My neighbor and I were talking on our morning walk about contemporary art and we can’t agree on whether there is a difference between ‘abstract art’ and ‘non-objective art’. Can you help explain the difference, if there is one?
You and your neighbor are not alone in your confusion over the terms abstract and nonobjective art. It’s a common mistake to think all abstract art is non-objective. Essentially the difference is abstract art defines art that distorts the actual representation of something, for instance Cubism is a type of Abstract Art where any subject such as a woman’s body will be distorted into geometric shapes. Non-objective, also called nonrepresentational, art defines art that does not represent or depict any identifiable
person, place or thing. The content of the work is its color, shapes, brushstrokes, size and scale. Color-field painting (think Mark Rothko) is an example of nonobjective
One artist represented by our Gallery, Philip Morsberger, paints in both non-objective and abstract art styles. Each of Morsberger’s paintings begins as a completed non-objective painting of varying colors and shapes. After his non-objective painting is complete he contemplates the completed work. After musing on the work, he will begin to see images from his memory and his imagination form out of the shapes and colors of his non-objective painting.
This is similar to seeing clouds in the sky. He then paints over the non-objective painting, with abstract images, objects, and words. Most of his paintings take him many years to complete because he will return to a painting as he sees more figures within the abstract shapes and colors. Sometimes as in one of the examples here, he keeps a particular work a non-objective painting of color and shape.
Can a non-objective painting also be called abstract art? Yes. Is all abstract art non-objective? No. Both examples of paintings by Morsberger can be classified as abstract but only the painting without an identifiable subject can be called non-objective or non-representational art.