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A standing joke between painter Richard Bruland and myself poses a fundamental and exasperating question about any painting: Is it representational or abstract? Bruland’s answer is always "Both!"

For years I have challenged Bruland, as well as other non-representational artists, on this issue. It seems that abstract artists usually affirm, as Bruland does, the simultaneous but ambiguous dichotomy to be true, while figurative artists usually seem to take some pains to disavow abstraction.

Despite the fact that his work is "structurally abstract," Bruland acknowledges that he thinks of his paintings in "landscape terms, referencing the natural, or real world, and often inferring a sense of ‘place.’"

Art's beneficence: Bruland's elegant abstractions defiantly assert their own objective nature as flat objects on the wall, and the endlessly inventive human visual system keeps encountering the real world of nature in them.