Abstract art, abstract thought


Michelle and Carla Composing
by Matt
Abstract art is hard to describe in one sentence, because one can consider all art to be a form of abstract expression. It’s not my aim to delve into the theoretical landscape of art, but the idea of how to define abstract art is food for thought. For a one on one experience with abstract art I visited the Robert Bills Contemporary Gallery in Chicago’s West Loop art district, where Tiphanie Spencer’s exhibition “Subconscious Thought” is currently being showcased.
With semi-cubic shapes, strong brush strokes, and vibrant forms and colors, abstract art makes the viewer work to understand the image. Unlike Renoir, Monet, and Seurat, whose work allows for viewers to immediately relate to the image; abstract art turns this concept upside down and requires the viewer to understand this image in your own way. Each artist has their own theme and thoughts regarding their work, but it is understood that the viewer will interact personally and subconsciously with the images. Boundaries are left at the door and the viewer becomes a participant in the artwork.

Spencer’s mediums vary from oil pastel, oil pastel and acrylic, and oil on canvas only. These three mediums allow for never-ending possibilities in creating differing effects, colors, depth, and form.

Subconscious Thought
The work that stands out to me the most is Subconscious Thought (See image). The image is beautiful. This oil on canvas piece features a large woman in the foreground reaching towards a child, and a sickly, grayish tinted woman at the bottom of the piece. This three people form a  triangle allowing the viewer’s eyes to move in a circle. What really stands out to me is the use of what seems to be lips for the child’s lower body. This can be inferred as a loving connection with the woman whose is reaching for the child. The figures are in a clearly formed room, yet the floor has no definitive point of reference. Lines and forms crisscross the canvas, creating a puzzle-like texture to the image. The colors create a mood that is hard to describe. Looking at this piece I feel a staleness to the image. No bright colors take focus and my emotions feel dulled down. Browns, grays, and dull greens are used liberally, while subtle use of reds and whites make the image seem three dimensional. I keep asking myself, what do I feel, what does this mean? After stepping back and closing my eyes I realize that’s the idea of this piece. Subconscious thought is not something we realize, it’s something that happens all the time. There’s no control, it is comparable to how one says, “I don’t judge people when I first meet them,” yet we all do, willing or not. This is the heart of abstraction; we want to control our thoughts, but cannot.
The Kid is not my Son
Other pieces that left me thinking aloud were The Kid is not my Son (see image), Michelle and Carla Composing (see image), and Icon (see image). The Kid is not my Son helps the viewer contemplate an emotion they might not normally encounter. I don’t know if most people can relate to paternity problems, but I believe the emotions of frustration, anger, hopelessness catch viewers off guard. Viewers not not be ready to fully connect their repressed emotions to those within the piece. Michelle and Carla Composing makes me wonder, “what happened to either Michelle or Carla?” There is only one discernible figure, yet I infer that the burning chimney at the left represents one of the two girls. Finally Icon, a mixed media collage on paper, leaves my mind cluttered with thoughts. The collage effect does not allow for a single reference point, and differing images of men, women, and cubic forms clutter the work. Could the icon represent me? Am I striving for perfection or trying to find my perfect icon?

These images define abstraction for me. They open my mind, yet clutter it at the same time. Thoughts are not streamlined, and that is the point. Abstract art tries to bring out the subconscious within you, while we desperately try to hang on to control. The Robert Bills Contemporary Gallery on N. Des Plaines St. will continue to exhibit Tiphanie Spencer’s “Subconscious Thought” through April 19th. Give Art Burst Chicago your opinions below!

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Filed under Matt, painting

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