Wall Street Journal

While a lot of museums include artists from around the world in their shows covering the recent past, too often the contributions are minor cultural variations on the same old Western themes—a homogenized diversity. That is why “Taking Shape: Abstraction From the Arab World, 1950s-1980s,” a fascinating exhibition of about 90 works at New York University’s Grey Art Gallery, is so welcome and refreshing. It really has something new to say.

Enrica Viganò, an independent curator, spent nine years searching through the archives of individual photographers to assemble the 174 prints in “NeoRealismo: The New Image in Italy, 1932-1960.” There are no institutions in Italy that, like the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, Ariz., hold the archives of important photographers, so Ms. Viganò sought out her subjects one by one. In fact, the point of the exhibition is to establish photography as a significant art form in a country where it has never ranked with painting, literature, music or, more recently, film.