Making art appear more meaningful and relevant by relating it to some other field of study is a strategy that’s become all too common among artists and curators of the postmodern era. But what [curator] Capasso’s exciting title and rhetoric can’t disguise is that the kind of neatly crafted, mildly idiosyncratic, optically catchy, all-over pattern painting his exhibition mostly presents is not the rebirth of abstract art he claims it to be, but a familiar, commercially and academically well-established style…

So what if anything does ‘‘Big Bang!’’ tell us about abstraction today? One thing it shows is how commonplace has become the impulse to read abstraction representationally. Unlike Frank Stella, who said of his obdurately nonrepresentational paintings, ‘‘What you see is what you see,’’ contemporary abstractionists often try to fold into their works all kinds of non-visual meanings, references, and associations — sociological, psychological, philosophical, religious, scientific, and otherwise. Too often, as in ‘‘Big Bang!,’’ this becomes a way to encourage interest in painting that is formally not all that thrilling.


Ken Johnson reviewing the abstraction show, “Big Bang!” at the DeCordova Museum
The Boston Globe