Analyzing abstract art

Painted blotches or extrospective artwork?

By Alexis Tucker Arts & Entertainment Editor

Love it or hate it, abstract art is quite popular despite the dismay of many people.

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This is Entrance to Subway (1938) by Mark Rothko. Rothko mostly focuses on the colors. This can be noticed by the lack of faces on the people and more simplified body shapes. (Image from theartstory.org)

While most people think abstract art is an unorganized compilation of paint blotches or colored lines, it is actually really complex. The definition of abstract art in and of itself is difficult because it can encompass a huge array of pieces. For the easiest definition, it is a piece of artwork that lacks visual references and emphasizes on shapes to provoke different thoughts or feelings. Abstract art pieces are usually conceptual of some sort, but some are just nice to look at, which the artwork has to be thought of in the time of its creation. Either way, the artwork itself is difficult to create and represents an idea or feeling.

 

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This is Guernica by Pablo Picasso in 1937. The horrors of war are depicted here with the many screaming and agonizing faces. On the website more is said about the political statement of Guernica. (Image from pablopicasso.org)

 

Art is a form of expression. Founded by Picasso, the art style cubism simplifies things to geometric shapes and blossoms under these conditions because it is different and not based in reality. “Art imitates reality,” but when reality is dark and bleak, people create an escape to a simpler, more colorful reality.

Cubism is just one style of abstract art. A famous artist by the name of Mark Rothko is popular for arguably the most controversial style of abstract art. Rothko painted lines, meaning half the canvas is yellow and the other is orange. It is easy to think that anyone could paint that, but think first. Artists spend not just years but, in many cases, their entire lives perfecting and experimenting with their styles. For example, Picasso began with painting regular people and objects. Seeing his work in chronological order, it is possible to see the slow transition from realism to cubism.

 

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Named No. 8 and painted by Mark Rothko in 1952. This is among the many paintings that showcases his famous style. (Image from visual-arts-cork.com)

 

Rothko’s style, on the other hand, is simple but figurative. Imagine a canvas painted mostly yellow except the bottom quarter of it which is painted red. Now imagine a person in the painting, and it takes on the image of a sunset. The colors Rothko chooses are carefully decided. When seen in person, a canvas painted like Rothko would make the viewer feel an emotion or imagine where the colors would be seen together. It is also important to keep in mind the size of many of these paintings, as some take up entire walls!

These are only two examples of the many icons in abstract art and their styles. Abstract art is usually overlooked as being too simple, easy or boring. It is popular because of the many thoughts it can provoke. One may see a painting comprised of geometric shapes and think the entire work is boring, overlooking its possible representation of conformity or living a cookie-cutter life, or even a simplistic visual appeal. Art exists to be critiqued and thought about on an individual basis, but the viewer should think about why those thoughts come to mind about any piece, abstract or not.