Art 3 – Abstraction and concretion – due 9/11


Read about Arshille Gorky’s context:

The Water of the Flowery Mill:

Hans Arp’s Human Concretion:

George Morris’ Concretion:

In your comments, explore the differences between abstraction and “concretion”, a term used by Arp and Mccollum to draw a distinction with abstraction.

What interests you more?  Is the distinction important in understanding the purpose or meaning of the art that results from either method?

Which are you interested in exploring? Do you think it is possible to do both simultaneously? Do you think Gorky does that?

Additional references on Abstract and figurative art from The Art Story:

And a link to a podcast on John Graham (but at least look at the abstraction):


10 responses »

  1. Abstraction is the lack of defined characters (people, places, or things). Abstraction does not represent anything in particular. In the cases that people, things, or places are depicted, it is done so in a generalized manner. Concretion on the other hand is a type of abstraction, but it is much more simplified. It uses colors in a way to create a relationship. I am more used to abstraction so when asked which I like better, I want to say abstraction, but concretion is more appealing. I am drawn to the play of color and the fact that I had never done it before. Honestly, I still don’t completely understand the difference between the two so I can’t tell you. I guess it does make a difference because one is more formal. Yes, I do think that you can do both at the same time. Concretion is more of the general theme of the art piece.

    • Abstraction is almost always taken from the reference of reality, no matter how far away from the subject it seems to go. The generalization and simplification, as you point out, is an important method for abstraction. I think one way to think of the differences it to consider your intentions in the forms that you choose. No matter how unidentifiable, are they representative at all of a place or thing? There are a lot of “grey areas” for sure since a concretion can be representative. But the formal origin is internal rather than external. It gets the creative juices flowing to think about the direction and method of your creation.

    • You make good clarifications between the two. I think it’s useful to consider before you start, no matter how cumbersome the ideas may seem at first, because after all, they come from the artists themselves rather than the art historians. In thinking about these ideas, you can consider the direction your creativity will take.

  2. It seems like concretion is a bit more of a subcategory of abstraction. Abstraction is taking an image and changing it from its reality. It has a broader meaning and can be applied to a lot of works. Concretion is essentially completely non-objective. If you take one of Gorky’s works, for example, he sees a real image within the abstraction. In contrast, George Morris’ concrete works are based on how color and shapes interact in a space from what I understand. Personally, I’m more inclined, based on what I think concretion means, to explore abstraction. As much as I love color, I don’t think I’m as aesthetically inclined towards focusing so much on shapes. I think that knowing the difference between the two is more relevant when working directly in art history so that scholarly ideas don’t get imposed on the pieces.

  3. Based on the articles, an abstraction seems to be a conceptualized interpretation of reality. Concretion focuses less on the conceptual and more on concrete forms found throughout daily life. It explores the dynamics of/relationship between color and shapes, which can at times be non-representational. The line between concretion and abstraction, however, is blurred and as Hockney observed, it seems as if one might be a subcategory of the other. I do believe they can be achieved at once. An idea/conceptual interpretation of reality can be expressed through a combination of organic shapes and colors. In order to appreciate a piece of artwork, it is unnecessary to define whether it is abstraction or concretion. I enjoy looking at the relationships between color and the movement of shapes, which can be found in both types of artwork. Depending on how abstraction and concretion are defined, Gorky does at times achieve both techniques, especially in Garden in Sochi.

    • You make very good points about the overlap between the two and the importance of the formal relationships in the resultant forms within the abstractions. In a way, be exploring these ideas, we are sneaking up on the difficulties of interpretation when it comes to abstraction.

  4. I dont know if Im supposed to comment on this, but abstraction is supposed to be a visual representation of something not inspired from anything concrete, where as concretion is. I think they both interest me alot. I love to see the ways things in real life can be interpreted and made like something nobody has ever seen before. I also like abstraction because it can also be very technical type of art, and it can also be very expressionist, and unique to the artists “vibes”, emotions, and thoughts. I think it is possible to do both simultaniously. I think in some ways Gorky does this in the sense that some of the shapes in his paintings almost resemble real things like flowers or horses, but they most certainly do not point directly at it, and are far more focused on spacial design and color. I think Im going to explore some more concrete abstraction…I feel as though it will make it easier for me to jump into the abstract world. I cant just jump into the deep end right away. haha…but I might try taking on abstraction as a challenge…I have yet to give it more thought.

    • I agree – I think Gorky comes at it from both directions, especially since he is working from memories and signifying the place and feelings through his inner associations. You may want to think of a musical passage or an emotional state as a way to get started with abstract forms.

  5. Abstraction is an abstract feeling that artists extract from something real, while concretion is more like the relationship/balance between color and creative patterns/shapes. One method I’ve learned from art class is, to observe and draw an object without looking at the paper, and it’s been very interesting to see the outcome. When you totally go crazy your lines get so relaxing that they’re even better than those realistic observational drawings. It’s quite joyful to see how those unconscious lines can surprise you, so personally I’m more interested in abstraction than concretion. I don’t see the distinction is that important in understanding both abstraction and concretion, but it might be helpful when you try to explain the techniques and background to others in a modern art show…hahah. I think it is possible to do both simultaneously and Gorky also does that. I mean in some of his paintings you can’t even determine whether it is a person or just a shape from his imagination.

    • It’s interesting to me how student’s interest in abstraction has changed from years ago. Abstraction was everything and if you painted realistically, it was so out of “fashion”. Yet, most realists see the importance of abstraction as an underlying structure for the finished painting. Artists like Gorky or Matisse – liked the connection between the real and abstract and loved to show them simultaneously.

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