abstracting away


Frank Stella is an old (20th century) master of abstract art, Martha Russo is a new (21st century) master of abstract art, but they both have something in common: the belief that an abstract work of art has no limits — that its forms spill and spread into the environment, suggesting its inner abstract character. The idea of “boundless abstraction” first surfaced in the water lily murals of Monet — for Greenberg they were abstract in all but name, and set the precedent for Pollock’s all-over mural paintings — and was extended by Kandinsky, however hesitantly, in his early works, particularly the famous First Abstract Watercolor (1911, scholars now say 1912 or 1913). There the eccentric continuum of petite color and line perceptions moves beyond the technical boundaries of the work, suggesting an infinite flux of uncontainable visual sensations. Pollock’s implicitly boundless mural abstractions are the climactic statement of “abstraction as total environment,” correlate with the idea of the “environment as totally abstract.” Abstraction came to dominate thinking about the environment as well as art, and the triumph of abstraction signaled by such opposed movements as Abstract Expressionism and Minimalism confirmed that it had become a generalized mode of perception and cognition: only when art and the environment were perceived and understood in abstract terms was their presence convincing.

more from Donald Kuspit at artnet here.