Abstract Illusionism

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In the mid-1970s, art critic Barbara Rose identified a trend in painting in which abstract works were rendered with a sense of perspective, depth, and shadow. Rose named this development Abstract Illusionism, calling attention to the fact that painting, albeit still abstract, was returning to its long history of depicting space. This was a notable shift following the prominence of post-painterly abstraction in the 1960s, famously championed by art critic Clement Greenberg, which emphasized the flatness of the painting support. Rose’s term has been linked to Frank Stella, Jules Olitski, Walter Darby Bannard, Ronald Davis, and James Havard, who combine elements of Abstract Expressionism and hard-edge abstraction with trompe-l’oeil effects. Many artists since have incorporated tropes of Abstract Illusionism, producing works with an array of abstract marks and shapes that appear to exist within three-dimensional space, as in the paintings of contemporary artists Trudy Benson and Josh Reames.

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