Degrees of Abstraction: Selections from the Weatherspoon's Permanent Collection

  • May 11, 2003 – Aug 3, 2003

The term “abstract” implies an image extrapolated or transformed from the real world. Prior to the invention of photography in the 1880s, artists strove to create illusions of reality. As photography became established as the ultimate tool for representing the world, artists began to explore non-objective elements in their art. By the early 1900s, artists began to assert that the theme or subject of a painting was no more important than its color, design, or composition. In the following decade, “pure” abstraction became the goal of pioneering painters such as Wassily Kandinsky, and Piet Mondrian. Since that time, artists have explored abstraction in such variety that it is impossible to consider it in any comprehensive way.

The exhibition presented a group of some twenty works in the Weatherspoon’s permanent collection, representing a spectrum of abstract art—from a spare image-less painting by Harriet Korman to three blue monochrome rectangles by Donald Moffett that are, in fact, literal depictions of the sky. Others represented in the exhibition included James Hyde, Karen Arm, Matt Mullican, Jonathan Seliger, and Dona Nelson. Many of these artists have ignored traditional distinctions between abstraction and representation, choosing to create works that are uniquely personal. 

We have six galleries located on the first and second levels of the museum, view our gallery map.