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VIZ CITY BLOG: Audio, photos, transcripts & more by Terry Way and Sandy Brown Jensen.Airs every other Wednesday during Morning Edition and Here & Now.

How to Look at Abstract Art: New Show at Maude Kerns Art Center

courtesy of Maude Kerns Art Center


  This is Sandy Brown Jensen, and you’re listening to Viz City, KLCC’s art review program.

How do we look at and appreciate abstract art?


One of the best places to think about the answer is at the Maude Kerns Art Center, which has two remarkable shows up through March 26.

I am standing in front of a paired set of large, abstract Geralyn Inokuchi paintings, totally absorbed. When I’m looking at abstract art like these dynamic explosions of blue, brown, rust and white, I first take whatever time it takes to shut down my monkey mind and turn off all my words.

Credit Courtesy of Maude Kerns Art Gallery
Detail 1 of Pacific NW Travels, by Geralyn Inokuchi.


I want to see as deeply as I can; I want to be emotionally open. I want to listen to the music of line and color and light without the burden of overthinking what I am loving about this art.

Eventually, I will read the title, and for these two paintings, the title,“Pacific NW Travels,” suddenly tells me what to think: the white is wind-flung surf breaking high off the dark rocks.

Abstract art can be compared to music—the kind without lyrics. Music affects us but doesn't actually represent anything. The artist is like a musician playing a piano. The keys are paint, line, color, and composition that make the strings vibrate to create music, which, as we all have experienced, can uplift our hearts or move us to tears—all without words.

Credit Courtesy of Maude Kerns Art Gallery
Detail 2 of Pacific NW Travels by Geralyn Inokuchi.

These richly textured paintings are composed by the artist using the same techniques as a musician—counterpoint, rhythm, movement, repetition and surprise.

Like a great concert, there’s no need to overthink abstract art. When you walk into the Maude Kerns gallery, big, swelling music is being played. Open yourself to it. Take it in as fully as you can. Let the image you love most draw you to it. Enter it like a dream, and let the feelings come. Give your words a rest, and let your imagination enter the art with the curiosity of a child.

This is Sandy Brown Jensen with KLCC.

Credit Courtesy of Maude Kerns Art Gallery
Detail 3 of Pacific NW Travels by Geralyn Inokuchi.



Sandy Brown Jensen has an MFA in Poetry and is a retired writing instructor from Lane Community College. She is an artist and a photographer with a lifetime interest in looking at and talking about art. Sandy hosts KLCC's long-running arts review program Viz City.
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