What is abstract art? To define so broad a category of artistic work succinctly is no mean feat, but let us use this definition:
Abstract representation in art is achieved not through literal or figurative forms, but rather through shapes, color, and composition.
Many who are new to viewing art may confuse abstract and contemporary art, when really, they are quite different. Abstraction in art has existed since humans began creating art. Additionally, abstraction can occur in degrees.
As far as Contemporary Art is concerned, it can be abstract or not. What defines Contemporary Art is not its abstraction, but rather its development from postmodern art. Understanding the differences and nuances between these categories of artistic expression is crucial to understanding works of art themselves, and it is that understanding which ushers in an appreciation for abstract art and its place in society.
Viewing Through Shape
Shape defines both positive and negative space. Positive space is occupied by shape, while negative space is any area within a work of art not occupied by shape. Understanding and interacting with shape is crucial to enjoying any work of art, but this is especially so with sculpture.
In sculpture, negative space can convey just as much value as positive space, or more in some cases. When selecting a work of art to display in a home, business, municipal building or campus, or an outdoor space, careful consideration of shape is crucial.
Viewing Through Color
Jackson Pollock’s Number 1, painted in 1948, is a stunning example of the importance of learning to view a work of art through color. Aside from Pollock’s handprints in the upper right corner, this piece is an exemplary work of Abstract Expressionism. It is Pollock’s layering of color that adds depth to this piece--what may initially look like a haphazard spillage of paint was in fact intentional and meticulous.
Color is meaningful in sculpture, too. Just as with paintings, the presence or absence of color can make a statement. Additionally, certain groups of colors can produce specific visual experiences. For example, use of complementary colors (blue and orange, purple and yellow, red and green, to name a few pairs), will create visual energy in a piece.
Viewing Through Composition
The composition of a piece describes the flow and balance of elements. Some artists strive to question balance while others may aim to achieve it. Where sculpture is concerned, balance may refer either to symmetry or adhering to the law of gravity. Skilled artists can, if they wish, create illusions of balance by manipulating the composition of a piece.
Composition takes into account the interactions between shape and color, so that we might say that viewing abstract art through composition is to view it holistically. It is interesting to note that where sculpture is concerned, composition can change depending on from where the work is viewed. This must be taken into account when placing a work of sculpture.
So why do we need abstract art? We’ll give you three reasons!
1. Abstract art can achieve timeless meaning.
Figurative art--that is, artwork that realistically represents its subject--can open the door to societal ideals and history, but abstract art can grow and develop with changing ideals. That is to say that abstract art takes on new meaning, while retaining its original significance, as time passes. It is as much alive as we are.
2. Abstract art invites viewers to think and engage creatively.
Much as fiction writers attempt to show, not tell, in order to ignite a reader’s imagination, so too do abstract artists excite the imagination of viewers. The more abstract a work of art, the more a viewer must think in order to understand its representation and meaning. Because of this, there is more room for a variety of ideas and viewers can grow both in their understanding and appreciation for art and the world around them by exchanging these ideas.
3. Abstract art creates art.
When a work of abstract art--especially a sculpture--is placed, the space it occupies becomes art. Anyone also occupying that space engages with that sculpture, and therefore becomes part of the artistic experience as well.
We need abstract art. We need abstract sculpture.
We need to engage with shapes, colors, and compositions. We need to experience timeless meaning; we need to think and engage creatively. Through abstract art we discover and celebrate common ground, as well as our differences. That is why abstract art transcends the art world. We welcome it into our homes, our businesses, our schools, our hospitals, and our parks.
Visit Studio 80 + Sculpture Grounds to engage with our sculpture collection, and to experience shape, color, and composition.