When I was younger I preferred classical art to abstract art because as I told people “it’s more real”. Now that I’m a bit older and have more experience, I can tell you that this was a mistake. Abstract art is more real than classical art is.
Let me ask you “Isn’t color real in an abstract painting? And what about texture?” I’m sure you don’t have to think about the answer. Yes, color and texture are just as real in abstract paintings as they are in classical art. The term abstract refers to form only.
The term non-objective art would probably be more appropriate than abstract art. Abstract art can be ambiguous in a way that realist paintings aren’t. Abstract painters have some intuition about the kind of dialogues that a painting will engender because of its difference in volume and direction. Their paintings come from something in the real world.
If we really want to get to know abstract art we should ask ourselves how it began. I don’t like the Marxist approach which is a sort of cliché after Peter Burger’s talk about avant-garde origins. I don’t have any thing against the theory of the influence of socio-economic revolution on abstract art, but I think the true forces at work here are the invention of photography and the search for purity.
It’s true that economic independence allows artists to gain artistic independence and freedom from the dictates of style. But I doubt this is enough to explain the artistic revolution.
Who would desire a portait if he had the possibility of using the new technological tools? Many artists feared this would be the end of art. Painters were, in fact, forced to search for new subject matters which could embody their internalized ideals. Many artists found a solution in eliminating details and the illusion of space.