Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Notes on Abstract Art

*This is for the 12:00-1:30 TTH graduating students...

Abstract art uses a visual language of form, color and line to create a composition which may exist with a degree of independence from visual references in the world. By the end of the 19th century many artists felt a need to create a new kind of art which would encompass the fundamental changes taking place in technology, science and philosophy. The sources from which individual artists drew their theoretical arguments were diverse, and reflected the social and intellectual preoccupations in all areas of Western culture at that time.

Abstraction indicates a departure from reality in depiction of imagery in art. This departure from accurate representation can be only slight, or it can be partial, or it can be complete. Abstraction exists along a continuum. Even art that aims for verisimilitude of the highest degree can be said to be abstract, at least theoretically, since perfect representation is likely to be exceedingly elusive. Artwork which takes liberties, altering for instance color and form in ways that are conspicuous, can be said to be partially abstract. Total abstraction bears no trace of any reference to anything recognizable.

The three major forms of abstract art are cubism, neoplasticism, and abstract expressionism. Several artists are credited with the foundations of abstract art. Among those artists, the most famous cubists were Pablo Picasso and Piet Mondrian's works are one of the best examples of neoplasticism. Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock are excellent examples of abstract expressionism.

Abstract art began in the avant-garde movements of the late 19th century – Impressionism, neo-Impressionism, and post-Impressionism. These styles of painting reduced the importance of the original subject matter and began to emphasize the creative process of painting itself. In the first decade of the 20th century, some painters in Europe began to abandon the established Western conventions of imitating nature and of storytelling and developed a new artistic form and expression.

Abstract artists
Vasily Kandinsky is generally regarded as the first abstract artist. From 1910 to 1914 he worked on two series, Improvisations and Compositions, in which he moved gradually towards total abstraction. His highly coloured canvases influenced many younger European artists. In France around 1907, the cubists Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque also developed a semi-abstract style; their pictures, some partly collage, were composed mainly of fragmented natural images. By 1912 Robert Delaunay had pushed cubism to complete abstraction.

Many variations of abstract art developed in Europe and Russia, as shown in the work of Piet Mondrian, Kasimir Malevich, the Futurists, the Vorticists, and the Dadaists.

US art
Two exhibitions of European art, one in New York in 1913 (the Armory Show), the other in San Francisco in 1917, opened the way for abstraction in US art. Many painters, including the young Georgia O'Keeffe, experimented with new styles. Morgan Russell and Stanton Macdonald-Wright invented their own abstract style, Synchromism, a rival to Orphism, a similar style developed in France by Delaunay. Both movements emphasized colour over form.

Later developments
Abstract art has dominated Western art from 1920 and has continued to produce many variations. In the 1940s it gained renewed vigour in the works of the abstract expressionists, and in the 1950s minimal art developed as a more impersonal, simplified style of abstraction.

No comments: