Art historians often divide contemporary art into categories: figurative art, abstract and representative. Although not in any way mutually exclusive, figurative art is made with the intention of representing a similarity. When painting a traditional portrait or still life for example, the artist tries to make a copy of what he sees before him. Abstract artist is more concerned with capturing a concept or feeling, often using the factors of symbolism, irony, overlay, etc. Abstract art challenges the viewer to discover its meaning.
Pablo Picasso is often cited as the first abstract artist. Picasso and Georges Braque developed the Cubist method between 1908 and 1912. “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” by Picasso, is undoubtedly the most famous Cubist painting. The Cubism sought to capture an object or parts of an object from many different angles or points of view at one time.
Expressionism also became very popular in the early years of the twentieth century. It is a very broad category, but it usually involves the attempt by the artist to portray a state of mind or feeling using colors, pictures, shadows, strokes, etc. Instead of creating a likeness, artists distort the image to capture an idea, often relating to human suffering. Vincent Van Gogh and Edvard Munch are examples of artists to the beginning of Abstract Expressionism.
Dadaism and Surrealism
During the period of 1916 to 1922, the movement of artists was more focused on protest against World War One. Dada philosophy was nihilistic, declaring that the traditional art was no longer effective in sensitizing people and becoming bourgeois and empty. Many artists of Dadaism and Surrealism were established in Europe and the United States in the 1920s and 1930s. Surrealism is based on the principles and symbols of Freudian psychoanalysis and in free associations. Surrealists believed they could make art exploring the unconscious mind.
During World War II, many European artists immigrated to America. For this reason New York has become the art center of the modern world in the mid-twentieth century. In 1950, it presented the Abstract Expressionism, a way that basically wiped out any trace of the figurative. Artists like Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock and Franz Kline are the best known practitioners of this style. This art was mainly focused on color, and methods of application of the ink. Pollock was known for his “Dripped paintings” where he spills or drips paint on the screen and then manipulate with different tools.
Recent forms of abstract art
The abstract tradition continued with pop artists such as Andy Warhol, who used symbols such as the Campbell Soup Can to make a reference about the cultural symbolism. Minimalism deconstructs art to its fundamental parts, focusing on shapes, lines or specific objects. Performance art and video art are generally regarded as abstract art, like graffiti.