Geometric Shape Definition in Art
When learning about art and viewing it in museums, you may wonder, what is a geometric shape in art and how is it significant to the creation of drawings, sculpture, and paintings? The geometric shape definition in art is characterized by a reliance on mathematical shapes such as triangles, squares, circles, and lines to organize space. Artists can use geometry to develop a theme, for example, Cubism uses cubes and Fractal Art uses statistical constants to develop a design. The use of geometric shapes in art also allows artists to isolate and display emotion in their work. As an example, Wassily Kandinsky, one of the founding fathers of geometric abstract art in the 20th century, painted geometric forms later in his life to express emotions and spirituality. Geometric shapes were used more frequently in the 20th century, developing out of the previous artistic period of figurative painting and landscapes, that in its final phase was beginning to experiment with cylinders, spheres, and cones.
Geometric and Organic Shapes
Both organic and geometric shapes allow artists to draw anything; by isolating the geometric or organic shape first and then embellishing on it. As an example, an artist might start to draw a bear with a square, a circle, and some ovals. While geometric shapes are found in items created by humans, organic shapes are inspired by and found in nature. Organic shapes have several curves and flows, for example, a clover or a river. They are different from geometric shapes because of they are not exact or predictable in their shape. The basic design elements of geometric and organic shapes art in contrasting ways. The organic shape is unpredictable and curved in natural ways while the geometric shape is predictable and often more angular as it is determined by math and science. In the 20th century, geometric shapes were preferred by artists as they began to develop more abstract forms of expression in painting and drawing.
Positive and Negative Shapes
In design, both the space one draws on and the space that is left empty have meaning and are purposefully created. A positive shape is the shape of the object, for example a square. A negative shape is the space between objects, for example, the column between two squares. Artists can use positive shapes to activate the space between them and draw attention to the negative shape by pairing circles and squares along horizontal and vertical axes to create hourglass figures, for example. In geometric art, the proportion of space used can be just as important as the space that is unused.
Art Styles and Artists that Use Geometric Shapes
The modern abstract movement beginning in the early 20th century featured the use of geometric shapes; painting, drawing, and sculpture are common mediums for geometric-based art and more recently digital creations using computers. This abstract movement created space for artists to develop particular styles and traditions. The following list, which is not all-encompassing, includes some 20th century artists that use geometric shapes:
- Wassily Kandinsky
- Pablo Picasso
- Piet Mondrian
- Bridget Riley
- Georges Vantongerloo
- Robert Morris
- Mary Corse
- William Roberts
A variety of art styles use geometric shapes for different purposes. The table below includes the name, date, and location of eight styles of art that use geometric shapes:
|Cubism||1907-1914||France and Spain|
|Fractal Art||1980s-today||United States|
Cubism was created by friends Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, who used neutral colors and cubes to deconstruct a known image, such as a workshop, and encourage the viewer to interpret the image behind the abstraction. Cubism had several evolutions in its lifespan, including a period through which geometric shapes were used to create new objects instead of deconstructing them. The collage design of art was continued through Cubism.
Founded by Wyndham Lewis, Vorticism was introduced through a magazine called Blast published in 1914 in England. The use of geometry by Vorticists produces a mechanical quality of rigid design and repetition of shape, often called collage. Robert Morris is a well-known artist in this style, producing Boxers.
Russian Suprematism was founded by Kazimir Malevich, an artist whose work features geometric shapes to promote logic and objectivity in direct opposition to earlier subjective arts. He is most well-known for Black Square from 1915.
The Bauhaus was an art school founded in Germany and it included all art forms. The Bauhaus aimed to be beneficial to the growing industrial world through the work it created. Those producing while at the Bauhaus used layered geometric shapes to create depth and movement, similar to a collage. Lyonel Feininger and Josef Albers are well known for their Bauhaus paintings.
Swiss Design is a graphic design style that is based on a mathematical grid; designers were individualistic with some producing a simple geometric design while others produced a more calligraphic design. Josef Müller-Brockmann and Gérard Miedinger are two well-known Swiss Design graphic artists.
Minimalism is an art style that uses objects and aims for a neutral, non-ambiguous design. The use of boxes, fluorescent tubes, and other geometric shapes were used to present the dematerialized artform. Robert Morris and Donald Judd were prominent Minimalists.
Fractal art is a more recent, computer-generated art that is defined by fractals, or geometric objects that appear fractured but are actually represented by a repeating order that can be measured statistically and repeated at various scales. Fractal art was described in 2012 by Mehrdad Garousi and Masoud Kowsari as representing chaos and order side by side. Benoit Mandelbrot created the Mandelbrot set on a computer and other fractal artists, such as Mehrdad Garousi, followed his lead.
In art, geometric shapes such as circles, lines, squares, and triangles are all used to define and organize space. The use of geometric shapes in art allows artists to express and isolate emotions; Wassily Kandinsky is well-known for expressing spirituality in his later work. Geometric shapes, in comparison with organic shapes, are mathematically defined and predictable. They were used in 20th century art styles to create a separation from the subjective artistic expression of the 19th century. Positive and negative shapes are two methods of using space; a positive shape is the shape itself, while a negative shape is the space between shapes.
A few artists that use geometric shapes include:
- Pablo Picasso, co-founder of Cubism in 1907 in France and Spain
- Georges Braque, co-founder of Cubism in 1907 in France and Spain
- Kazimir Malevich, founder of Russian Suprematism in 1915
- Josef Müller-Brockmann, Swiss Designer in 1950s Switzerland
- Robert Morris, minimalist artist in 1960s United States
Other styles of art that use geometric shapes include:
- Fractal Art
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