Meanings of Abstract Art: Between Nature and Theory, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Meanings of Abstract Art

Between Nature and Theory, 1st Edition

Edited by Paul Crowther, Isabel Wünsche


300 pages | 70 B/W Illus.

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Traditional art is based on conventions of resemblance between the work and that which it is a representation "of". Abstract art, in contrast, either adopts alternative modes of visual representation or reconfigures mimetic convention. This book explores the relation of abstract art to nature (taking nature in the broadest sense—the world of recognisable objects, creatures, organisms, processes, and states of affairs).

Abstract art takes many different forms, but there are shared key structural features centered on two basic relations to nature. The first abstracts from nature, to give selected aspects of it a new and extremely unfamiliar appearance. The second affirms a natural creativity that issues in new, autonomous forms that are not constrained by mimetic conventions. (Such creativity is often attributed to the power of the unconscious.)

The book covers three categories: classical modernism (Mondrian, Malevich, Kandinsky, Arp, early American abstraction); post-war abstraction (Pollock, Still, Newman, Smithson, Noguchi, Arte Povera, Michaux, postmodern developments); and the broader historical and philosophical scope.

Table of Contents

Selected Contents: 1. Life into Art: Nature Philosophy, the Life Sciences, and Abstract Art Isabel Wünsche 2. Mondrian’s First Diamond Composition: Spatial Totality and the Plane of the Starry Sky Marek Wieczorek 3. Man, Space and the Zero of Form: Kazimir Malevich’s Suprematism and the Natural World Christina Lodder 4. The Role of Mathematical Structure, Natural Form and Pattern in the Art Theory of Wassily Kandinsky: The Quest for Order and Unity Christopher Short 5. "We want to produce like a plant that produces a fruit": Hans Arp and the "Nature Principle" Astrid von Asten 6. Natural Forces and Phenomena as Inspiration and Meaning in Early American Abstraction Herbert R. Hartel, Jr. 7. Jackson Pollock: The Sin of Images Elizabeth Langhorne 8. Clyfford Still’s Regionalist Shamanism Stephen Polcari 9. "Man is Present": Barnett Newman’s Search for the Experience of the Self Eva Ehninger 10. Nature, Entropy, and Robert Smithson’s Utopian Vision of a Culture of Decay John G. Hatch 11. Embodied Nature: Isamu Noguchi’s Intetra Fountain Dominika Glogowski 12. The Arte Povera Experience: Nature Re-Presented Laura Petican 13. Nature’s Hand: Writing Abstraction in the Work of Henri Michaux Birgit Mersmann 14. Abstract Art and Techno-Nature: The Postmodern Dimension Paul Crowther 15. Art, Beauty, and the Sacred: Four Ways to Abstraction Karsten Harries 16. The Complexities of "Abstracting" from Nature Andrew Inkpin 17.Meaning in Abstract Art: From Ur-Nature to the Transperceptual Paul Crowther

About the Editors

Paul Crowther is Chair of Philosophy at the National University of Ireland, Galway

Isabel Wünsche is Professor of Art and Art History at Jacobs University, Bremen

About the Series

Routledge Advances in Art and Visual Studies

This series is our home for innovative research in the fields of art and visual studies. It includes monographs and targeted edited collections that provide new insights into visual culture and art practice, theory, and research.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
ART / Criticism & Theory
ART / History / Contemporary (1945-)
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Media Studies