Norman Lewis, an Abstract Expressionist painter and teacher, was born in 1909 in Harlem to Caribbean immigrant parents.
As an artist, Lewis diverged from his native Harlemcommunity of artists in choosing abstraction over representation as his mode of expression.
Lewis studied with sculptor Augusta Savage from 1933 to 1935, at which time he also took art courses at Columbia University.
Those years brought about fruitful encounters with many artists and writers. Lewis joined the 306 group, a salon of artists and writers who met in Harlem and aimed to promote and support the careers of emerging African American artists.
In 1935, with members of the 306 group, he became a founding member of the Harlem Artists Guild.
Lewis moved away from creating social realism works in the early 1940s because he found the style was not effective to counter racism.
Abstraction proved an important means to both artistic freedom and personal discovery, a strategy to distance himself from racial artistic language, as well as the stereotypes of his time.
Lewis said he struggled to express social conflict in his art, but in his later years, focused on the inherently aesthetic. “The goal of the artist must be aesthetic development,” he told art historian Kellie Jones, “and in a universal sense, to make in his own way some contribution to culture.”
In his last 20 years, Lewis created and developed his very own unique blending of abstraction and figuration. His rhythmic lines and shapes now hinted at figures moving through his layers of colors.
Ding Yi (1962-) has been making abstract paintings using crosses and grids since the late 1980s.
Ding is one of China’s foremost Abstract painters, his art characterized by an acute attention to detail, with systematic repetition of forms and layering.
The cross, whether a + or an x with thematic variation, is a motif that the artist has declared a formal mark without meaning, in order to emphasize his rationalist approach to painting.
The context of Ding’s work has always been the incredibly fast-paced development of the industrial urban environment in post-socialist China, and the work, whether predominantly black, painted on tartan, or elaborated in intense fluorescent colors, all bear the title Appearance of Crosses with a date.
Ding is one of China’s foremost Abstract painters, his art characterized by an acute attention to detail, with systematic repetition of forms and layering.
Ding’s practice encompasses painting, sculpture, spatial installation and architecture.I thought it amazing how much intricate work went into each painting that I have inserted a close up of the work.
More of Ding Yi ‘s work can be found at theShanghai Gallery.
Yayoi Kusama developed a distinctive style utilizing approaches associated with Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism, Pop art, Feminist art, and Institutional Critique—but she always defined herself in her own terms as an obsessional artist.
Kusama had a breakthrough in 1965 when, using mirrors, she transformed the intense repetition of her earlier paintings and works on paper into a perceptual experience called Infinity Mirror Rooms.
Kusama’s kaleidoscopic environments offers the chance to step into an illusion of infinite space made from lights and mirrors.
Her mirrored rooms create an immersive environment that fosters an out-of-body experience, heightens one’s senses, and produces a repetitive illusion through the use of lights and mirrors.
Some of Kusama’s Mirrored Room installations have peep windows into which the visitor merely pokes a head, or little cabins you step inside to gaze out at infinite reflections of yourself – like a child playing with facing mirrors.
Can you imagine standing in the middle of all that light?
Russian-born painter Wassily Kandinsky is credited as a leader in avant-garde art as one of the founders of pure abstraction in painting in the early 20th century.
Born in Moscow in 1866, Wassily Kandinsky took up the study of art in earnest at age 30, moving to Munich to study drawing and painting.
A trained musician, Kandinsky approached color with a musician’s sensibility.
An obsession with Monet led him to explore his own creative concepts of color on canvas, which were sometimes controversial among his contemporaries and critics, but Kandinsky emerged as a respected leader of the abstract art movement in the early 20th century.
Kandinsky’s creation of abstract work followed a long period of development and maturation of intense thought based on his artistic experiences.
He called this devotion to inner beauty, fervor of spirit, and spiritual desire inner necessity; it was a central aspect of his art.
Alright, all you lovers (and merely friends) of Art….
Yesterday, my SEAG blogwas about Infinity. As you can see, most of of the images are abstract, i.e., art that does not attempt to represent an accurate depiction of a visual reality but instead use shapes, colors, forms and gestural marks to achieve its effect (per Tate Gallery).
Now, I am a landscape scenery kind of aficionado — a fan of surrealistic fantasy scenes and purple skies. But I want to feel comfortable around abstract art. I may not understand it, but I often get a “feeling” from it.
From those of you who appreciate abstract art…what it is about it that you like? What part of it do you understand? What does it MEAN?
Although it may look to the contrary, abstract art is not just someone spatting paint on a canvas. There is a reason, an emotion, a question the artist is trying to convey.
How can you learn to appreciate it, though?
Through the Gallery years I have shared what I thought was creative modern art. I read about the artists, got an idea what he was trying to convey, and shared their work so that you could get a different taste in your mouth.
But I’m sad to say I don’t quite get it. And I’m not making fun of abstract art. I’m just trying to understand it.
I suppose it’s like poets writing free verse poetry. To me it sounds like creative writing broken up into stanzas. There are only a few poets that write like that that I truly feel are sticking to form. But I love what I read, so the style doesn’t always mean as much.
So all of your modern art affectionados — how do you look at abstract art? Or minimalism art? What do I look for? How do I understand it?
The unique blend of Realism and the formal discipline of Color Field painting sets the work of Wolf Kahn (1927-) apart.
His convergence of light and color has been described as combining pictorial landscapes and painterly abstraction.
It is precisely Kahn’s fusion of color, spontaneity and representation that has produced such a rich and expressive body of work.
Splitting his time between his studios in New York and Vermont, Kahn renders his pastoral surroundings with a mixture of abstraction and representation and with a keen attentiveness to light and color.
These lush, vibrant, oil-on-canvas paintings read as studies of form and color as much as meditations on the landscapes he has come to understand so well—and has helped others to know, too.
Kahn offers some advice that, perhaps, might be of value to a younger generation of painters. “In order to make a living as an artist, you’ve got to be one of two things: A very nice guy, or a bad egg.”
From the deft touch of his paintings, Wolf Kahn is definitely the first.
I knew the name Jackson Pollock before I knew of Jackson Pollock.
Paul Jackson Pollock (January 28, 1912-August 11, 1956), known professionally at Jackson Pollock, was well known for his unique style of drip painting.
His name is synonymous with abstract expressionism.
Instead of using the traditional easel, Pollock affixed his canvas to the floor or the wall and poured and dripped his paint from a can; instead of using brushes he manipulated it with ‘sticks, trowels or knives’ (to use his own words), sometimes obtaining a heavy impasto by an admixture of sand, broken glass or other foreign matter.
His art is not only 2D, but 3D, with textures that jump out at you.
He was strongly supported by advanced critics, but was also subject to much abuse and sarcasm as the leader of a still little comprehended style; in 1956 Time magazine called him “Jack the Dripper”.
Although his problematic life ended early, his style is one that impresses us to this day.
Loïs Mailou Jones (1905 – 1998) decided early in her career that she would become a recognized artist—no easy path for an African American girl born at the beginning of the twentieth century.
After two years in North Carolina where she experienced the frustrations and indignities of segregation first-hand, Jones left Palmer Memorial and joined the faculty of the Fine Arts Department at Howard University in Washington, D.C.
Jones’s long career may be divided into four phases: the African-inspired works of the early 1930s, French landscapes, cityscapes, and figure studies from 1937 to 1951, Haitian scenes of the 1950s and 1960s, and the works of the past several decades that reflect a return to African themes.
Loïs was the first and only African American to break the segregation barrier denying African Americans the right to display visual art at public and private galleries and museums in the United States.
Throughout her 60 year career as an artist and educator, Loïs Mailou Jones broke down barriers with quiet determination during a time when inequality, racial discrimination, and segregation hindered her from gaining the acknowledgement and prestige she deserved as a talented artist.
Skillfully integrating aspects of African masks, figures, and textiles into her vibrant paintings, Jones continued to produce exciting new works at an astonishing rate of speed, even in her late eighties.
Loïs Mailou Jones was not only an artist, but a movement, inspiring the Harlem Renaissance and the future of all artists struggling to be heard.
In a Wonderland they lie, Dreaming as the days go by, Dreaming as the summers die: Ever drifting down the stream — Lingering in the golden gleam — Life, what is it but a dream?
Craig L Haupt is a Maryland based artist who works with Pen & Ink, watercolor, color pencil, and acrylics to create whimsical abstract images.
The words of artist Craig L. Haupt are as honest as his works.
“Though having earned an Art Education degree in 1999 (at 50 years old) and taking the required art courses, I am for the most part self-taught.”
“During my professional career, the early and latter part has been mechanical drawing/drafting. From childhood to present, I have been surrounded by my doodles and countless stick figures that have never left me.”
“Over time, they all have been unintentionally blending to create a menagerie of different subjects.”
One of my favorite bloggers, David, posted a 36-word poem the other day, doing his best to “understand” it. http://davidkanigan.com/2015/08/20/oh-well/. a very lovely, emotional poem. I tried to understand it, too. And while a whiff of sense wafted around my senses, I, too, had a hard time with interpretation.
It made me wonder.
Do people who write and paint and sculpt truly abstract things truly understand their meaning?
And, if so, why are so many of us so duh about it?
Look. I know I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed. Sometimes I have to have TV show plots explained to me. Sometimes I don’t get the end of the joke. Abstract, in the purest sense of the word, is, well, abstract to me.
But most times I “get it” after pondering on things for a bit. Eventually the proverbial light bulb goes on and most of what I read/look at/listen to makes sense. (Except rap music). The truly abstract aspect of an artist’s creativity is something totally different for me, though.
An example of this confusing state of mind is Russian artist Kasmir Malevich (1878-1935). A Polish-Russian painter and art theoretician, he was a pioneer of geometric abstract art and the originator of the avant-garde Suprematism movement (an art movement in Russia that produced abstract works featuring flat geometric forms).
Maybe it’s because I skipped Geometry in high school. Maybe it’s because my teachers taught me to write in full sentences and not in cryptic phrases. But somewhere along the line I never got into simple geometric forms. At least, not as a form of art.
Malevich explains his aesthetic theory. “Under Suprematism I understand the supremacy of pure feeling in creative art. To the Suprematist the visual phenomena of the objective world are, in themselves, meaningless; the significant thing is feeling, as such, quite apart from the environment in which it is called forth.” He viewed the Russian Revolution as having paved the way for a new society in which materialism would eventually lead to spiritual freedom.
I’m afraid I don’t quite get that from the painting above, either.
What is this roadblock I have to understanding the other side of the universe? I opened my Sunday Evening Art Gallery so that I could share what I considered Unique Art. Different Art. Personal Art. Something created that, even though in one way or another you don’t always “get” it, there is some thread of familiarity that runs between the artwork and the viewer.
I never studied Art theory either, so that might explain some of my unappreciativeness. I can make a connection between my friend Dawn Whitehead‘s sculptures and the world, even though most times I’m grasping at straws. I can figure out haikus and rambling poetry as long as there is an ending that makes sense.
Words thrown together without an immediate connection — that I have a much harder time with.
I am determined to delve a little further into this Suprematism movement, along with poetry that has category names but no sense. I want to be a little part of every art movement around me, even if at times the art doesn’t move me. A child of the world, as they say.
Even if I continue to get D- on my comprehension tests.
Louise Joséphine Bourgeois was born in 1911 and passed away in 2010. She is widely considered to have been one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. In a career spanning seventy years, she produced an intensely personal body of work that is as complex as it is diverse .A French-American artist and sculptor, among her many works were large spider structures which resulted in her being nicknamed the Spiderwoman. Louise’s gorgeous sculptures can be found at http://www.xavierhufkens.com/artists/louise-bourgeois, or search in Yahoo under Louis Bourgeois.
Australian abstract artist Dawn Whitehand starts off her “about” page this way:
I am an Australian artist, making unique mixed media sculptures from clay, found objects and textured materials which are based on organic natural forms.
I have always thought of myself as a traditionalist when it came to Art — Renoir, Rembrandt, Redlin — those people I can understand.
I never really paid attention to Abstract Art until I wandered into Dawn’s world.
Working from my studio on the outskirts of Ballarat at the base of a slumbering volcano, I am very aware of my environment, its constant changing, and its vulnerability. I am also very aware of the current global environmental crisis.
Within this context my art practice attempts to address these issues by making sculptural artworks that attempt to remind, though subliminally, the viewer of their innate connection to the Earth, and our reliance upon it for survival.
And I started to understand. A little. That all art doesn’t have to be literal. That trees don’t have to look like trees, and volcanoes didn’t have to look like volcanoes.
That Art, like Emotions, like Life, is different for everyone. Some just choose to share their unique view through creative arts.
The thrill of interpretation is the same thrill we take with each breath. And that there’s always someone willing to share their breath — and view — with you.