The Geometric Unconscious


The Geometric Unconscious

A Century of Abstraction

Edited by Jorge Daniel Veneciano

American Transnationalism: Perspectives from the Sheldon Museum of Art Series

208 pages
99 plates, 39 figures


July 2012


$50.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

Inspired by the Sheldon Museum of Art’s holdings in geometric abstraction, this book introduces adventurous new thinking about a visual approach that has captivated both artists and viewers for more than a century. Four richly illustrated essays explore the European genesis of geometric abstraction, its translation into an American context, and its current direction, charting the style’s aesthetic, intellectual, and social implications.

Sharon L. Kennedy’s essay draws on the Sheldon’s collection to trace the style’s beginnings and its various transformations by twentieth-century American artists. Peter Halley invokes contemporary theory in rethinking how postmodern artists engage with geometry while challenging its most basic presumptions. Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe delves into the work of four contemporary artists who are taking geometry in new directions, and Jorge Daniel Veneciano reveals the persistent manner in which theorists and defenders of geometric abstraction have obscured aspects of its history and contributed to the esoteric aura of modern art.

Featured throughout are full-color reproductions of art from both the Sheldon and private collections, including paintings, sculptures, and works on paper by diverse artists such as Ilya Bolotowsky, Carmen Herrera, Donald Judd, Agnes Martin, Piet Mondrian, Odili Donald Odita, Frank Stella, and Charmion von Wiegand.

Author Bio

Jorge Daniel Veneciano is the director of the Sheldon Museum of Art. He is the coeditor of Fabulous Harlequin: ORLAN and the Patchwork Self (Nebraska, 2010) and the editor of Neo-Constructivism: Art, Architecture, and Activism and Play’s the Thing: Reading the Art of Jun Kaneko.


"The Geometric Unconscious is an excellent addition to the literature about abstract art."—Craig Adock,  Great Plains Quarterly

Table of Contents

Introduction: Dreaming in Geometric Abstraction 
Jorge Daniel Veneciano
Penumbral Geometry, Part 1: Staging Abstraction 
"Impeccable Order": Geometric Abstraction in Historical Perspective 
Sharon Kennedy
Illuminated Geometry, Part 1: The Tradition 
Euclidean Geometry, Part 1: The Linear 
The Crisis in Geometry 
Peter Halley
Penumbral Geometry, Part 2: Afro Geo 
Euclidean Geometry, Part 2: The Solids
New Directions in Geometric Abstraction 
Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe
Penumbral Geometry, Part 3: Soft Geometry 
The Geometric Unconscious and the Esoteric Life of Modern Art 
Jorge Daniel Veneciano
Illuminated Geometry, Part 2: The Light 
Euclidean Geometry, Part 3: Constructivist Solids 
Checklist of the Exhibition 
List of Contributions 
Index of Artists and Works 


A winner in the Trade Illustrated category of the 2012 AAUP Book, Jacket, and Journal Show

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