III. The Abstract

December, 2002

The word abstract has several senses: (1) it denotes, most literally, separateness, a meaning directly correlative to its Latin root abstractus, “to draw from, separate;” (2) it means something considered apart from a particular application or real world existence, i.e. a mental concept or metaphysical ideal; (3) it refers to a property of an object considered apart from its other inherent qualities, i.e. a generality, category or characteristic.[5]

Abstract art is then abstract in the second sense in that it contemplates an art object or an art practice as itself, separate from an instrumentality that would situate art in the context of a representational imperative. In that sense, abstract art is pure and unencumbered by a relationship to an exterior world. At the same time, and as a consequence of its conceptual purity, abstract art is abstract in the third sense, in that abstract art becomes a meditation on the properties of art considered separately from each other and potentially from histories, practices, traditions or representations.

[5] Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, © 1996, 1998 MICRA, Inc. (cited on Dictionary.Com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/abstract).