Part Five – Exercise 5.2: Barr in Reverse

What would be the significance of reversing the arrows in Barr’s chart? Make two columns – one ‘forwards’ the other ‘back’. List as many relevant concepts as you are able to develop the contrast between the two columns. Feel free to ‘cheat’ with a thesaurus.

I have to admit, I had some troubles with understanding and embracing the task of the exercise. The reversal was clear enough, but not clear how to draw concepts from the forward and backward ‘columns’ with respect to contrast. Would it been to look holistically and consider the different direction as a concept (or concepts)? Or to look at other terms for individual movements related to the opposite direction, i.e. instead of e.g. Dadaism after Expressionism, how to describe Expressionism with a different concept as it would follow Dadaism? Or to forget about all arrows and dialectical synthesis and just to consider what comes up to my mind? Perhaps, to overcome a self-conscious agony and follow the steps of Lawrence Weiner who wrote all sorts of short notes on

Therefore, I continued first with reading of conceptual and contemporay art before embarking on this exercise.

Eventually I drew the Barr ‘boxes’ in opposite direction and started with the beginning: the idea and the geometrical and non-geometrical ‘art’.

Stefan513593 - part 5 - exercise 2 - Barr reverse

Fig. 1: Stefan513593 – part 5 – exercise 2 – Barr reverse

Relevant concepts to a reversal of Cubism and Abstract Art

A reversal of Barr’s chart would mean that all modern avant-garde movements would not go towards reduction and abstraction, but that the simple forms would be the starting point.


“The actual figures they draw cast their shadows and reflections in water” – Plato


Concept 1:

One could related this even to Plato’s conception of the transcendental idea as the model. He takes the example of mathematics and geometry with considering the square as a trifold analogy. The idea of the square is the form, the shape equals ‘physicial things’ and the drawn shape on paper equals the ‘shadows’ of the form in a visible world. It is an image of an idea as the ‘real objects’ are invisible for the eye.

One could further argue that the materialization of the ‘pure idea’ is the essence of art.

Concept 2:

Are there any other viewpoints? From my own professional art therapy practice I can relate the new starting points of geometrical and non-geometrical ‘art’ to the developmental physiology of infants and their early expressive markings. Margaret Mahler described this in her theory of separation-individuation and it was further explored with early children drawings by Helen Bachmann in her book Malen als Lebenspur (Painting a life track): the early drawing or paintings by children are rather abstract with simple regular or irregular geometric shape. During development and individuation the shapes become more assertive and pictures and narratives occur. Arno Stern researched the global validity of early children drawing and its visual language. The group COBRA embraced the gestural and intuitive children paintings in their work, as well as works from mental ill that eventually was articulatd by Dubuffet as Art Brut.

These are just two possible conceptions of the starting point idea and basic abstraction through gestural and/or geometrical visualization. The article ‘on painting’ (Baldwin ed.el, 2004) and Joselit’s (2016) argumentation to overthrow information focus in art and to ‘afford friction’ and to ‘track plasticity rather than transparency’ gave me some further insight.


Here my collection of concepts, rather rough, and more a brainstorm, but I got some ideas together:

Stefan513593 - part 5 - exercise 2 - Reversal concepts

Stefan513593 – part 5 – exercise 2 – Reversal concepts

  • I am not so convinced whether I made the task or not. I came up with some ideas of concepts and different to Barr’s chart of ‘Cubism and Abstract Art’.  I am happy that I can continue with the other exercises and focus on my assignment work.



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