Geometric Abstract Art

Geometric Abstract Art by Victor Vasarely
Torony, Viktor Vasarely
Image from Easyart

Geometric abstract art might at first glance seem completely detached from the natural world, a branch of abstract art devoid of emotion and lacking the force and energy of the great ‘action’ paintings.

Not true.  Although words such as ‘intellectual’,’ ordered’, ‘harmonious’,’ perfect’– all sit comfortably around abstract geometric art and it does appeal to our sense of order and balance, the artists who made it were as emotionally involved with the process of making art as those artists who chose to work without boundaries and the results are just as moving and engaging. 

Inspired by nature

Nature is full of geometry and this mathematical perfection is what inspired so many artists to use geometric abstract art to express their view of the world.  Squares, circles, straight lines, geometrical patterns in the hands of the right artist are as powerful and liberating as the expansive and seemingly more random gestures of the action painters.

Terry Frost Geometric Abstract Art
Terry Frost, Orchard Tambourine
Image from Easyart
Josef Albers Homage to the Square
Josef Albers, Study for Homage to
the Square: Image from Easyart

Some of the earliest examples of abstract art are purely geometric.

Paul Klee New Harmony
Paul Klee, Neue Harmonie
Image from Easyart

Artists such as Kasimir Malevich and Piet Mondrian were deeply spiritual in their approach to painting yet chose to convey their message via a combination of straight lines and geometric shapes.

For Kasimir Malevich geometric abstraction was the perfect vehicle to express pure feeling through his paintings.  As early as 1913, he was using a simple black square to communicate this.

Piet Mondrian took a similar approach and his geometric abstract paintings have a timeless quality that makes them as powerful today as they were when he painted them in the 1920s and 30s. His work inspired fellow Dutch painter, Theo van Doesburg, to experiment with geometric abstraction.

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Tableau 1
Piet Mondrian
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Painting Suprematism
Kasimir Malevich
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Theo van Doesburg
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Hard-edges, flat color & optical illusion

Kenneth Noland
Tropical Zone, Kenneth Noland: Image from Easyart

A later generation of artists such as Kenneth Noland, Frank Stella, John McLaughlin and Al Held adopted geometric abstraction as a response to the more flamboyant style of abstract expressionism. 

John McLaughlin, #8, 1959
John McLaughlin, #8
Image: Sam Beebe on Flickr

They set out to make painting appear less subjective and emotional by eliminating evidence of brushwork and creating a hard-edged, cooler look.

Victor Vasarely experimented with color and optical illusion to express what he called the ‘internal geometry’ of the natural world and create vibrant geometric art (known as Op Art or Optical Art). 

Another well-known exponent of Op Art is British artist, Bridget Riley. 

Victor Vasarely Geometric Art
Cheyt M, Victor Vasarely
Image from Easyart
Sol LeWitt Triangle Geometric Abstract
Triangle, Sol LeWitt
Image from Easyart

Order and balance

Geometric abstract art appeals to the intellect and to our need to feel that our world is organised and harmonious.

In many cases it is highly colourful and the repetitive nature of the patterns used provides a (most likely subliminal) sense of comfort and security.  

Nature, although it might give the appearance of being chaotic, is highly structured and organised, and this is something we instinctively recognise. Geometric abstract art often appeals more to the male sensibility and to those of us who prefer a sharp, modernist look.   

Piet Mondrian Opposition of Lines: Red and Yellow
Opposition of Lines, Mondrian
Image from Easyart
Sean Scully Four Large Mirrors
Four Large Mirrors, Sean Scully
Image from Easyart

Its structured, hard-edged qualities are not for everyone but for those who do crave its order and mathematical perfection, there is a lot of great art to choose from.