Activities
Abstraction

a. An abstract work of art is not recognizable as a picture of a person, place, or object. Abstract art is sometimes  described as non-objective, but it may be based on an emotion, a sensation, or an aspect of the real world that has been simplified, generalized, distorted, or rearranged. Ask your students what the words abstract art mean to them. After discussing their ideas, look at Carmen Herrera’s painting Blanco y Verde, 1959. Ask students to describe and discuss this work. What lines and shapes do they see? How are the lines and shapes arranged? What colors does the artist use? How does color affect the lines and shapes in the composition? What type of space does the triangle shape occupy—is it flat or illusionistic? Do students think that the composition is entirely abstract? Why or why not?

b. Ask your students to view and discuss a small selection of abstract works by artists in the Whitney’s collection. For example, Ellsworth Kelly, Agnes Martin, Barnett Newman, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Frank Stella. Use the links below to find images of works by these artists. Ask students to describe and discuss each work and compare them to Herrera’s Blanco y Verde, 1959. What similarities can they find? How are the works different?

Ellsworth Kelly http://collection.whitney.org/object/2423

Agnes Martin http://whitney.org/Exhibitions/AmericaIsHardToSee?&artwork_id=13475&filter_id=26

Barnett Newman http://collection.whitney.org/object/12937

Georgia O’Keeffe http://collection.whitney.org/object/1386

Frank Stella http://collection.whitney.org/object/2965

 

A white artwork with a thin, green triangle in the middle of it.

Carmen Herrera (b. 1915), Blanco y Verde, 1959. Acrylic on canvas, two panels: 68 1/8 × 60 1/2 in. (173 × 153.7 cm) overall. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Painting and Sculpture Committee 2014.63 © Carmen Herrera; courtesy Lisson Gallery, London