Of Canvases and Coefficients

New book uses statistical methods to analyze avant-garde art

In the marketplace of ideas, controversy has become a spectacle as tightly scripted as the commercials in prime time. Any new concept supposedly meets "a growing surge of interest," spurring "intense academic debate," and so forth. In March, the student newspaper at the University of Chicago ran an article about Painting Outside the Lines: Patterns of Creativity in Modern Art (Harvard University Press), a new book by David W.