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18 August 2006

Spent several hours standing beside abstract paintings and asking people how they felt today. There was Joan Miro's "The Birth of the World." Wasily Kandinsky's "4 Panels for Edwin R. Campbell," and Umberto Boccioni's "The Dynamism of a Soccer Player." Among were young people from Jerusalem and Torino and Valencia and London. Sweet platinum tourist moms from Wilmington, North Carolina. A few admitted, almost apologetically, that they didn't like abstracts. "To me it's just stuff thrown at a canvas. Isn't that terrible? I know it's supposed to be famous." Most were moved in some way. The Miro was large and heavy; it loomed from its own wall, the background washes like concrete on a rainy winter day, a black triangle -- mountain? -- in the top left quadrant, beneath it a thin jerky rectangle -- fallen question mark? prostrate man? -- which feels somehow human, and also tethered to the washes. But out of it all buzzes an orange circle. Escaping? It is a monumentally gloomy piece. But moving. The Kandinsky and Boccioni, by contrast, were -- joyful. their colours were so joyous -- primary reds and yellows and blues and greens -- Mike Timlin gives up a bases-loaded double to Derek Jeter on a full count in the bottom of the seventh. Yankees 11, Red Sox 10. Where was I? The abstracts were not chaotic or meaningless. They were evocations of states of mind. They gave a shape, a softening, a humanity, to the disorder. The woman from Balencia was as beautiful as the Boccioni. She said the Miro made her cry. Her skirt was the Kandinsky's green. According to the Landau study, which prompted my visit, abstracts remind people of the underlying disorder to the world, shaking the foundations of the structures we've created to soothe our foreknowledge of death. These did not do that for me. They were affirmations of life. Births of meaning. I came tired to the museum and departed refreshed.