Curves & Stripes in Abstraction and The History of Art

Curves & Stripes in Abstraction and The History of Art

Above: Duke and Wigmore No. 24, 2008 by Gary Komarin   It is a most curious thing how some painters lean towards stripes and others towards curves in the development of their work. Neither is better than the other, they sit on opposite sides of the spectrum. Throughout the History of Art, and that of painting in particular, artists have been using both striped and curved motifs in their work. This was a natural progression as the world itself is filled with both striped and curved motifs. The human body is, needless to say, a bundle of carefully orchestrated curves. Architecture, stone slabs, trees that shoot up to the sky in a straight shot – all have aspects of the stripe, which moves in one direction only and does not bend or twist in its ascent. Some bones in the human body are quite straight, but most curve at some point as they reach their ‘attachment’. Painters began, sometime after the beginning of the 20th century, to choose between stripes and curves. I don’t think this was a communal decision. Rather, individual painters in the privacy of their studio and their own thoughts, selected stripes or curves as the motif for their work. With this decision (stripes or curves) painters may have felt that they were reaching ‘higher’ ground, as for many painters there is a spiritual quest that is going on, sometimes consciously, sometimes not. The world is such a complex and uncertain place that I believe it gave some artists great comfort to choose between stripes and curves rather than have this choice be made for them....
Levels of Abstraction

Levels of Abstraction

All art is abstract. It is a matter of degree, not a question of either or. Whether one is looking at Cave Painting, Early Italian Painting, the paintings of small children, the paintings of a developed Realist or a hard edged Minimalist; abstraction is the common chord that runs through all paintings, as well as music, film, poetry, the novel, the short story and life itself. Constructs such as realism, new realism, painterly realism, cubism, futurism, and minimalism are all attempts by humans to categorize and contain that which resists categorization and containment. When a caveman went into the back of a cave to draw on a craggy and broken surface the image of a bison that he might meet later that day, his concern was to render that image with as much feeling and simplicity and accuracy as he could muster. Working from memory, the image that he painted on the cave wall would invariably have been a reduction, a simplification, an abstraction of the more complicated visual dynamics that are involved with replicating the image of a bison in a pre-photographic age. The caveman, like the child, is working abstractly without realizing that he is doing so. When Vermeer painted a maiden pouring milk into a bowl amidst sunlight pouring through a dutch window, he is of necessity simplifying and abstracting forms in order to both tell his story and to reduce and simplify forms in space in a very complicated visual world.  If you hold a Vermeer painting upside down and concentrate on the space between things or the space between objects — under tables, for...