OK, here is one definition; Art in which elements of form have been stressed in handling the subject matter – which may or may not be recognizable. Abstraction is a relative term; all artworks exist on a continuum between total abstraction and full representation. Vassily Kandinsky is generally credited with having created the first purely abstract artwork in 1910.
But remember that in 1910 Black people were invisible to the realm of the arts and there was no credit given to the sculptural abstraction of forms in Africa (except for Picasso) nor to the artists of the time much less aware of American Black artists exploring abstraction in the 1900’s such as the Gees Bend quilters who only recently were “discovered” and brought to light by white interests.
Now remember; this is my personal review, as a visual artist, of abstraction and I am concentrating my opinion on abstraction in America. It seems to me that the sensational is the name of the game. Whatever you can create that allows the self-appointed authorities and critiques of the visual arts to pontificate and make themselves sound so proficient and above the average person’s knowledge of art in describing and labeling the piece of work making it worth more on the market.
Look at the first painting above on the left and describe what you see. An authority describes this as a spontaneous and individual expression in a non-objective manner. This is actually a close up of my paint mixing pallet after working on a painting. The other (Snow Drift) is just the white blank canvas with a piece of cheese cloth on it. This is just an example of the crazy stuff out there that is being held as art. One curator is so fond of an artist that paints with elephant dung and sells his work for thousands. Another is funding an artist that vomits on their canvas in colors and sells the mess for thousands. (UGH!) Where is the craft?? I have not been able to figure out this sensationalism attitude with little attention to the actual craft of creation. Splash paint on a canvas, glue a toilet paper roll on a white canvas and you are an artist? I think not!
America is basically a trash society and used to throwing things out when they get old or boring. This happens with art unless there is true craft involved. Quality art does not get boring as it continues to speak to the viewer because of the fine craft and interest in its design. It may not be a recognizable image, but the way it is using color and form to capture the interest and connect with the viewer is something an artist has worked and used their skill to create. There are so many talented Black artists that are creating great works of abstract art but are not recognized by the closed knit white elite of art critiques thus keeping Black art in a niche market. Slowly our own community will begin recognition of the quality and value of investing in the fine art of Black artists.
Our abstract art is unique and very outside the box in the use of color, passion, direction, and multi-dominant rhythmic style. Those who purchase this art from Black artists now are enjoying the low prices (even layaway) and are making a long term and wise investment for their legacy. So get what you like and know what you like. If the work is original and speaks to you , holds your interest, makes you feel good, makes you come back to see it again, then you need to invest in this piece! Happy collecting!