Abstract refers to taking and object as the subject and manipulating it. Abstract’s desired goal of always seeing something new in terms of art and its subject matter (Mathis). This idea can be seen in the painting “The Two Fridas” by Frida Kahlo with its thematic connections including abstract modernism, subjects drawn from influences of society, abstract messages through iconography, and humor. Frida Kahlo gives the viewer in her oil on canvas painting, “The Two Fridas” another look at her personal expression of the inner woman as no other female artist before in her over 200 works. This double self-portrait reflects both her Mexican/Amerindian and European heritage as well. This is also reflected in the dress of the second figure. “The Two Fridas” is said to be visual expression of Frida’s heartbreak during her divorce that she was in the midst of during the painting of this piece (Gombrich). The ripped dress with the visible heart is thought to refer to a “broken heart ripped from her body.” In this double self-portrait one figure clutches a pair of surgical clamps while the other clutches a portrait of her ex-husband. This is thought to symbolize the “cutting off” of blood between her and her husband. The purity of the white dress stained with blood suggests, Frida’s journey from innocence to suffering (Gombrich). The vein that flows between the two bodies and the intact heart in the second figure shows that Frida has hope for the future. She once again wants to return to her cultural roots and mend her damaged heart (Gombrich). Frida’s works are highly symbolic and represent complex messages of both suffering and hope. The symbolic nature of the painting and the distortion of the human figure is synonymous with abstract art.
Georgia O’Keeffe “Banana Flower” is also a good example of abstract art. O’Keefe takes a common flower and distorts its perspective to successfully in render the “folds” within the petals to create dimension and to create unusual shapes within it (Kleiner). This creates a sense of abstract within her work; one can look deeper away from the obvious flower to find a multitude of abstract concepts. The botanical is oddly shaped and give a sense of mystery; it is up to the view to determine what the subject truly is.
Non-representational art is considered to have no resemblance to any object. The art of Jackson Pollock from 1940-1950 took a new approach to Post-Modernism developing a form of painting called abstract expressionism. In his painting “Convergence” his concept was that the journey to make art was as interesting as the work itself. Some claim that Pollock’s works are meaningless while others argue the conceptualization of artistic process. By being un-conventional in his technique he personified what was meant by inventing something “new”. Abstract expressionism grew and made new possibilities to the conceptualization of art.
In the painting “The Snail” by Henri Matisse, Matisse sought to construct a form through color, and created simplified forms against flat planes of color (Brucker). Matisse followed the Modernist idea of producing art to be one "of balance, of purity and serenity devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter.”(Brucker). The bright blocks of color have no semblance to any living thing.
Representational art is typically a subject that is easily recognizable to the viewer. Raphael’s “The School of Athens”, is also a great example of a two dimensional Renaissance fresco painting what strikes me about Raphael’s piece is the amazing use of symmetry to achieve balance; each figure is perfectly balanced with another. It is also a text book example of perspective, with Raphael’s use of Plato and Aristotle as the focal points (Murray). Each figure and architectural element leads the eye to this central figures. The painting has a great sense of depth. My only critique of Raphael’s work is that the figures are numerous and far off, not allowing for a great deal of personality. The lines all converge on the central figure also creating symmetry. The figures must be defined only on their movement and pose; little can be read of facial expressions. The function is to relate a historical event (Murray). The style is realistic with a representational message. Since the subject of the painting is fairly clear for most viewers, symbolism is not really used.
In the painting “Elizabeth Freake” by an anonymous artist shows representational art where a more naturalistic approach is taken. Her and her child’s features have much more realistic proportions (Gombrich). Depth is also used to create a sense of space making the figures appear more 3-D. The colors are more vibrant speaking of a more “playful” atmosphere. The figures are smiling and in a much more relaxed pose. The painting has less contrast and instead using color to draw emphasis to the figures. The setting is more ornate with attention given to the furnishings and details on their attire. The subject is a clear depiction of a mother and child in a realistic manner.
Overall, abstract, representational, and non-representational art are all effective in stirring emotion from the viewer. The difference is just their subject matter.
Gombrich, E. (2003). The story of art. Phaidon. Print.
Kleiner, F. Gardner's art through the ages. (13 ed., Vol. 1). Wadsworth Publishing. Print.
Mathis, M. (2004). On robert hughes. Web. Retrieved from http://mileswmathis.com/op14.html
Murray, P. (1985). The art of the renaissance. Thames and Hudson. Print.