The Political Basis of Abstraction in the 20th Century as Explored by a Painter

  • Samia Halaby
Keywords: abstraction, art history, materialism, painting, revolution


The political nature of abstraction presented from an artist’s point of view – one who considers the most advanced task is the exploration of the language of pictures. Such exploration is understood as a separate discipline from the many others that employ pictures for practical functions. The author examines the development of 20th century abstraction as an effect of revolutionary social motion. Historic steps to abstraction, taking shape as rising and receding artistic movements, are correlated to revolutionary motion. The materialist underpinning of abstraction is distinguished from the idealism of Post-Modernism. The paper ends with an examination of contemporary discourse in the Western art world that attempts to erase the internationalism of abstraction and, thereby, marginalize non-Western practitioners.

Author Biography

Samia Halaby

Samia A. Halaby was born in Jerusalem, Palestine in 1936. She is a visual artist, scholar, and activist. Rounding out her sixth decade as a painter, she continues to explore abstraction and its relationship to reality. She has exhibited in galleries, museums, and art fairs throughout the US, Europe, Asia, and South America. Her work is housed in private and public collections around the world, including the Guggenheim Museum (New York and Abu Dhabi) and the Institut Du Monde Arabe (Paris). Halaby has authored and contributed to a number of books, notably: “Liberation Art of Palestine” (2001), “Drawing the Kafr Qasem Massacre” (2016), and “Growing Shapes: Aesthetic Insights of an Abstract Painter” (2018). She is the subject of two monographs and numerous reviews.

How to Cite
Halaby, S. (2019). The Political Basis of Abstraction in the 20th Century as Explored by a Painter. Manazir Journal, 1, 77–90.