How does abstract art connect with viewers? In all art, but especially with abstraction, meaning emerges at the intersection of the artist’s expression and the viewer’s subjective response. Relying on features including color, form, material, and line – abstraction produces multiple and ambiguous meanings and can elicit reactions ranging from viscerally emotional to dispassionately intellectual. The degree to which an artist can control reception is an open question, and viewer responses can change upon extended reflection.

Since the early twentieth century, artists have been provoking audiences to think about art in new ways – to focus on art as material rather than art as illusionistic representation and to evaluate visual experiences divorced from readily identifiable subjects. Sometimes abstraction develops through experimentation with process. Sometimes it relates to an artist’s interest in psychology, spirituality, theory, personal history, or social concerns. Occasionally, abstraction evolves out of representational genres, such as landscape. In some instances, artists provide evocative titles. In other cases, untitled art leaves interpretive work to the viewer. Other ways of understanding involve considering how each work is enmeshed in traditions of abstraction that have developed in the art world. Every work is likely to speak differently to each observer.

Curator Amanda T. Zehnder

The online exhibition and photography were by Brian Kamen.