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January 09, 2006


Kevin Jones

But there is art that does not represent or refer to any object. Not surprisingly, it is often referred to as non-objective art. Many proponents of this type of art assert that it transcends ordinary, traditional art, because it is not mired in the emotional or intellectual baggage associated with a recognizable image. People can respond directly to it’s native, visual properties, without interference.

Wasn't this movement inspired in part by instrumental music, itself a rather abstract art form?


This reminds me of Scott McCloud's big triangle:


Ryan Herr

Kevin, great point. There's a book I recommend called "The Sound of Painting."

Rhys, thanks for the link, "Understanding Comics" is an awesome book. The diagram is a lot easier to see in the book.

Tim J, 1) You've chose to concentrate on abstraction as reduction. What about abstraction as amplification?

2) In my experience, the more 'non-objective' a painting is, the more it loses when seen in print or projected instead of in person. (I'm not a huge fan of Rothko in person, but it's a million times better than in duplication.)

3) Just as I wouldn't trust a summary or interpretation of the Nicene Creed written by someone who admits to little understanding and less sympathy of Christians, I don't trust your summaries of the 'credos' of non-objective and non-representational artists. (By the way, you did make a major error earlier about Duchamp: He wasn't saying that everything is art, but that everything could be recontextualized as art. I'm not saying that I think it's good art - I don't.)

4) Re: "There are problems and pitfalls associated with all these different categories. I’ll talk about those in my next post." Make sure that you talk about problems and pitfalls with the images and not with the artspeak.

Tim J.


You asked about abstraction as amplification. In a visual medium, amplification of one element results in the reduction or distortion of others. That's not always a bad thing, but it is true. If I amplify one element, I sacrifice another.

You may be right about my summaries of the modern art credos. I am no great expert. However, my attempt to summarize them is more like summing up Protestant theology than the Nicene Creed. It is just about impossible. As I have heard said, it is almost always a bad idea to talk about "the Protestant position" on a subject, because there are likely dozens of Protestant positions.

This may be a good analogy, because there was certainly a strong element of protest in the beginnings of the modern art movements. Academic art of the late nineteenth century (I would argue) was The Creed against which were directed all the protests.

I did not say that Duchamp believed that everything was art, but that the actions of the Dada group were a logical end result of that kind of thinking.

I believe he was wrong in either case. Far from elevating these common objects, the Dadaists were making a paradoxical statement that art (if not everything else) had become meaningless.


Tim, whether you like less realistic art or not, there are some great artists whose styles are far from realistic. For example, a great artist from the twentieth century was Henri Matisse, whose art was often more abstract.


...though Matisse was not non-objective.

Gene Branaman

"In the meantime, what’s your favorite piece of art?"

"Irises" by Van Gogh.

And just about anything by Mary Cassatt.

Ryan Herr


1) "In a visual medium, amplification of one element results in the reduction or distortion of others." Strongly agreed. Whatever the level of abstraction (and you gave it quite a 'big tent' definition, which I agree with) you are losing something AND gaining something. I didn't want the loss talked about explicitly while leaving the gain implicit at best.

2) I'll admit you make a very strong point when you write "to summarize [modern art credos] is more like summing up Protestant theology than the Nicene Creed. It is just about impossible."

To me, this is all the more reason for you to direct your criticism towards the paintings, their visual characteristics, and the act of viewing, rather than towards the painters, their intentions, and the act of painting.

3) I still disagree with you about the "logical end results" and "statements" of Dada art, but I'll let it go, because it's not essential to the discussion, and because I think we should move towards artworks and away from artists, and because I don't really like Dada art anyways.


Since the question was art in general, I'll observe that La Pieta silences everyone who approaches it head on.



Millais's Order of Release


The Last Great Artist of western civilization was William Bouguereau. My current favorite among his works is La Petite Boudeuse.

That he has been dead 100 years and shows no sign of being equalled by modern artists is an indictment of modern art.

Steven D. Greydanus

Hey Tim,

Any thoughts on Christian abstract artist Makoto Fujimora, which Evangelical magazine World just named its "Daniel of the Year" for 2005?

Some discussion.
Fujimora on abstract art and the Christian faith.
More from Mujimora.
More about Fujimora from a smart guy.


Tim, I don't see the point of these posts. What is your opinion about these developments in art? Do you have any ideas?

Dr. Eric

My favorites are Dali, Durer, David, and Delacroix. (Actually I can't think of one of Delacroix's paintings, it seemed that I needed another D.)

I HATE impressionism!!!!!!!!!!

Tim J.


Hang on, it's comin'!

I do have a point (or a few points) but I thought it would be difficult to get them across clearly if people did not understand how I was using certain words.

Art-speak is a terrible scourge on the language, and throwing around terms that have no real meaning only makes things muddier.

I have been laying a foundation, on which I hope to build a few modest ideas. It is really just an attempt at beginning a meaningful discussion on art.

I'm trying to get a handle on what art is and what it does and why we do art, while speaking in the plainest way possible. Art (like faith) is a mystery, but that doesn't mean we can't discuss it in a rational way.

Tim J.

I've never met anyone who HATED impressionism.

It's like hating crabby patties.

Dr. Eric

I think that realism is better art, and it shows technical expertise. Impressionism seems to me as someone not trying hard to make his painting look like the subject that he's painting. Not only that, Monet had cataracts...

What are crabby patties? Are they what are known around here as crab cakes? If so, I hate those too! I won't eat a bottom feeder. ;-p


I tend to have very broad tastes in what I like. Anything by Van Gogh, especially either his Almond Branches or Starry Night. I like the other impressionists too.

But also some surrealists, like Dali and Magritte, and the Hudson Valley School.

Ryan Herr

Steven Greydanus, I just checked out Makoto Fujimora a bit. Due to the size he works at, his materials, and his processes, the paintings are gonna be killed when viewed on a computer monitor. Nevertheless, what I saw looked good to me.

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