On Abstract Art

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Yale University Press, 1997 - Art - 194 pages
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Many people are intrigued by the abstract work of artists like Mondrian and Jackson Pollock yet find it difficult to explain why. In this timely and original book, Briony Fer introduces abstract painting and sculpture of the twentieth century and explores new ways to think about abstract art and the problems of interpretation it raises. Fer speculates on the kind of language required to describe the often tantalizing effects of key abstract works and on ways to discuss critical issues when a work of art is without 'subject matter.' Drawing particularly on psychoanalytic theory and the writings of Georges Bataille, she examines a wide range of models of abstraction, ranging from the early European emphasis on the transcendental possibilities of pure form to later modernist frameworks developed in the United States. Each of the ten chapters in the book addresses a particular problem associated with abstract art by focusing closely on specific works produced by such artists as Malevich, Mondrian, Kandinsky, Arp, Miró, Pollock, Eva Hesse, and Donald Judd. Fer investigates the involvement of women artists such as Lyubov Popova and the problems of sexual difference in the development of abstract art. Countering the idealizing rhetoric of modernist criticism, On Abstract Art uncovers a latent corporeal and darker side to abstraction and deepens today’s discussion of a variety of critical concerns in contemporary art.

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Mondrians Excess
The Laws of Chance
Bataille on Painting
The Cut
Eva Hesse and Minimalism
Judds Specific Objects

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About the author (1997)

Briony Fer is reader in the history of art at University College, London.

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