Wednesday, August 27, 2008

What's up with all the abstract art?

The other day I was talking to my aunt, a retired New Jersey goat farmer who had just looked at my website to see see what kind of art I was making. She said to me in a funny unsure tone, "I looked at the pictures on your website...oh, that modern was interesting..." By which I interpreted "What the heck was all that stuff? I was expecting watercolor cows and landscapes. What did you spend so much time in school for if you were just going to scribble?"

I can understand her position. I didn't "get" abstract art either until a handful of years ago when I went to a lecture by Carla Bengtson and did some reading on the subject. Even then, I didn't like it right away, but I slowly found myself lingering on the abstract images as I paged through a magazine, or browsed through a gallery. Eventually I realized that the abstract doodles I compulsively (and resentfully) made actually had some merit. And then I realized that my frustrated struggle with subject matter was unnecessary because what I was really compelled by was line, shape, color, texture, space, tone, and the funny way that the human mind interprets these things when you separate them from a literal narrative or object.

Here are some other people's thoughts on the subject:

This is my favorite article describing the (western) historical evolution of abstract art and how to begin to understand it. It is an informative and very easy read. It is a perfect overview for anyone new to the subject.
Understanding Abstract Art by Harley Hahn.

This article breaks down the artistic visual elements and gives a nice tutorial on how to approach an abstract image.
Abstract Art Explained by Lynne Taetzsch.

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