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.
Big, beautiful, [and] brimming with scholarship and insight, [Pepe Karmel's] survey is a network of linked fragments, a rhizome, a Wunderkammer—in short, a book for our times.
— Art in America
— 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.
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.
Pepe Karmel received his BA from Harvard College and his PhD from the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. He teaches in the department of art history, New York University. His books include Picasso and the Invention of Cubism. He has contributed essays to numerous exhibition catalogs and has written for publications including Art in America and the New York Times.