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Abstract art lyrics:
The term "lyrical abstraction" has already been discussed by others more educated than I, including those who should have a solid grasp of what it means and how its particular style and orientation is similar to—or contrasts—other forms of abstraction. But from what I've read, many of the critics cannot agree, or don't see things consistently in this area. (Chalk one up for Art; I'm always pleased and amused that visual forms defy explanations, words, or even consistent perceptions. That's an important aspect of art!)
There is a great deal of confusion associated with this style that's prevented people from understanding what exactly constitutes lyrical abstraction. Some of that may just be due to 'Art Criticism Obfuscation.' I don't know if it's intentional—if there's a motive for such things—or if it's merely a matter of debate or misunderstanding, but in any case it doesn't need to be this way.
I'd like to insert my two cents into this discussion, to define what lyrical abstraction means to me personally, as an artist. In doing so, I'll sketch out some of the stylistic parameters I think are significant and try to circumvent a lot of the jargon and academic erudition (and resulting confusion) that surrounds this term, hoping to make it comprehensible for those who choose not to wade through extensive dogma, philosophy, art criticism—and nonsense. I'd like to make this straightforward and easily understood by the common man or woman who wishes to gain some insight into this term, relative to 20th-century art history—and why I feel this style is unique.
This is my sense of lyrical abstraction and a few of the artists associated with it. It is not meant by any means to be all-inclusive, nor will it be the last word on this subject. No doubt some will find this short essay lacking in "academic underpinnings," or perhaps overly simplistic—while others may find it somewhat confusing still. But it's time that someone—an artist involved with the creation of it—spoke about it lucidly and from the heart. In a sense, that's what it's all about.
The various forms of abstraction are numerous: formalism, abstract expressionism, neo-expressionism, naturalism, minimalism, color field painting, and many others. Fortunately for the reader, I will discuss only lyrical abstraction here, as the others are outside the province of my expertise (and interest, to some degree).
Elements of Lyrical Abstraction
One of the most significant distinctions from other forms of abstract art is contained in its premise of being "lyrical." What is lyrical? In the Oxford dictionary, "lyrical" is defined as "expressing the writer's emotions" (or the artist's emotions, in this case) —and it really is that simple. Although a lot of abstract art focuses on emotional content, lyrical abstraction primarily conveys a sense of the larger spiritual outlook an artist chooses to infuse in his/her paintings. It relates to that mystical sensibility more than an "action painting" approach (which can present visual intrigue, but often fails to elucidate aspects of the human condition). For a simple, stark example of that contrast, Adolph Gottlieb's paintings convey a sense of encountering and confronting the elemental beingness both within and beyond our everyday reality; Kenneth Noland's hard-edge stripe paintings do not. In my mind, those are merely decorative.
But Noland's visual statements (and those artists like him) are not concerned with such things. That's fine, as long as we understand the intent, and relate to it accordingly. Some paintings simply exhibit formal art elements that are not intended to communicate ideas.
Lyrical Abstraction As Emotional Experience
The abstract art of Arshile Gorky penetrated and explored deeper layers of experience and emotions, as did the "abstract" art of Max Ernst. One could argue that lyrical abstraction is more about a certain mindset, a desire to communicate concepts, thoughts, ideas, and emotions abstractly, beyond merely exploring art principles of composition, tone, value, line, hue, texture, etc. The best lyrical abstraction, of course, incorporates all those elements, but its overall effect is more concerned with one's approach to art.
There is a tremendous power associated with addressing primal, spiritual, or metaphysical concepts, and incorporating them into artforms. Some artists choose to focus on this, others don't. Ellsworth Kelly's monotonous gray canvases, for example, leave me (and many others) bored, despite their critical acclaim. Perhaps they're intended as metaphors for the "grayness" of contemporary life, the bland alienation inherent in our society or era; perhaps they reflect the blandness of their creator. . . .