Abstract Art: A Break From Reality

June 01, 2023

Abstract Art: A Break From Reality

Images Details (left to right):  Our Planet from Above #5 , Herbert Murie, oil on canvas, 2007, 2015.58.12 Seeds , Monica Lloyd, mixed media on paper, 2014, 2016.17.1 Archaeological Series: Time Fragments , Delbert Michel, mixed media assemblage on board, ca. 1995, 2015.73.1 Middle Earth I , Robert Koropp, color photograph, 1974, 2011.1.38 Amnesia Machine , Christy Dehoog Johnson, mixed media on paper, 2002, 2002.439.1.


Western Art, from the Renaissance through the middle of the 19th century, had largely been defined by artists attempting to create realistic images, illusions of duplicating a landscape, person, or object. By the end of the 19th century, many artists were looking for a new kind of art making that explored a departure from reality; an image created entirely from the imagination. 

Abstract art does not attempt to represent an accurate depiction of reality, but rather uses a visual language of shapes, colors, forms, lines, and marks to achieve its effect.  It is often split into two main categories. One is the independence from external reality, the other being an exploration of color and forms independent from a known subject. The artist may still be influenced by an object, figure, or landscape, but the forms creating the image are generally simplified or gestural.

The abstract art movement was quickly subdivided into different categories based on artist interpretations. Geometric abstraction focuses on compositions made completely of geometric forms, while lyrical abstraction focuses on the physical process of mark making and the impact of emotions when creating a work of art. Other categories include cubism, surrealism, and minimalism. After World War II, American artists, like Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, formed a new art movement called abstract expressionism. While often characterized by artwork with gestural brushstrokes and the impression of spontaneity, the definition of abstract expressionism became very specific to individual artists.

However the term is defined, abstract art is a movement that spread over all mediums, including painting, drawing, printmaking, sculpture and even photography that altered realism through the use of colors, shapes, and mark making. The GVSU Art Gallery has several examples of artist creating their own abstract art language throughout the collection.


Herbert Murie
For over 40 years, Herbert Murrie had a successful advertising and design career based in Chicago, Illinois. As a result of his artistic upbringing and personal drive, he often returned to the studio in pursuit of a more spontaneous and freeing output. Controlled manipulation of paint and color bore witness to his understanding of design, while his process of working intuitively noted elements of the artistic movements he grew up with in the mid-20th century.

To see more works of art by Herbert Murrie in the collection visit:


Monica Lloyd
Monica Lloyd is a Grand Rapids based artist and GVSU Alum. She is an illustrator who explores patterns and the way we view nature, the cosmos, and the cycles of human life. Lloyd achieves a high level of detail and intricacy that make her drawings appear as if they exist infinitely, sweeping over the edge of the paper, even while working in a smaller, microscopic scale.

To see more works of art by Monica Lloyd in the collection visit:


Delbert Michel
The sculptures of local Michigan based artist Delbert Michel are inspired by the impressionist and abstract expressionist art movements, light and color, and Michel's travels around the world. Michel began creating art in 1960s, experimenting with abstract compositions that would dominate his later artworks. As his career progressed, Michel began to incorporate more shapes, designs, and colors into his art, creating landscapes inspired by nature but far from a realistic depiction.

To see more works of art by Delbert Michel in the collection visit:


Robert Koropp
Through his photography, Chicago-born photographer Robert Koropp combined his background in science and art in experimental ways. Using a medium created to capture realistic images, Koropp's photographs make the viewer look twice at what the image is of, creating abstract photographic images in a time before the current digital technologies. After a successful career as a soldier and in commercial advertising, Koropp created multiple bodies of experimental photographic works including micro-photography, cityscapes, still life, and motion images.

To see more works of art by Robert Koropp in the collection visit:


Christy Dehoog Johnson
Drawing from her experience as an illustrator, local Muskegon artist Christy Dehoog Johnson uses a wide variety of mediums to create images that play with the attraction of opposites, like macrocosm and microcosm or captivity and escape. Over the last few years, her work has become even more abstract, focusing on the process of creating lines and shapes over large fields of color. Her images invite viewers in to see the movement within her mark-making.

To see more works of art by Christy Dehoog Johnson in the collection visit:

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Page last modified June 1, 2023