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What is Abstract Art?

Posted on January 24, 2015 by Tim Herbst

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What is Abstract Art? The Basics

The world of art falls into many different categories, and there are genres to suit every taste available. The definition of what constitutes art is becoming more and more challenged, especially in the world of modern art. The question, "What is abstract art?" can be explained many ways.

This movement stems from the early twentieth century onwards, and encompasses areas such as surrealism, cubism, minimalism and abstract art. For those wondering “what is abstract art?”, the clue is in the name. It’s a broad field, taking in paintings, sculptures, installations and multi-media presentations.

One of its main attractions as opposed to more traditional areas is that it is completely open to interpretation. This is also one of its downfalls, as abstract has a large reputation for being pretentious, and for artists trying to present unskilled work with a complex description, or for making simple things overly complicated.

This is where the debate over what constitutes art comes in. A recent exhibition at the Tate Modern gallery in Britain featured a wall length mirror, with a description discussing the nature of self-reflection and awareness of the world around us. The public opinion was split down the middle as to whether it was making the point that art was all around us, or whether it was making a mockery of modern art.

Abstract art has many upsides to counteract these kinds of claims. It allows the artist to explore and explain quite complex issues in relatively simple terms and metaphors. Trying to create a realist vision of the futility of war would be impossible, but it could be attempted through symbolism.

Another positive is the direct opposite of the major downfall. Because there it is down to the individual viewing the piece to interpret it, there is no such thing as bad abstract art (by the same token, there is no such thing as good abstract art either).

It’s important to find out about the artist who created the piece, and find out their reasons for making it. Whilst people will still make up their own mind as to what the piece is about, knowing the artist was aiming for will help the audience appreciate the piece more.

So in summary, abstract art is not going to appeal to every single person, but it’s important to approach it with an open mind. Looking at a metal structure or a random series of paint splashes and expecting to see something tangential will always lead to disappoint, whilst trying to see the deeper meaning will give a greater sense of pleasure and appreciation.

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