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Abstract styles and movement
Admit it or not, abstract art is difficult to interpret. But it's this overwhelming feeling you get from looking at one that gives you the thrill.
A post-World War II art movement, abstract art usually distorts an object's realistic appearance without losing its common attributes. Whereas its close cousin, abstract expressionism, which also uses abstraction to evoke emotions from its viewer, may or may not deliberately entirely abandon its object's natural attributes.
Pioneering the abstract art movement were renowned artists Aaron Douglas (1899-1979), Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Georges Braque (1881-1963), and Sonia Delaunay (1885-1979).
Heavily influenced by art deco and cubism style, Douglas is considered as the “African-American Modernist” whose acclaimed paintings, such as “Into Bondage” and “Aspiration,” depict the unjust human experience in the diaspora of the African-American community, especially in Harlem, New York City. Bruce Glasrud, in the book “African Americans on the Great Plains,” says, “[Originally from Kansas], Douglas' experiences in racism, racial solidarity, and adventure infused him with an eagerness to play a role in promoting social change.”
The more prominent among the abstract art trailblazers, Picasso looked away from realism to experiment on cubism, collage, and disfigured human figures, which stunned the art world. One of his most-talked-about paintings, the “Les Demoiselles d'Avignon” (1907), a cubist distortion of the female figure, launched the concept of non-representational art. But while he led other artists to embrace abstraction with his disfigurations, he never entirely left out his subjects' more recognizable real-world attributes.
On the other hand, Braque has been credited as the brainchild of the cubist movement, a non-representational art—making him a co-founder, together with Picasso, his close collaborator. In fact, Braque made some of the first-ever cubist-centric canvases. His groundbreaking exhibition, “Deformation,” which premiered at the Louvre in 1963, received about 5 million visitors. Pieces from his collection have also been showcased in more than 180 exhibitions all over Europe at the time.
Strong shapes and contrasting colors are fixtures in Delaunay's compositions, which expand from paintings to crafts, garments to furniture pieces. As early as 1911, around the same time as Picasso and Braque were making waves as cubist artists, Delaunay also began immersing herself in non-objective worlds—where colors were rendered in various shapes and forms. “Remembering the peasant crafts of her native Russia, she [Delaunay] juxtaposed pieces of fabric and fur to create a lyrical, one-dimensional assemblage of semi-geometric shapes,” David Seidner writes for New Art Publications.
Abstract Art in the Philippines
Closer to home, renowned Filipino painter Mauro “Malang” Santos (1928-2017), Jose Joya (1931-1995), and Pacita Abad (1946-2004) were known for their abstract masterpieces. Malang, whose earlier works were slices of life from folk-culture in Manila, is revered as the “Father of Conceptual Art in the Philippines.” He also helped many aspiring young Filipino painters to develop their talent and found means and ways to make art more accessible to common folks. A recipient of numerous national and Asian art awards, Joya served as the president of the Art Association of the Philippines and dean of the College of Fine Arts at the University of the Philippines in the '60s and '70s, respectively. As importantly, Abad painted more than 1,000 canvases in her career. Like Delaunay, her art crosses over to embroidery, sewn clothing, and “trapunto,” her signature quilting technique.
Here on FilipinoArt, local artists Christian Prado of Quezon City, Richer Fernandez of Cavite City, Lisa Capito of Pasig City, August Punzal of Taytay, Rizal, Ting Mas of Las Pinas City, Tez Velasquez of Angeles City, Pampanga, Crisanto Rentoy of Quezon City, and Peter Vitalez of Paranaque City lead the pack of our emerging abstract virtuosos.