The term Concrete Art was introduced by Theo van Doesburg in 1924 and programmatically defined in a manifesto in 1930 at the founding of the Art concret group for a direction of art that is ideally based on mathematical-geometric foundations. It is not "abstract" in the true sense of the word, since it does not abstract anything that exists in material reality, but on the contrary materialises spiritual things, has no symbolic meaning and is produced more or less purely by geometric construction. Richard Paul Lohse spoke rather of constructive art. Concrete art is distinguished from constructivism and abstract art by its scientific thinking (especially the exploration of geometric laws), its concentration on the interplay of form and colour and its interest in the exploration of colour. Some experts emphasise the importance of simple geometric basic forms. However, the use of such elements is neither a unique feature nor a necessary component of works of Concrete Art.
For historical reasons, the term is mainly used for works from the German-speaking cultural area, although there were and are of course artistic positions worldwide that correspond to Concrete Art, namely in Italy, France, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and in North America. However, these are usually listed under other "labels". It is typical for artists of the concrete direction that their works are usually first created in the mind before they are materialised. In extreme cases, the principles of their creation are so stringently pre-formulated in the mind that they could almost be represented as mathematical formulas (see quotations by R. P. Lohse). This encourages the frequent creation of entire series of works. An important contribution to the theoretical superstructure and reception of Concrete Art and poetry, especially in Germany, was made by the Stuttgart philosopher Max Bense.