Anxieties of Abstraction

My First Non-Representational Painting, Acrylic on Canvas, 1970

My First Non-Representational Painting, Acrylic on Canvas, 1970

Abstraction’s original meaning is “to select from,” in the Latin; though I will not say, as is so easy for defenders of abstract art, that consequently all art is abstract because all art is selected; this is simply to win a dialectical point–in the Socratic sense of dialectical.  Au contraire.  What is selected is selected on the basis of the most concrete, personal feeling.

Robert Motherwell, Lecture, 1959

Ability to copy lines, shapes, tones, amounts to little.  Ability to correlate lines, shapes, tones, is the rare and necessary quality of hte artist.  All good art is composition.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

In the next day or two, I will be positing at least two drafts that I have been composing for several days now.  There has been plenty on my mind that I have wanted to publish.  Pictured above is the first non-objective painting I ever attempted.  I was in the eleventh grade, and highly resentful toward my Art III teacher who was requiring a non-representational work of art from each of his advanced students.  I was resistant, and it led to hurt feelings on both sides.  I submitted this piece, and subsequently won first place in the St. Louis County Parks and Recreation Exhibition.  I had no idea then if I actually had a superior work of art, and still do not know today.   But I have kept the work for the memory and the appreciation that I was pushed into unfamiliar waters.

Teaching Advanced Placement Art History, I keep looking for ways to make my students conversant with abstract art so that they can discuss and write essays evaluating that kind of art.  Last week, I was delighted at the response I received from one of my students when I asked them to define abstraction, without consulting a dictionary or computer.  This is what she wrote:

Abstraction is simplifying an object to its most essential and necessary forms.

Thanks for reading.  I’ll be posting soon.

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7 Responses to “Anxieties of Abstraction”

  1. Rachel Carter Says:

    I love it!


  2. Xraypics Says:

    Hey David, really good to see you back again. This is a lovely piece of abstract work, I’d hang it on my wall and it would give me years of pleasure i think. But it is so different from the work you generally publish, gives a new aspect. Looking forward to seeing the projects you have in hand. Cheerio, Tony


    • davidtripp Says:

      Thank you, Tony. It’s good to be back. I’ve been working on blog posts away from the computer the past few days. I’ll be putting them up soon. I’ve been away from the Internet and it’s been a little frustrating.


  3. Linda Halcomb Says:

    Wonderful work for someone so young. Good definition from your student. The thing that is so hard for most people is that they don’t realize abstract art, like realistic art, has emotion and meaning and idea behind it. BUT it can be so hard to find.


    • davidtripp Says:

      Great insight, Linda. And I’m stunned at what my student verbalized that day. Students have no idea how much we get in return from them. Yes, I agree wholeheartedly that there is truth to be mined from abstract expression if the viewer isn’t too lazy to linger over the work.


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