMA show lets us rerun the tape of art history, and see another outcome.

(A sign of how things really turned out? The grand public staircase where Gabo's piece was installed, with some fanfare, is now cordoned off and almost inaccessible. Gabo's piece hasn't moved or changed, but it no longer needs to be present to our eyes, or in our minds.)

By Blake Gopnik  | November 5, 2010; 10:24 AM ET
Categories:  Blake Gopnik, Museums  | Tags:  Daily Pic  
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