Artist Gerald Ferstman says he plans his abstract paintings, but as he works, he becomes more spontaneous. He says the message of his work is society—who we are and what we are—and that this message can sometimes be disquieting to the viewer.
View the images of Ferstman’s work. In groups or individually have students choose a work and respond to it using the four-step process of describe, analyze, interpret, and evaluate.
Divide the class into groups and assign each group a developmental stage in the history of abstract art. Have them describe the stage in depth and find various artworks from each stage. Have students share their findings with the class. Students may produce their own abstract art based on the developmental stage they are assigned.
Working in groups or as a class, create a rubric for the creation of an abstract painting. Have students create their own abstract paintings.
Discuss visual art as social commentary. Have students write editorials or commentaries on a contemporary social issue, then create works of art expressing their opinions. Have students write artist statements about their works.
Combine art and geometry by studying the work of Piet Mondrian. Examine Mondrian’s use of lines, angles, and geometric shapes. Have students create their own abstract art by following Mondrian’s example.
Use this clip with the segments Abstraction: Nancy Cassell and Abstraction: Ideas/Process.
Abstract art does not depict a person, place or thing as it is in the natural world. Instead, the subject of the artwork is based on what you see: color, shapes, brushstrokes, size, scale, and, in some cases, the process. Abstract artists pour their emotions into their art and although there is no objective subject, their work does have a purpose, for instance, as in social commentary.
The history of abstract art stems from the work of various popular artists, including Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Piet Mondrian, and Georges Braque. Various developmental stages exist in the history of abstraction since Wassily Kandinsky developed the first original abstract art form in 1910. The developmental stages include neoplasticism (1920-1940), abstract expressionism (1940-1955), conceptual art, contemporary realism, photorealism, and hyperrealism (1960-1975), neo-expressionism (1970-1990), and post-modernism (1975-present).
According to the “father of abstract art,” Kandinsky, abstract art takes both the artist and the audience out of the realm of the visual world and into the spiritual realm. There is deep meaning and value to abstract art that may not be seen at first glance. However, within each piece, there is a message for those searching to find it.