“Before there was an art of abstract painting it was believed that the value of a picture was a matter of colors and forms and their relationship to a particular subject or object. Prior to the advent of abstract art in the twentieth century no one had seen a picture of colors and shapes that represented nothing. In abstract art, the autonomy of the aesthetic emerged in concrete form. Pure form, no longer masked by realistic or symbolic content, could be directly perceived.
Abstract art is based on the distillation of three universal laws. First, color and shape operate independently of the subjects they may represent. Second, the interrelationship of colors and shapes is intended to elicit an emotional response in the viewer. Third, a picture is a flat surface covered with colors and shapes composed in a certain order, which painters call the picture plane. In composition, colors and shapes may support, counteract, respond, or compete with each other. The artist constructs a network of attractions repulsions, segregations, and connections. The challenge is to create an expressive pictorial space while maintaining the integrity of the picture plane’s two-dimensionality.”
HELLMUT WOHL, noted author and art historian, is a Fellow of the University Professors and Professor of Art History Emeritus, Boston University.