Abstraction: A Modern Impact on Aesthetics

Modernism refers to a global art movement in the first half of the 20th century that rejected traditional values and techniques in art practice to favor individual experiences and explore the boundaries of art.  Abstraction in art, or distorting a depiction of the natural world, revolutionized artists’ ability to explore and communicate some of these new ideas. Distorting the formal qualities of art challenged notions of skill in terms of representation or the perceived accurate visual rendering of the natural world. In this gallery, you will experience a vast spectrum of abstraction to representation in landscapes. 


Lorenzo Palmer Latimer’s Loma Prieta -Santa Cruz, California –painted the same year as the Panama Pacific International Exposition–renders a compositionally balanced landscape conveying the picturesque through the formal qualities of representation. The picturesque scene depicts blue mountains in the background, green foliage in the middle ground, and golden lakeside grasses in the foreground. The formal balance of Paul Kratter’s Beyond the Marsh– rendered  98 years later–mirrors Latimer’s compositional and natural depiction. This form of representation conveys a traditional approach to art practice. In contrast, Christel Dillbohner’s Scarred/Sacred III and nif hodgson’s Delineation 2 a/b draw upon Modernism’s impact of abstraction. Both of these works induce the sublime or the mysterious unknown through formal qualities of the overall work. Dillboner’s material choice of scale and color immerses the viewer. With no reference to the figurative world, her work enables the viewer to turn inward and explore their own ideas and reactions. –Perhaps the golden color evokes the golden hillsides of California? Frank Rowe’s Smog Alert -Oakland and Glenn Wessel’s Night Surf linger in the spectrum of abstraction to representation, combining both elements to convey mood and reference place and time. 


As you move through this gallery, consider how artists responded to abstraction as an aesthetic tool. Does abstraction convey different degrees of the sublime to the picturesque? How do the artists in this gallery use abstraction or representation to render landscapes? To what extent did Modernism impact artistic choice and practice through landscape depictions?

Aesthetic Forces

Forward to Next Gallery

All images are subject to the copyright of Saint Mary's College Museum of Art Permanent Collection