Abstract art is exactly that – abstract. It used shapes, forms, and marks to depict common lifelike forms.
In relation to art specifically, abstract means reducing or withdrawing details until you only have core elements of a subject.
In the 2017 Netflix docu-series Abstract, one graphic designer uses Legos to summarize New York icons in just a few blocks.
This is a great example of abstractionism at play. Given the topic of New York City, one can quickly surmise which landmark that bit of Legos is meant to represent.
Abstract art is most prominent in sculpture and paintings, where artists can use simplistic gestures to form the essence of a subject.
Finding Meaning in Abstraction
Some argue that abstract art follows the mantra ‘art for art’s sake’, in that it creates beauty without necessarily carrying deeper meaning.
Others, however, believe that abstraction in general stands for virtues such as purity and simplicity – as the style certainly lends to.
Abstract art can be traced to impressionism and cubism, and was born in the early 20th century.
The cornerstone of abstract art is anything that doesn’t directly portray a recognizable object or scene. This was contrary to Classic Realism, which was taught in the great European art academies.
Traditional artists were fervent about creating art in order to provide a recognizable scene or object.
Dutch artist Piet Mondrian was a student of the De Stijl art movement, which advocated for pure abstraction through a reduction to the essential forms and colors.
Mondrain’s masterpiece, Broadway Boogie Woogie (1942-43) abstracted a sky-down view of Manhattan’s busy streets. This work had heavy influence on New York’s Minimalism movement.
Jackson Pollock applied the drip painting method to his abstract art works. Drip painting involved literally dripping or flicking paint onto a canvas instead of carefully applying it.
Pollock is credited with the concept of action painting in which the physical approach to how the art was created is as essential as the finished work.
His greatness lies in his development of artist movements, and all around risk-taking in artistic form.
Jackson’s Number 5 one time held the record for the most expensive work of art sold, at $140 million.
Not only is he renowned for his contributions to abstract art, but Pollock is widely considered a leading figure of 20th century art.