Saturday, January 26, 2013


The Abstract.  

Mathematicians and Philosophers have long utilized it for elegant argumentation.  After all, discarding details can make ideas much clearer.

The geometry, color, lines of a crisp, winter afternoon.
The holiday bustle of  downtown
Santa Cruz is off frame.

Artists, from the time of the Modernists on, have experimented along this path too.  Reduce Art to its elements, they thought, and extract it's essence.

I was just considering a Mark Rothko today.  With luminous color fields as his subject, he sought to bring forth poetry from the canvas.  Go sit and ponder, preferably in the museum, and let me know if you see it too.

Mark Rothko at the SF MoMA
This image does not do justice to
the colors emanating from the canvas.

Not to be left out, novelists also pen thought-provoking abstract ideas, sometimes with great humor.  One of my favorite books, "Flatland," is by a Victorian mathematician/writer with a gift for social satire.  (Warning: Oncoming geek out.)  Imagine flattening Victorian society onto a two-dimensional plane -- England with no depth.  The inhabitants appear as geometric shapes associated with their status in society.  Triangles line the bottom.  Squares and greater-sided polygons rank higher.  Circles comprise the Elite, for aren't circles just regular polygons with so many sides, they've managed to smooth their kinks out.  Note, all these descriptions apply only to Men.  Women do not even get to be polygons.  They are merely line segments!  

Due to the limitations of two dimensions, identifying each member of Flatland society is done with some difficulty.  Along comes a three-dimensional Sphere - with the ability to see all their shapes.  It doesn't take much to point out how dull, blind and lacking these ridiculous Flatlanders are!  Imagine how much more enlightened a four-dimensional Being would be looking at the world.

Black, white, and red.
The tiles were an installation at the SF MoMA.
50% black, 50% white, 100% randomly laid out.

If I've gotten your head completely whirled with talk of polygons and planes, ignore me (and take an aspirin).  I'm simply distracted and abstracted.  And thinking of all those dimensions I am blind to, so far.


  1. I love these shots - you have such a great eye! Flatland sounds very interesting!

  2. I can see from your shot how Rothko could have been seeing for his inspiration. Your tiles could illustrate your Flatliners. I can see how after seeing in a world of 2D how 3D would be fascinating. As for 4D it would be mindblowing. Thank you as always for your lovely comments. Hope you are well. Xxxx

  3. I have yet to stand in front of an original Rothko, having only observed his work so far in books, on screen or in reproduction. I eagerly anticipate the real thing.
    OK, the Victorian, mathematical satire sounds extraordinary. In fact, I was so curious I had to look it up before commenting to find out a little more about it. Commentary on social hierarchy AND an exploration of dimensions AND published in 1884 AND an examination of women's roles in society... I have to get hold of a copy! Thank you for celebrating it here.
    Also, thank you so much for your insightful, sensitive and supportive comments recently. I was so struck by the details you recalled of your grandmother's stories of living during occupation. Such small moments of your family history that you occasionally talk of always intrigue and point to a vibrant, dynamic and warm family background.

  4. A little "geek out" is welcome in my world. ;)
    Geometric shapes and forms really speak to me. I've been deeply moved by experiencing Rothko's paintings in person. The book Flatland sounds intriguing.

  5. abstraction is ideal
    love the last frame so much!

  6. What stunning photographs, you have a real talent there. I love the first in particular, and like you I'm a massive fan of Rothko: sitting in front of his paintings is like entering a mindfulness meditation, transformative and so soothing.

  7. oh i much i would love to see Mark Rothko’s painting in real. it’s wonderful to look at such inspiring art…
    xo sandra

  8. Mr Abbott, who wrote Flatland, was out of his time, don't you think? Saw a huge lot of Rothkos the other day. I think it was in Tate Modern when I popped in rather quickly. I don't feel they're pictures to be seen in a hurry. But I believe I could live with one. There's all the difference between what looks good and what you can live with, isn't there?

    I've got a glass desk and glass chair now that I've moved offices. It's my gesture towards minimalism. Means I'm polishing the thing all the time to get rid of annoying smeary fingermarks.

    I am attracted to minimalism, but my personality gets in the way of a minimal lifestyle, I'm afraid!

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  10. Love the photos, they're super minimal. I want to start adding some to my adventure travel blog I've been working on but can't quite afford the right camera just yet!

    Been reading your blog for some time now, finally left a comment. Keep up the great writing :)

  11. Just dropping by to see what’s new… xo sandra

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  13. It's been too long! I'm sorry I haven't checked in on your site in a while. I've given up blogging for now but might start another one if the right inspiration strikes and I find time. I had my baby, and now that she's sleeping at semi-regular hours I'm able to surf on the web again and (best of all) read lovely little pieces like this one and actually take in what you're saying. I might be driving through LA this summer, and I'll have to stop in at the museum. (My husband and I have a wedding to attend in Santa Barbara and thought maybe we'd drive down the coast and check out San Diego; we're considering moving there! Thoughts?)

    I loved "Flatland"! We read it in college for my Victorian Lit class... A nice quick read I remember it being. Lotsa experimentation going on back then with the storytelling possibilities of the novel but without being too abstruse as experimentation became with the early 20th century modernists. I feel like a philistine for saying it, but I never cared for Joyce or Gertrude Stein et al. However, I personally adore 19th century big, winding novels, so... it's a matter of taste I guess. Recently, when I wanted to reread Anna Karenina after watching the (sadly so) disaster of a film starring Keira Knightley (and adapted by one of my favorite playwrights), I ended up picking the Constance Garnett version precisely because it was criticized for sounding too much like a 19th century Victorian novel. Hey, that's when he was writing in Russia, so that kind of makes sense that that's how it would come out in English!

    Hope you're well! And lovely to find your page again! xoxo
    P.S. I had a girl :)


Dear Fellow Aesthetes, I love hearing your thoughts. I think the other readers find them valuable too! Much love xxx

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