What Is Geometric Abstraction?

Geometric abstraction is a type of visual art that employs simple geometric shapes but does not depict anything from nature. Geometric abstraction was widely used modern artists in the twentieth century and was a part of many art movements, though it is no means a Western modern art invention. Islamic artists, for example, have used abstract geometric shapes in their paintings, ceramics, architecture, and textiles since the fifth century.

Some twentieth-century modern artists moved away from representational art, or art that depicted real-world objects, and toward pure abstract forms that could not be construed to resemble anything in the real world. Geometric abstraction was considered many modern artists to be the ultimate art movement because it was based on strict design principles and made no attempt to create the illusion of three-dimensional space. Geometric forms are specific shapes made up of straight or curved lines that run in a straight line.

Kazimir Severinovich Malevich, a painter active in the late 1800s and early 1900s, was a pioneer of geometric abstraction in the twentieth century. Malevich founded the Suprematists, a group of artists who believed in abstract geometric forms. The Cubist art movement, founded Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, influenced this form in some ways. To represent different perspectives, these artists used geometric forms to break up the two-dimensional surface of their paintings. Cubist art, on the other hand, was frequently representational.

Wassily Wassilyevich Kandinsky, another Russian artist, favored geometric abstraction at times during his career. Kandinsky taught at the Bauhaus art school from 1922 to 1933. Geometric forms dominated much of Kandinsky’s work during this time, and he preached their importance both in his theoretical writings and in the classroom.

Piet Mondrian, a painter who lived later in the twentieth century, championed geometric abstraction and dubbed his work neo-plasticism. Mondrian painted horizontal and vertical lines on top of white backgrounds. He limited himself to three primary colors in his paintings. Despite his desire to avoid depiction, his brightly colored paintings resembled city street grids, with one painting titled Broadway Boogie-Woogie. The Abstract Expressionist art movement, which began in New York in the 1940s, was influenced Mondrian’s work.