Abstract Art A Global History

Pepe Karmel

A leading authority on the subject presents a radically new approach to the understanding of abstract art, in this richly illustrated and persuasive history.

In his fresh take on abstract art, noted art historian Pepe Karmel chronicles the movement from a global perspective, while embedding abstraction in a recognizable reality. Moving beyond the canonical terrain of abstract art, the author demonstrates how artists from around the world have used abstract imagery to express social, cultural, and spiritual experience.

Karmel builds this fresh approach to abstract art around  five inclusive themes: body, landscape, cosmology, architecture, and man-made signs and patterns. In the process, this history develops a series of narratives that go far beyond the established  figures and movements traditionally associated with abstract art. Each narrative is complemented by a number of featured abstract works, arranged in thought-provoking pairings with accompanying extended captions that provide an in-depth analysis. This wide-ranging examination incorporates work from Asia, Australia, Africa, and South America, as well as Europe and North America, through artists ranging from Wu Guanzhong, Joan Miró, Jackson Pollock, to Hilma af Klint, and Odili Donald Odita. Breaking new ground, Karmel has forged a new history of this key art movement.


Brilliantly innovative.

— David Carrier The Brooklyn Rail

[An] innovative reevaluation… Brilliantly conceived and handsomely designed, Karmel's fluent and creative history redefines abstraction in terms of its vibrant and evocative range of styles, subjects, and expression.

— Booklist

Abstraction is just as relevant and important today as it was [in the past]… Karmel argues for its durability and broadens its cast by spotlighting earlier figures who have been overlooked and others who are carrying abstraction into the future.

— ARTnews


Pepe Karmel


Pepe Karmel is associate professor at the department of art history, New York University. He is the author of Picasso and the Invention of Cubism and Abstract Art: A Global History, and has written widely on art for museum catalogs, as well as the New York Times, Art in America, and other publications. He has also curated and cocurated numerous exhibitions, including “Jackson Pollock” (MoMA, 1998) and “Dialogues with Picasso” (Museo Picasso Málaga, 2020). Karmel is the associate curator of Museo Picasso Málaga.