Thursday, July 17, 2014

Defining Abstract Art and What it is Today

When you think of the expression “abstract art," its repertoire is quite extensive. Indeed, it encompasses a range of artworks that include using the canvas to solicit imagery. Artists, through the use shapes, colors and lines, create abstract paintings that may, at-first-glance, seem intimidating and unorganized. At closer inspection, however, the viewer forms their own opinion of what imagery the artist is trying to convey. One description of abstract art may liken it to an artist’s emotions or feelings, revealing itself on canvas. There is no black and white when it comes to abstract paintings. The characteristics of it are dynamic and do not conform to the normal standards of classic art; but, instead create emotive sensations in the viewer, encouraged by the un-detailed display of geometric shapes and boldness of colors.

Suffice it to say that art, specifically abstract art, is a form of imagery being communicated to our inner emotions on a higher level. Many aspects of our daily lives can be attributed to abstract art. Our values, doubts, passions and our reactions to coming in contact with the environment, animals or music are all received and expressed in a distinctive fashion, unique to each individual.

The artist is tasked with the job of stimulating us to interpret and express our own responses to their abstract art. A feat not easily accomplished as some abstract art will be lost to those hesitant to look further that what they plainly see – as a relationship with abstract art is a very personal one.

What are the origins of Abstract Art?
Opinions vary greatly concerning the exact origins of abstract art. Some will claim that it was the answer to a period in the 19th century when artists felt that a new type of art expression was warranted. It was during that time that art was uncomplicated and simple; a painting of a person, place or thing. A new society of artists in 1870s Europe would emerge and bring forth Impressionism through art. Through Impressionism, paintings would take on an abstract appearance, rendering object art to be more intangible. Thus, abstract art was born.


It is obvious in today’s modern abstract art, that there have been some changes along the way. Expressionism would enter the art scene, coming by way of Germany at the start of the 20th century. Several artists, including Marc Chagall, Paul Klee and Edvard Much, started to inject emotion and overt moods into their paintings. The canvas became a vessel with which the artist could portray their state of mind at the time of painting; one that was not always realistic. Shapes

would become more imprecise, and colors would be increasingly vivid and bold. A new art genre, expressionism, would purposefully gravitate the art world towards embracing emotion through painting, as opposed to tangible objects.

After expressionism followed Post-Impressionism and Cubism. Post-Impressionist era artists, Paul Cezanne, for example, expanded on impressionism by deliberately altering color and shape to more closely mimic his own interpretations of the world as through his eyes. Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque would initiate Cubism; an artistic undertaking to express objects and scenery in the same fashion that the human mind brain sees it, on canvas. In a cubist painting, there are multiple perspectives addressed. A painting showing a woman holding a child is expanded on by being shifted and reassembled in the most abstract way possible, with the use or color, shapes and lines.

Paul Cezanne Abstract Painting
One of the creators of abstract art, Paul Cezanne was called the solidifier of Impressionism, one of the earliest artists of modern art.

Georges Braque Abstract Cubism
Another early form of abstract art was Cubism like this painting by Georges Braque

The Surrealism Movement
About the mid-20th century, surrealism would be the answer to artists’ need to visually interpret the unrestrained, subconscious mind. A highlight of modern art, surrealism focused on irrational and dreamlike objects and scenes, representative of the mind’s eye. The Surrealist movement is still today a legacy in and of itself and a great contribution to abstract art.

Abstract Expressionism
In the latter half of the 20th century, Abstract Expressionism would surface among a swiftly changing art world. Abstract Expressionism, a successor to surrealism, is a style of art that is more non-objective. That is; it is more concerned with intense emotion and expression of self, like that of the German Expressionists. In New York, a collection of artists that included Franz Kline, Jackson Pollock and Dutchman William de Kooning, started to push the envelope of past art movements and focus on using their paint medium, the paint itself, as the focus of the artwork. Larger pieces of canvas art soon would center on the artist’s intensely emotional approach to art. With zealous brushstrokes and deliberate paint spatters, drips and smears, the painting would transform itself to an expressive masterpiece.

After stretching Abstract Expressionism to its limits, a myriad of art movements would emerge; all expounding upon earlier concepts of abstract art. Artists like Ellsworth Kelly and Frank Stella would break away from using paint as the concept behind the art and embrace the more metaphoric and at times repetitive, minimalism movement. In the latter part of the 20th century, abstract artists would express themselves through Pop Art, Conceptual Art and Performance art – introducing consumerism and political views into their representative works.

Modern Abstract Art
In today’s 21st century, modern abstract paintings can be difficult to summarize, as the current movement is still emerging - almost impossible to classify. Additionally, current abstract art is not readily the result past art movements. Modern abstract art hints of realism and countless art genres from different periods, making today’s abstract art more pluralistic in character than ever.

Have fun and explore! You will find abstract paintings in art galleries, modern furniture stores and online.