I think abstraction is making something we would recognize into something less recognizable. Abstraction isn't typically representational, but one could find representation in it. When we painted our skin colors, we were abstracting our skin into something less recognizable, but one could still figure out that the little squares are a skin color. Our black and white paintings are abstract in that they aren't representational at all. They're just black and white forms on paper, but someone could still read emotions or other representational forms into them..
Modernism is a breaking away of traditional forms. When painting our black and white paintings, we used sticks, which is a breaking away from the traditional use of brushes. They are abstract, which itself is a form that breaks away from traditional, representational painting forms.
Color theory is so interesting. When we painted our skin color, it was interesting how the different colors of paper made the skin color look different. When initially mixing the color, I thought I knew what color my skin was, but then comparing it directly to my skin, it looked really different. So I had to mix in different colors that I didn't think would actually be mixed into a skin color.
A modernist might view these images and just look at the use of paint and nontraditional materials. A postmodernist might look at them and interpret them according to postmodern ideas of race and diversity, how only black and white colors were used for the abstract paintings and the controversies that could go along with that, or they would be interested in the use of skin color and ideas of diversity in color in the labels of black and white.
3 questions to students: What are some other nontraditional materials like sticks that could be used to make abstract paintings? What ideas about race could be portrayed through the painting of skin color on the different colors of paper? Does there need to be meaning in art for it to be art? Why or why not?