Saturday, November 3, 2012

Geometry + Unconscious= Abstract

The book published at the occasion of the exhibition titled "The Geometric Unconscious: A Century of Abstraction" at the Sheldon Museum of Art in Lincoln, Nebraska, offers interesting insights on abstract art with four essays and numerous illustrations.
A detailed overview written by Jorge Daniel Veneciano, director at the Sheldon Museum of Art, is followed by the first essay from Sharon Kennedy, curator at the Sheldon. From the early 1900's in Europe to the United States, East and then West Coast, her presentation gives a historical perspective of the  century old movement. The long list of references invites further reading.
This is followed by Peter Halley's essay: "The Crisis in Geometry", a discussion about a fundamental question, why geometry in our culture? Referring to two texts (from Michel Foucault then Jean Baudrillard), the artist discusses geometric abstract and its sociology: started in a carceral industrial world, evolving in a world of computers and reaching the ultimate, finality without purpose. The argument is solidly built with numerous references and appropriate illustrations from known and not so well known artists.
Next, Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe presents himself, a painter. His discussion is less disciplined and the dense text lost me at times. He introduces four artists, three of them females. 

The last essay is a masterpiece written by Veneciano. It brings abstract art to its next level, the search for the spiritual and the universal.
Starting in the 60's with Ad Reinhardt, back and forth to Malevich, Kandinsky, Stella, Mondrian, the author explores the higher goals of geometric abstract and its search for purity. It is not an exercise but an ascese, which finds its roots in the occult. Joseph Steiner still influences artists like Olafur Eliasson or Tony Cragg . Veneciano brings us from the birth of geometric abstract, Cubism, to its shift from a spiritual to an intellectual quest as the movement travels West in the United States. His overall message is: "All modern abstract art functions as a catalyst for transcendent experience."

Abstract art may appear hermetic, because it is. It will help the reader to have some previous exposure to abstract to fully appreciate this book. At the end, one better understands the two pillars of abstract: geometry and unconscious.

"Untitled", Eugene Martin, 1995
"Kagu", Frank Stella, 1976
"Homage To The Square", Joseph Albers, 1965
"Throwback, Tony Smith, 1976-79

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