Amazing New Graph Drawing Charts the Birth of Abstraction

At today’s MoMA press breakfast, I encountered this graph drawing created by the museum to document the birth of abstraction. The image, which was designed for their upcoming show Inventing Abstraction: 1910-1925 (December 23, 2012–April 15, 2013), is an obvious node to Alfred H. Barr Jr.’s important Cubism and Abstract Art chart that accompanied a show of the same name at the MoMA in 1936.

Alfred H. Barr Jr’s classic “Cubism and Abstract Art” graph drawing. (click to enlarge)

This web of relationships goes beyond visual art to0 incorporate musicians like Claude Debussy, writers like Guillaume Apollinaire, and choreographers like Vaslav Nijinsky, and gives us the most complete picture of abstractions transcontinental roots we’ve ever seen.

The Americans, centered on photographer Alfred Stieglitz, branch out to include Max Weber, Marsden Hartley, and others. There are obvious Italian, Russian, British, Dutch and other clusters but the image connects the dots between figures we may not know were in contact. Leah Dickerman, a curator in MoMA’s Department of Painting and Sculpture, spoke about the graph briefly this morning and explained it shows all known relationships that included those who have shared studios and even slept together (if only those were in a different color … for clarify, of course).

We requested the image from MoMA and they were kind enough to provide it for Hyperallergic’s readers. They also sent us the following useful description to accompany the graph:

The invention of abstraction was not the inspiration of a solitary protagonist, but a relay of ideas that moved through a network of artists and intellectuals working in different countries and different media. This diagram maps the nexus of relationships among those artists represented in the exhibition Inventing Abstraction: 1910-1925, all of whom played a significant role in the development of a new modern language for the arts. Vectors connect individuals whose acquaintance with one another in the period 1910–1925 could be documented. The names in red represent those figures with the most number of connections within this group. The chart was produced as a collaboration between the exhibition’s curatorial and design team and Paul Ingram, Kravis Professor of Business at the Columbia Business School, and his students.

Will this image become as iconic as Barr’s more simplistic flowchart? My guess is yes, but like all maps it may have to be revised now and again as research and reputations change the emphasis of such cluster of relationships . Take a look at the drawing in all its glory and let yourself be lost in the amazing beginnings of something that changed the world forever.

comments (0)