Abstraction and Modern Art
I have chosen the abstract school of art as my main form of artistic expression. I personally believe that this school is of great importance in its impact on our modern times. Here I will share with you my perspective on this school of art which I have studied for many years and devoted myself wholly to its practice. Eventually I will delve deeper into the theories of abstract art in future articles.
Isness 135, 48"x36" by Bassmi
Abstract art is a new language of its own, when considered seriously, it has several important qualities that we will review. True abstract art is non-representational, to put it loosely, it has no identifiable subject matter. It is a common mistake to describe certain modern works of art as abstract when in the true sense of the word they are not. Artwork that hints at a subject matter, such as a landscape or a loosely-delineated figure study, cannot, in a true sense be considered abstract art.
While newer ideas and freer styles of art evolved after the Cubist period in Europe, abstract expressionism in its purest form is the first school of art that originated within the United States. This breakthrough in art was one of the most important developments in the history of art. Abstract art came about as a result of the freer thinking that was prevalent during the 1950s and 1960s. It is interesting to note that most of the great proponents of this school had something in common, namely their start as artists affected by cubism and post-impressionist art. This was the last breakthrough in art before the birth of abstract art. To give a couple of examples, Jackson Pollack’s early works were strongly cubist in nature. Mark Rothko, who gave us some of the purest images of abstract art, had an early period of figurative work affected by post-impressionist art.
Rothko, Three Nudes, 1933 - (Please see Fair Use Rational below.)
As mentioned previously, abstract art is a new language of its own. When the limitation of subject matter is removed, the artist is free to express a drama creating a new-ness of vision. When we meditate on this expressive drama, we experience a new world which communicates through form, movement, color combinations and mood. The main thought behind abstract art is that there is absolutely no necessity for subject matter leaving the artist free to create his new drama expressing a freshness of vision.
It is interesting to note the abstract nature of classical music. Abstraction has been a main property of music for centuries. This music creates an emotional response in the listener and even a spiritual experience, neither of which depend on having subject matter. Fine art is finally catching up with what composers have known for a very long time. In fact, good abstract art can have a resonance similar to musical compositions. When we think of abstract art in the same manner that we accept classical music composition it helps us relate more to the beauty and importance that is inherent in abstract art.
Within this movement the artists have the freedom to express their feelings and visions in a most personal way. This led to experimentation on a personal level creating new approaches. As an example, if we look at Pollack’s drip paintings, there is an amazing quality of rhythm, tempo and color environment that are strongly reminiscent of jazz music and its often free-flowing form. A closer look at Mark Rothko’s abstract work brings forth his mystical approach where the form is highly simplified into a few rectangles of color that have an amazing vibrational impact on the viewer. The absolute purity of Barnett Newman’s open fields of color creates an amazing geometric construction which invites the viewer to witness a new experience. This has become known as the minimal approach.
Barnett Newman, Cathedra, 1957 - (Please see Fair Use Rational below.)
When looking at an abstract painting, one should give the work a meditative look before forming an opinion. It is not recommended to look for a subject within the work or what subject it resembles. Alternatively, one should enjoy this new aesthetic experience as these artists intended.
In future articles, we will delve deeper into the topic of abstract art.
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