Before we get to Post-Modernism, which I look forward to, we can probe the ideas of abstraction, non-objective painting in particular. I am an enthusiastic fan of non-objective and abstract painting.  They each offer a freedom that is inviting.

What is abstraction?  The word would imply some sort of recognizable but challenging take on, in our case, pictorial conventions, objects in space, representation of same. Can an abstract painting fully reference anything?  In reality, not ever, but many artist’s use the two terms interchangeably.  Is it good if the vision or technique is bad or poorly executed?  Doubtful.  Is an idea as important as a passion for excellence or artistic expertise, an ability to execute? This is more suspect and highly doubtful.

In my view abstraction is a vision, a way of looking at the world, our skies, our universe, our landscape, our humanity, and being able to reference that vision with materials.  With credit to Merriam-Webster, we can understand abstract as: Disassociated from any specific instance an abstract entity; Difficult to understand, abstruse abstract problems insufficiently factual.

Again, we have a dilemma.  Abstraction can seek to express its own entirely new to the universe being. “Art that does not attempt to represent external reality, but seeks to achieve its effect using shapes, forms, colors, and textures” (Merrian-Webster).

You know how when you used to go to the bank the friendly tellers would say something like, “So what are your plans today?”  I once answered wholeheartedly and enthusiastically, “Well I am going to go to the grocer, then home to the studio to try to make some abstract art.” She replied (wait for it) “Well you can’t go wrong then!”  A bright moment for a painter!  I felt like a hero, if ever so briefly.

In my own view non-objective art is not having to do with the recognizable; therefore, it is with the objective.  Google it, however, and hits will reveal early Russian modernism, 19th Century gems like Kandinsky, Malevich (my favorite) and Olga Rozanova.  These gorgeous paintings do have definite angular shapes in them, buildings, streets, maps? They contrast often with mottling and soft spacious, even painstakingly tinted backgrounds or in painter’s parlance “grounds”, thereby standing out as abstract (non-objective) and proud.  Heuristic.  That’s good art.

Modernist non-objective taste leans towards a different sort of order, a well-earned order with a well-earned freedom.  Western states artists like Tom Savage and David Pennington live right here in our desert.  They use craft, bravado, intellect, even a tender honesty, combined with moves like Pollock. They use space and many flavored shapes and symbols, both of the desert and the unconscious or sub-conscious universe of our stars.  Moira Dryer in NYC uses non-objective devices and motifs to both dazzle and confuse at a scale that is only, well NYC.  Disorienting.  Terry Winters continues to astound in that same city.  Recently passed Ed Moses rocked Venice, California into the pages of ArtForum even and sold about an easy thousand paintings in his lifetime as did Richard Diebenkorn who turned abstraction to non-objective in San Francisco.

Perhaps I should have asked, is abstraction different from non-objective in painting, I conclude that in fact it must be a matter of degree. I know. Vague. Enthusiasm is good though, so make any kind of art if you can and maybe even if you think you can’t.  It might be fun.

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