PRINT April 1979

Planar Straight Line and the Primary Plane

ONE OF THE ELEMENTS unique to nonobjective painting is the planar straight line. The straight line in general is man-made: Arnheim notes that to make a straight line one “must go through a complex motor process.”1 The line can be given a planar quality by thickening it and by shaping or squaring its ends, although such a “planar” line defies the Euclidian definition of a line as having neither breadth nor thickness. So making a planar straight line is a decisive move; it is an innovative marking process. As a shape with parallel sides, the planar line relates directly to the plane of the canvas, and how the planar line is positioned and used can reflect the artist’s attitude toward the primary plane—the plane of the canvas before any internal division occurs.

Straight line as a consistent, independent mark is first seen in Picasso’s and Braque’s Analytical Cubist paintings of 1911–12.

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