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Re: [teacherartexchange] defining "abstract"

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From: Maggie White (mwhiteaz_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Sun May 21 2006 - 21:21:27 PDT


Amy,

I used to teach this very thing in my HS classes. The students worked
with one ordinary object through four phases: realistic, stylized,
abstract, and nonobjective. I used Mondrian's work as an example; he
was once a realistic painter of landscapes and single trees, whose work
became more abstracted and finally nonobjective. The students could see
the progression in the slides. Lichtenstein did something similar, but
in a focused way (meaning, he was deliberately taking the object through
the different phases); his object was a goldfish bowl. Another artist,
whose name escapes me at the moment, did the same thing with a cow as
subject matter. I think if you can show your students the progression
an artist makes, they will understand the concept.

I think you are on the right track with your explanations. I defined
"abstract" for the students (okay, Marvin, I know YOU would have the
students come up with a definition, and rightly so) as: the elements of
the object are severely distorted, broken down ("cut apart") and
rearranged. Some recognizable elements still remain. Nonobjective:
the object's elements are completely distorted and rearranged so no
recognizable elements remain.

If it would help, I could send you part of a presentation I gave on the
way I handled this lesson.

Maggie

Amy Broady wrote:

> I try to avoid lumping nonobjective (or nonrespresentational) artwork
> (i.e. Pollack) into the "abstract" category because I want the kids to
> understand that abstracting something does not mean eliminating all
> things that make an object recognizable, and that an abstracted image
> requires great thought and transformation/interpretation of subject
> matter.
>
> It's hard to know where to draw the line, however. How do you know
> when a painting crosses the line from being extremely abstracted to
> being nonrespresentational? Kandinsky worked with both, right?

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