Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Abstraction is Back!


Abstraction is back! And big! It seems that every art magazine and museum site (MOMA: Abstract Generation, Tate St Ives: TheIndiscipline of Painting) has recently been revisiting abstraction: reinventing  rediscovering.  A few years ago figurative work was all the rage and now we’re back to abstraction.  But it’s not just one kind, there’s a whole rich variety of ideas to admire and steal!!  Everything from the very, very spare reincarnations of Agnes Martin about whom a major (i.e. really expensive!) book has just been published  Agnes Martin: Paintings, Writings, Remembrances), to amorphous shapes reminiscent of  Franz Kline.
  I’ve also seen paintings that look very like Joan Mitchell, and early optical Bridget Rileys. (Just flip through the latest Art In America.There’s no doubt about it – painters steal from painters all the time!  Whether realistic or abstract.  Sometimes the new pieces look fresh and it’s a new take on an old theme, other times they’re stale and very much chewed over.  Taking an old clean simple idea and reworking it too much.


I do have to laugh at some of the comments though - many people still don't get abstraction!
"If you like what passes for "modern art" then you will probably enjoy what is on offer but I did not understand what was artistic about 2 lumps of rock suspended from the ceiling by a piece of rope.  Sorry but I like pictures or sculpture to look like something. I'm probably just a philistine at heart".  (unknown quote from the comment column).

Many people say the reason they don't like abstract art is because they don't understand it and yet if you presented those same people with quilts, or wallpaper books, or furniture they could tell you which ones they liked and which they didn't.  Of course then they can say, well "this is a chair", or "this is a plate" and "I know what those are".  So why can't a painting be just that?  The critic Greenberg ws initially very against abstract art thinking it would be a very limited type of art; he felt that the "self-reflexive language of abstract painting" would mean that all ideas could soon be explored. However, in many shows of abstract art it's evident that there is still a multitude of creative possibilities since abstraction exists everywhere in our world both natural and man made.I've always found so much inspiration from architecture and many of my quilts show that, but at the same time, I don't want to just copy an image of buildings.  I want to extract the essence of what intrigues me.
The Strength of Quiet Windows

Abstract art  began as a result of several things: the invention of  photography, the desire by artists to elevate what had always been thought of as mere design or decoration and also because they felt representational art had been totally exhausted – there was nothing further to explore.  Quiltmakers have, of ccourse, worked with abstract design from the outset, though this was not recognized until well into the 20th century when abstract designs as a whole – in decorating, in furniture, in cloth and glass etc began to be accepted as legitimate art.

Force Field 2







So what can we as quiltmakers do with this current revival of abstraction?  I think we should be loud and bold! Let's grab these ideas and run with them! Let’s show how cloth can Do it Better!! Let’s reinvent abstraction design ourselves – don’t tie yourselves to old tired predictable patterns, let’s show the painters of small abstract works (many are really tiny!)  and all the other timid little abstract painters (!) how absolutely fabulous those same ideas would look Large and in Fiber with all the beautiful textures we have at our fingertips!

Do comment and tell me about your favorite abstract artists!  Do you think we have to "understand" it to like it?   And, if you have been, thanks for reading........Elizabeth

9 comments:

Hilary said...

Oh dear, I can sympathise with the comment: .... but I did not understand what was artistic about 2 lumps of rock suspended from the ceiling by a piece of rope.

Is that what they call 'conceptual art'?

I do however agree that quilters have a wonderful opportunity to be bold and brave and right in there with those abstract artists. Quilts are so perfect for this.

I tend to be graphic but I think I can push that into abstract - it will be an interesting challenge!

Hilary

LC said...

Love this from you:
"Many people say the reason they don't like abstract art is because they don't understand it and yet if you presented those same people with quilts, or wallpaper books, or furniture they could tell you which ones they liked and which they didn't. Of course then they can say, well "this is a chair", or "this is a plate" and "I know what those are". So why can't a painting be just that?"

Why indeed!

Sharon Robinson said...

Thanks for a great post. I am only interested in making abstract quilts, but I never realized why - Since I was trained as a designer (architect) working with design elements and principles just comes more naturally to me. I am always frustrated when a viewer looks at something abstract and has to say, "It looks like a....whatever." Why does it have to look like anything!

Deb said...

Nice to know the art world is coming around.

My work is solidly abstract but I am always sneaking up on something and it bothers people. I like it when they say stuff like "Oh..it's..a rabbit..and it's having sex with a washing machine..and, wait a minute..what IS that?.."

heh heh heh

Elizabeth Barton said...

if only the rabbits would have baby washing machines instead of baby rabbits!!

MulticoloredPieces said...

Excellent and refreshing article. I agree that artists working with fabric can expand abstract art in a wonderful way. I would say that it's cutting edge and that the art world should (finally) take notice...hmm, one can always dream.
best from Tunisia,
nadia

Michelle Eaton said...

I was walking the dog this morning and saw an abstract metal sculpture of rusting cor-ten steel (not my favourite material) in a frontyard. I have seen it before many times but something about my approach angle this morning and being backlit by the rising sun, it looked like a moose. Now I will never think of it the same way; I will slow down and really take it in. This is the beauty and the problem with abstract art. It takes time and effort to make a connection with it. But once you do, there can be a deep intellectual, emotional, or even spiritual response. A lot of figurative art is too easy for this connection.

Elizabeth Barton said...

Dear Nadia in Tunisia! yes indeed one should ALWAYS hope!! and keep looking and working Forwards.
Great story, Michelle, about the abstract moose!! There are so many wonderful things in the world around us, and art is there to help us to see them.

Georgina said...

I used to be one of those angry(ish) philistines until I saw an abstract sculpture, many many years ago, ( and to my shame I did not note the artist's name). As I walked around the gallery, this piece kept drawing my eye back to it, and each time I saw that the composition was visually rearranged by my changing viewpoint as if it had a life of its own. I was enchanted and came to accept that my own ignorance played apart but that my insistence on full and immediate understanding was the problem, not abstraction itself. I know a little more now!