Abstract Art – Concept, origin, types and characteristics

We explain what abstract art is and what was the origin of this artistic expression. In addition, its characteristics and classification.

Abstract art
Abstract art uses its own independent language of shapes, colors and lines.

What is abstract art?

We call abstract art to a style of expression of the plastic arts (painting and sculpture) mainly, which instead of representing concrete and recognizable figures of the real world (as figurative art does), proposes a different reality through an own and independent language of shapes, colors and lines.

In other words, abstract art uses forms and perspectives that are not a copy of reality, if they are governed by the rules of the apparently logical, but much freer and more innovative works are proposed, whose interpretation is left to the viewer.

This style emerged at the beginning of the 20th century and it lasts to this day, having great exhibitors such as the painters Vasili Kandinski, Robert Deaunay, Kazmir Málevich, Piet Mondrian, Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, Jesús Soto, Carlos Cruz-Diez, Gerhard Richter or Joan Miró. Also, the sculptors Marcel Duchamp, Aexander Calder and Jean Arp.

Many abstractionists had a connection with music, considering it as the goal of their particular artistic process, since music produces an aesthetic effect through the abstraction of the sound of musical notes, which do not imitate any concrete reality.
The abstractionists they sought to leave behind the recognizable realm of forms and pursue “pure art”.

Origin of abstract art

The first abstract painter to be considered as such was the Lithuanian Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis, whose first abstract works date from 1904 and who also ventured into sculpture.

But it would be the Russian Vasili Kandinsky who would establish the foundations of abstractionism as a coherent, modern and international artistic movement, through what he called “lyrical abstraction” between 1910 and 1912.

This movement would be joined by various and simultaneous artistic explorations around a “pure art” in Russia, France and later Germany and the United States.

Characteristics of abstract art

abstract art
Abstract art broke with the need to represent concrete objects.

Despite the fact that abstract art encompasses a significant number of trends, proposals and styles, its characteristics can be summarized as:

  • A great awareness of shapes and colors, used at will to escape concrete reality.
  • The abstract sculptures are based on the principle of three-dimensionality and geometry, sometimes giving prominence to color.
  • Abstract paintings propose their own language of form, color and line whose rules belong to the artist.
  • Abstract works require the viewer to approach them in an intuitive, less traditional way.
  • Abstract art broke with the need to represent concrete objects, giving room to the most diffuse thoughts and mental notions.

Types of abstract art

Abstract art can be classified according to the trends that mark its style, in:

  • Curved. Characterized by curved lines, which intertwine, trace spirals or other semicircular shapes, such as knots or the triskele or triskelion.
  • Chromatic-visual. Works in which the visual impact from color predominates, in a more or less chaotic or ordered way (sequential, for example).
  • Geometric. Derived from the cubism inaugurated by Picasso, it aspires to geometric forms as a language of the work, and that is why it prefers mathematical forms.
  • Intuitional. A trend without visible or recognizable patterns, which challenges the viewer and requires him to approach the work from intuition and the sensible, not from logic.
  • Gestural. A sort of hybrid between abstractionism and expressionism, it emphasizes the line and the brushstroke, that is, the very way in which the work was composed, in order to achieve the desired abstraction.
  • Minimalist. A return to the simple, to the little, to the absence in the painting. It can be given with one or two colors, a simple shape or various approaches that are precisely minimal, never ornate or baroque.