UMass Amherst

Circles Triangles and Squares:
Revisiting Abstraction

Curated by Kim Carlino

Sean Greene
Light Fraction 6
2005. 54 x 48in. silica on canvas.

Ad Reinhardt
UMCA Permanent Collection
Untitled. 1964 . 24in x 20in Silkscreen.
We ask art to do a lot for us: stimulate thought, elicit converation, evoke connection and emotion. What can abstraction do for us in the 21st century? Why does its elusive and ambiguous nature continue to endure and make a resurgence in the contemporary art world today?

With form, line and color as its primary tools, abstraction works at a base level of sensory and perceptive awareness. It strips away the meaningless and irrelevant to get at the essential. The lack of external reference or clarity leaves a multitude of responses and interpretation available to the viewer. The entry to these artworks is filtered through the viewer's experiences, sensations, thought and feelings. There is an inherent possibility insinuated in the obscurity of meaning in these works which asks the viewer to connect at a deeper personal level to find meaning. In a time of constant distraction and inundation of sensory stimuli, these works can be moments of pause that become spaces for reflection and consideration.

Searching through the vast collection, I uncovered works from several prominent and influential artists from the 60s and 70s working with the language of abstraction in its many incarnations. Responding to themes of geometry, color relationships, line quality and process, I have paired works from UMCA's permanent collection with several contemporary abstract artists. Continuing into the 21st century, the conversation on abstraction expands, and the influence of the artist's work in the permanent collection underscores how it is just as relevant and influential today in its power to uncover the timelessness of form.