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The ABC’s of Abstraction: Collection in Context

On view June 15 - August 10, 2017

Learn to Understand and Love Abstract Art through our Permanent Collection!

The ABC's and U of Abstraction...F is for Formal Elements - when artists starting experimenting with colors, shapes, patterns they opened up a new way of seeing the world. Here we see three artists move from representation to further abstraction. Artists are William Davis, Summer Sailing; Ferol Sibley Warthen, Provincetown Sails, Xavier Gonzalez, Inland Sea.

When photography was invented, artists were freed from having to represent what they saw in front of them. They could explore new ways of experiencing their inner and outer worlds, and “abstract” out of their experiences special elements that were personal and meaningful to them. In the United States, the 1940s-1960s were a fertile period for artists who experimented with Conceptual, Expressive and Formal elements in art.

Explore the conventions the artists broke and see the world in new ways!

Allow yourself to accept that this work may not represent anything realistically. The artist chose to explore something new.

Be with the work. Instead of rushing by, decide to stay, look longer, and see what you discover. What seems to be the most interesting to you…the lines, the shapes, the colors, the subject matter, the composition?

Conceptual Elements –Do you think the artists started with an idea or a concept, rather than with something they saw or felt? Do you see an artwork that plays with the idea of art or questions what art is?

Don’t be discouraged! There are no wrong answers – art is about creativity and personal expression!

Expressive Elements – Do you feel any emotion looking at this? Do you think the artist did?

Formal Elements – Are there any interesting patterns, colors, textures, brushstrokes, or shapes?


U It’s about you! Be aware of your own feelings, maybe even physical reactions, as you look at these works.


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