Friday, March 17, 2017

Why do people love or hate abstract art?






 I'm starting another Abstract Art class next Friday (description below) and I'm wondering if that is a good  idea!!
I've been surprised recently by people responding to abstract art in a  clearly quite visceral way in both online classes, and in  presentations to groups of retired intelligentsia!!
Now, I myself certainly don't respond to ALL abstract art, but I would say there's nothing that gets under my skin so much that I would say I hate it!!




It's always fascinating when  people's reactions to something are quite different...not just paintings of course, but textile art, music, plays, books and so on.  How can you hate something that is not attacking you? (as you can see I'm excluding politics here - actually the big three forbidden subjects for dinner parties: money, religion, politics! - no, I'm not talking about them - plenty there to feel visceral, or as they say in the UK, "gutted" about).



What is a painting doing that you can't bear to look at it?  How can somebody look at the work of well respected artists that have stood the test of time, and say "that's really awful, it makes me cold and angry" - it's almost as if they feel they have been conned by the artist.
And this is a common response - the old "my five year old could have done it" that even the most intelligent open minded people sometimes comment when I give them a presentation of abstract art!
No, your five year old couldn't!!   well perhaps a little genius like Picasso or Mozart or Fanny Mendelssohn could produce an abstract work of art that would stand forever .....but these folk are pretty rare.



So, as is my wont, I cogitated about this very negative reaction many have towards abstract art and wondered if it's really because they don't understand it.  We do like to understand our world - especially the intelligentsia!!!  so...if you don't understand what all the fuss is about, AND that bothers you (I'm leaving myself a get out clause here because I don't understand many sports !!!  4 hours of watching people chase the same ball around a pitch, EVERY day, somehow doesn't do much for me!)...so if you feel really strongly about something...then the answer is to find out more about it!! It seems so simple to me...I'm a great believer in understand WHY...hence all the cogitating!!





 I must admit that initially I wasn't that keen on abstract art either. (and there's a lot of poor abstract art out there in the same way that's there's poor representational art) (yes there are Thomas Kinkaid-type abstract artists too!!) , and I certainly couldn't figure out Scriabin's music when I first heard it....but I am intrigued.  I respect the fact that very knowledgeable people find these advances in art and music and literature to be absolutely wonderful, challenging yes...but in the best possible way. So I legged it out onto the internet and the local museum and the library....and the more I looked, the more I became quite enthralled by these artists.  AND, inspired to think about possible quilt designs!! oh yes! there's is so much we can snitch, folks!!  Not that I've made a Scriabin quilt yet...but you never know.....

So...what d'you think?  is abstract art, "modern" classic music etc  all an elaborate con?  or is there maybe something in it?  Comment!

And, if you have been, thanks for reading.  Elizabeth

Addendum:
an interesting quote from Robert Weirich - he's talking about music, but there are significant parallels with our discussion:




Introduction to my next (More) Abstract Art for Quiltmakers class with the academy.
"Over the next five lessons, we’re going to explore more aspects of abstract art. In my first Abstract art for Quiltmakers class we looked at the lives and work, ideas and processes, of female abstract artists, artists often overlooked. In this class,  More Abstract Art for Quiltmakers, I’d like to focus on the best known and most influential abstract artists, regardless of whether they are male or female, though (in the way of things!) most of them will be male.
 
I’m going to give some definitions of abstract art – there are many (just the main ones), because there are several different kinds of abstraction. The idea of abstracting means different things to different people and artists have exploited and explored many different avenues. You probably won’t like them all! I don’t either…but it’s useful to have a broad idea of the field as a whole.
In the first lesson, we’ll look at the history of abstract art beginning in Europe – as a particular kind of painting, it’s relatively young, only a little over a hundred years.
Each subsequent week I’ll focus on a different area: Abstract art in New York City, the benefits and meaning of abstract work, the abstract art form we know as music, and the abstract art of the 21st century.
Each of the lessons will also include several exercises which you can follow in order to create your own abstract art designs that you can use to make art quilts. You will be able to post your design sketches, and I can help you evaluate them, and make them stronger.
Towards the end of the course, we’ll discuss the steps necessary in working from the sketch to create the quilt.  I’ll be always available to help you make the designs and the quilts more interesting and more beautiful.
Research (optional!)
Each lesson I will suggest some homework! Research on a topic that is very relevant to the class and to you. In this way we’ll all learn a great deal from each other too.
Reading (optional)
At the end of each lesson, I’ll also give you the name of a book, or a url (website address) where you can go to find out more and really broaden your knowledge and experience of abstract art."

24 comments:

sonja said...

Perhaps it might be some people prefer to identify the subject depicted immediately by not taking time to see what is being communicated by the maker/artist.This might occur because they lack having the time/curiosity that some of us have in groves. Short of using the camera to record a subject, i feel that almost all art is therefore abstract due to the style each artist has developed due to curiosity and doing the work, lottsa time making ....hard to put in words feelings shared with art materials...but some of us persist to make/paint/piece/embellish in effort to say something, to communicate with others with our materials of choice. I for one enjoy searching the work to see if i get a message even if it is not a work i especially like because, just maybe it has something to teach me if i am curious and take some time to look and look again, perhaps seeing....
Thanks for your thought provoking posts!

D McC said...

Stay on your path. The more abstract art is dismissed, the more need there is for those who love it to have opportunities to explore the subject.

I have visceral reactions to abstract art, not because I hate the medium but because some works are so powerful, they evoke reactions such as fear, horror, sadness, panic and loneliness in me while others evoke joy, elation, hope, peace and satisfaction.

Elizabeth Barton said...

I think you have a good point, Sonja...people either don't like to take the time, or simply don't have the time...and so need to have everything served up like fast food: "fast art"!!
Yes, D McC...we do need to stay with all these forwards movements in different areas, in dance, music, art, literature...some will last forever, others will sink unnoticed into the mire!!! but we need to be aware and pay attention...and experience all those feelings and understand why - if we can!

Ellen Lindner said...

I have an ailing friend who's always told me how much she loves art. And she used to even go to NYC twice a year (from Florida) just to get a fix. I invited her to go see a local exhibit with me and was quite surprised when she gave me the third degree about the art. In particular, she told me didn't like abstract art and wouldn't enjoy it if it's abstract. Very surprising.

I do sort of get it when those who are not educated in art don't like abstract. To them, it often looks like scribbles. But, I was really surprised by this "art lover."

Janis Doucette said...

My preference fo abstract art has been evident since I was a child. It was not my parents' cup of tea; hence, always tension there. But when I put together my power point presentaion last week, it only occured to me days afterward that I had chosen predominantly abstract pieces and presented to a large group of pretty traditional quilters. Well, it wasn't entirely abstract but in retrospect, I was surprised at people's openness to it. I suppose they had no choice but to listen but they may have been taken by surprise because they really were captivated and many came up to me later and said they learned a lot, and they had a lot of questions for me. I suspect that for quite a few, they may have never actually heard anyone speak about it, probably not as matter-of-factly as I did. You know I'm not one for much intellectualization. So, I'm glad I didn't hold back on them. We all had a good time and learned some new things about abstract art and ourselves!

Jo Vandermey said...

I am going to jump in with (and please do not judge me for those who have a different opinion ) I am going to admit I do not "get" some abstract art. Their I said it! It is not that I am not intelligent or refuse to open my mind but I do have a couple of thoughts on the matter.
First I will admit that I do not have formal education in an art background. My formal education was in sciences resulting in working as a nurse and raising my family. This does mean I have not studied art I depth.
Since I have been turning to art quilting my eyes have been trying to learn the art world.
So first I don't understand abstract art because my mind has always been trained to investigate the story told in concrete observable evidence.
Second I do think there is an element of the " emperors new clothes" in the art world. There is a level of people defining what art is that can push an idea or form to be the next and best thing. I have toured national galleries and here I am thinking about our national art gallery where I have seen some art worth large sums of money that I do not feel justify the term art.
Some in turn mock artists who have sold there work that is representational as not being art. ( ie Thomas Kincade) And I am not saying I particularly like him either.
What I do need is a better understanding of the history of art (if I live long enough) and the principles of art and that I am trying to do.
When it comes down to it art and your reactions to it are a reaction to your thoughts, feelings, education, and how life influences you.
The cliche "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" holds truth. We look back at some historical moments in fashion and design and yes art and say what were they thinking?
What makes great art? Maybe it is what stands the test of time. Either way there is good art and bad art. There is art I like and don't like.
And maybe I am ok with just trying to understand that it is good for people to create!

Elizabeth Barton said...

Ellen - I had an experience very similar which is what lead me to write this blog post..it does seem like it gets up some folks noses!!
Janis - yes I think the important thing is to show the paintings and show the quilts and find the similarities...there are many...to my mind quilts and other textiles really were the first abstract art!
Jo - you've obviously thought about it a great deal...and I like your point about looking back at some of the weird fashions that were pushed - mainly onto women!! - as a form of "art" and I'm glad that now most women (not all...look at those who still have their teenage hairstyles because their husbands like them that way!) but most women now make their own minds up about what looks good and is healthy and comfortable too.

Pat and Govind said...

“I've been surprised recently by people responding to abstract art in a clearly quite visceral way in both online classes, and in presentations to groups of retired intelligentsia!!”

Honestly, Elizabeth, I am surprised by your surprise”.

I’ve been thinking so much about this subject over the last month, and really trying to get to the bottom of the problem of why so many people react badly to abstract art. In the time I’ve been pondering this, refreshing myself with cups of tea, and doing the groceries this morning, others have commented, so I apologise for apparently repeating some of what they have said. And now I come to post this, it turns out that it is too long to be accepted, so I'll try to break it into two.

First, I agree most difficulties begin with a lack of education and experience. Unless you have at some time specifically taken a course in art, both are probably lacking. In the nineteen-fifties (I’m one of the geriatric set that give you trouble) all students took an art class every term, and every term began with the study of six prints that arrived via some travelling educational circuit. This was called “Art Appreciation” (with emphasis on the second word --- a sort of breathless hush was required in the classroom). Most of the material was what might be termed “classic” and safe for adolescent consumption, with an emphasis on landscapes and religious works. In terms of design, we were encouraged to see groupings of figures and colours, etc. but nothing very rigorous.

I don’t know how the art teacher actually felt, but I can’t remember a single purely abstract work --- and even representational modern work didn’t get much coverage. I think we did see some of Picasso’s earlier work, say the 1905 “Boy in Blue”. However, although we were vaguely embarrassed into respectful silence by the 17th-century portrayals of the Virgin’s breasts, I don’t think Miss Keppell-Barrett could have faced our sniggers when required to “appreciate” Picasso’s 1955 “Women of Algiers” (and, by the way, Fox News blurred out the breasts in “Women of Algiers” on TV just two years ago).

Art teachers’ attitudes may have changed, but in my experience over the years, art has increasingly been taught only to those who chose to study it, because it eats into the time “needed” for more “useful” material. So, though there has probably been an increase in tolerance, there has been a loss in opportunity to acquire an art education.

Unfamiliarity creates incomprehension and fear, and fear results in what you call “visceral reactions”.

Pat (part 1)

Pat and Govind said...

Second, for many, recognisable subject matter is paramount. The first question anyone, including my friends who stitch, asks me is “What is it supposed to be?”

Third --- despite photography supposedly having freed artists to break away from the strictly representational --- representation is what attracts many people to art and art quilts. Look at the emails with such headings as “This are not photographs. They are actually painted by the skilful hand of …………….” It’s the obvious skill many people admire. This is the origin of the “my five-year-old-could …” claim.

Related to this, and I’ve tried to argue it before, so I won’t go on about it, people are impressed by visibly skilful use of materials, time apparently required, difficulties overcome, etc. They can’t always discern these in abstract art and fear it may just be too easy to throw paint at canvas.

Fourth, many people, are attracted to the sentimental. An Indian relative living in Calcutta, sells her careful copies of Thomas Kinkade’s cottages in her bank there, in the spirit of a sincere tribute to the painter she truly most admires. Their appeal is iconic to the customers, even in what might be considered an alien culture --- let alone to the massively successful commercial appeal in the U.S. (And yes, we have warned her that the Kinkade Company has a far reach and will be brutal if she is discovered). Abstract art can convey emotion, but it might be harder for it to convey anything so obviously syrupy (you may know of some examples, but it’s hard to for me to imagine).

Fifth: Many associate non-representational material with “decoration”. They see a collection of squares --- they may like what they see or not, but “decoration” doesn’t seem to be art to them, but rather something pretty or dramatic to hang behind the matching sofa.

I don’t want to claim to be some wonderful person who is comfortable with Abstract Art. I’m not. But I know I should be willing to extend myself.

So what’s needed is that there are students willing to learn about design (the principles, I assume, being similar in any form of art), willing to examine what draws them to art, willing to part with assumptions. There really isn’t any substitute for self-examination combined with education.

And education, Elizabeth, is where you come in!

Pat (part 2)

Elizabeth Barton said...

Pat! what wonderful thoughtful comments...I do appreciate them. It's great that the format of blog + comments allows us to debate issues...I will say that I find it more interesting to take an extreme view so as to spur a discussion - confession!!
Alas I went to a convent school and we didn't even see Picasso's early work, I think all the art we ever saw were "holy pictures" - what you might call Nuns' artist cards!!! and they were hotly traded!!! Living in an old medieval town in the North of England, I really didn't see any art, or hear any music - our focus was probably more on history, and there was lots of that - the town having been founded in AD56. I wish I could remember the first time I saw some abstract art! I think it must have been after I emigrated and I probably thought: hmm, what's all the fuss about? and, as you say, what is it about? not really what it's supposed to be, rather what is the artist trying to tell me.....and, I think, that's a good place to start.

Karen Perrine said...

I think it is quite normal for someone to feel more comfortable with representational art. It is familiar, you can tell what it is, and it is (mostly) safe. Each artist adds his own techniques, colors, ideas to a representational piece. Thus, even with old masters, the "hand" of individual artists can be seen. Highly detailed, "it looks so real", even hyper-real work can be appreciated for the skill alone, a very familiar concept, as in comparing to the grand prize winning quilt at the state fair with a modern non-representational art quilt. The skill is uppermost, and very admirable.
Obviously, some representational artists are capable of painting emotion/feelings into their work, and viewers are capable of understanding it. Most of us are visual creatures, and we all live within a culture. Certain objects convey certain meanings in every life. So abstraction starts with emotions inferred by objects. And, because we all need a boost sometimes, work that reinforces happiness, lovely vistas, good feelings, is most suitable to being on our home walls. One big change in the dynamic between artist/viewer is when the artist becomes more interested in the message, and the viewer starts asking "What is the painter trying to tell me?" In a lot of cases, the message the artist intends is not happy and lovely. Perhaps the artist has decided "Happy and lovely is old hat. Happy and lovely is sentimental. Happy and lovely is easy. I want to do something different." Nothing wrong with happy and lovely, but the artist is reaching for more, and asks more of us. This is a speedbump for most of us. The biggest change comes when the artist abandons images and tries to convey ideas or pure emotion through color and composition. This step, I think, is where the viewer has to do a little research, look at a lot of paintings, read what the artist says about his work. If we are lucky, we become interested in an artist who is allergic to "art speak" and is able to speak plainly to us in voice or print, as well as painting (or sculpture, or quilt.

Leigh said...

I'll join Jo and say I usually don't 'get' it and add that I will avoid a mostly abstract exhibit. I studied art and art history in college and after the impressionists, it started going downhill.

That said, I have visited San Francisco and San Diego Museums of Modern art (SF twice) and attempted to 'get it'. Straight up abstract is just not my cuppa.

I don't get Pollock, I don't get why chucking paint behind a jet engine is art, and I don't get why a urinal is art either. I don't get why a drawing of a can of soup is art.

I don't think that art has to be pretty. Guernica is incredibly moving and the method of representation of the elements adds to the message.

I wish I could find the 'artwork' of the guy who drew intersecting loops on his canvas and filled in the loops and sections where the lines crossed, with a variety of colors. I REALLY DID DO THAT WHEN I WAS FIVE. My mom might even have one or two in a box somewhere. I did mine on 8 1/2 x 11 sheets of typing paper with crayons in the early 70s, he did his on canvas with acrylics, I believe in the late 60s. Mine looked just like his. I had the 64 color crayon box and was quite careful in my color placement. And it wasn't art, just me entertaining myself. He just had a bigger budget to entertain himself with.

What really irritates me is when artists (any, but especially abstract) do a big series called Untitled I, Untitled II... XXVII, etc, and somehow I'm expected to figure out the 'meaning'. To me that just says they weren't thinking of anything but how good that paint felt going onto the canvas, and there's no message at all except maybe they had two tubes of orange, and only a little blue left but couldn't get to the store. If there's no message then why am I (the viewer) there? There's no conversation, and I'm wasting my time.

Really good Art-with-a-capital-A in my opinion has a message. If the viewer has to have a graduate degree in art criticism to appreciate the message, well that's going to be a pretty limited audience. For example: I was at San Diego MOMA, and one of the 'installations' was a piece of plywood painted shiny black and leaned up against the wall. In a museum. Seriously? That is as no-talent no-message a "piece" as I could possibly imagine. Oh, and it was "Untitled". Which then makes me wonder about the rest of the exhibit. Am I being taken for a ride on them too? Is it all a big joke? No one like to suspect they are the butt of a really big joke.

I DO like a subtle art joke. I own a delightful photograph of Monet's Giverny front door and window. It was taken through pebbled glass. The glass makes the photograph very impressionistic and the colors come through in small patches than run together. Looks like a door and a wall with a window from far away. Makes me smile every time I look at it. Monet and Impressionism are one of the few art things that are widely known, yet I've never had anyone get the artistic pun. Perhaps I'm the only one who thinks it's funny.

I was listening to NPR this afternoon. They interviewed a guy who had written a huge number of popular songs. Originally he'd been a classic guitarist and pop music snob. His teacher said that the top 40 songs were 'great compositions'. He was appalled and asked why. The teacher said that these songs speak to many people's hearts and experiences and expressed them in musical form. So perhaps people don't connect with abstract art because there is not commonality of experience recognized. Perhaps few people want to look at 100 pictures and then do research to maybe understand one untitled artwork that may be entirely meaningless.

Elizabeth Barton said...

Thank you for your well thought out and lengthy comment, Leigh.
this really is an important issue I think. What is the value of art/music/literature etc that few appreciate? does it bring new things to us as human beings over the long term? Does it lead to new discoveries? New ways of thinking about things....
I don't resist art, but I do find myself having problems with some of the new music out there!! when they get in the piano with wire brushes and hammers etc I'm vastly amused but not really seeing the point! and some experimental literature is quite tedious to get through....but I think it's important to try, there may be nothing there, it may be a blind alley....but some of those alleys are going to lead us to a whole new way of seeing/listening/thinking....to say nothing of cogitation!

Elizabeth Barton said...

Hi Karen!!!! good to hear from you.
your comment reminds me of an interesting video I just watched about Carmen Herrera - who is still - at 100 - painting her large abstract works. It's called 100 years of something or other, it's on Netflix. A friend had me round to see it...Herrera just had a retrospective in NYC. She says that she feels that you can't talk about art, you can only make art about art! At first I found her work very spare in deed..but it's definitely growing on me...I love the distillation and the purity of it.
a lot of abstract art needs time to work on you, because it is so different, not so quickly grasped.

Karen said...

Leigh has some very good points. In my previous comment I was thinking about paintings on canvas, but I have to admit, some "installation art" leaves me cold. I have to keep reminding myself that not all art is good art, and that some practitioners are just trying to stir the pot. Also, just because it is in a gallery, you don't have to like it, or understand it, or try to understand it. I find no reason to feel dissed about it. My idea of what is good art is not going to what the next person thinks is good art. "Art" is made, and viewed, for all kinds of reasons. And every person reacts differently.

Molly said...

Recently I had some visceral reactions to several expressionist abstract artists, suggested by Elizabeth to study as part of our master class. Pollock was the first of them. Try as I might, I just cannot see the point in his work. So instead of looking for his "message" I zeroed in on my emotional reaction when viewing one of his paintings. Needless to say, that emotion was negative. I may not care for Pollock's work - at all - but the emotions I feel when viewing, say, Elizabeth Barton's work, is always positive. And there are others whose work makes me happy or soothed or charmed or intrigued, much as Elizabeth's work affects me. So I can't say I dislike abstract art. I've been known to do abstracts myself. I may not "get" another artist's message, but I do know how an individual piece affects me on a gut level. To me, that's the value of any work of art. Even the negative reactions mean an artist has done his/her job, which is to reach a viewer and elicit a response.

Janis Doucette said...

This is certainly a topic that strikes at the heart of our emotions about it! I want to say a couple of things. First, I don't have a formal art education and am largely self taught. But I still love abstract art. Here is one of my favorite paintings from somewhere in the first three grades of parochial, elementary school where I remember also seeing art cards of some sort: http://www.kinderart.com/arthistory/daydreamchagall.shtml.

I don't think art has to be fully grasped intellectually to be appreciated. If it doesn't have heart or some compelling emotional or strictly visual interest, I probably won't spend a lot of time trying to figure it out and I too don't get a lot of what I see. Yet, I like to look at Pollock's frantic, lines of energy. And I can understand why Mallevich painted "The Black Square." I'm the kind of personality that likes to get to the bottom line of things, the frundamentals of a thing and so I appreciate this aspect of abstract art.
Although so much I see on the current forefront leaves me cold as well, there's also so much that stirs me up and takes my breath away in all forms of art! There's a good series on this topic here if you're interested: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bg3oQ_OqQ_o
Thanks again, E, for an interesting read!


Kristin said...

I do not have a background in art nor have I studied it, except one class in high school of which I have a dim memory. I was lucky to grow up just outside of DC and so went often to the art museums there, particularly the National Gallery. My father took my on trips when I was young (5th - 7th grade) to Hoboken, NJ to visit my grandmother and then we would go into NYC and take in museums. I remember one painting, either at MOMA or the Met, called 'Black on Black' - a large painting of a black canvas with a slightly lighter square of black on it. It must have been from a well known artist, as it had a hefty price tag (I'm thinking about $200,000 to $250,000, though I don't remember the exact amount). This would have been in the 60s. I was offended by the painting and its price. Perhaps I was influenced by my father's reaction. So for a long time I did not like abstract art. I would look at it and think that I could do it. I didn't 'get it' either. Over time. my sensibilities have changed and I now appreciate abstract art more, though I still often don't get it. I think I like what pleases my eye. I like color and shapes and the interplay and arrangement. I even like some paintings that are a bit reminiscent of Black on Black!

Abstract sculpture is very interesting to me. I took in the Hirschorn (in DC) this summer though my friend and I didn't see all the outdoor sculptures as it was 98 degrees that day!

I love classical music but do not like modern classical music, at least the little I've heard of it. I find it dissonant and not at all pleasing to hear. My feeling is - why would I want to spend time listening to something that I find grating?

I do love modern dance.

p.s. out of curiousity, I googled 'black on black painting' - apparently it was done by someone named Ad Reinhardt. Google displays a number of articles about the painting. I'll have to read one or two and maybe I'll gain some insight into it!

p.p.s. I do want to take your abstract classes. My sewing area is still in chaos after moving!

Kristin said...

p.p.p.s. half hour or so after I wrote this post, I got a call from my father and mentioned this post (he's a big art fan). His response was: "de gustibus non est disputandum", which is Latin for 'in matters of taste. there can be no disputes'. I find this interesting!

Elizabeth Barton said...

to Karen - yes I wonder if "installation" art will stand the test of time!! though Christo's installations certainly will.....Tara Donovan's plastic cups too....and Tracy Emin's sleeping tent...some will come, some will go...probably quite a few Madonnas and childs got painted over for Inn signs!!

Kristin - yes Reinhardt's black on black is a very famous painting!! I think it's really all about texture - look at something that seems so dark and mysterious and then discover all those layers and textures... and sometimes the artist is making you think! I remember one "painting" by an Italian artist that was a raw canvas with a knife slash through it! now you wouldn't want that over your mantelpiece....but he made his point, and as an item for a museum I think it had a place.

I must admit I am offended far more by egregious luxury homes/hotels/resorts/restaurants /golf clubs/yachts etc etc than I ever am by any art. the prices are not set by the artist, by the way, but the dealers...and they price them for what the collectors will pay....so don't be offended by the artist...be offended by people in power who live in several different homes and require security provided by the tax players in all those homes...people who ask for very expensive inquiries into nonsense!! when that money could be used to provide health clinics for the very poor.....

Janis - thank you for your links...and yes, it's a fascinating topic...I'm so glad so many have written so thoughtfully....thank you all!!

Jo Vandermey said...

I must say I have been following the posts and thoughts of everyone on this subject and even posted my own 2 cents. Thank you Elizabeth for posting such a interesting topic.
I don't know if it was Reinhardt's black on black that we saw at the National Art Gallery in Ottawa a few years ago but it was a huge canvas that was all black. A young earnest young man came up and could see the looks on our faces when presented with this canvas. he explained that yes it was all black but there was a subtle colour change on the one side. To me it had nothing to draw one in to even try to make sense of it. It may have had different stroke work that was amazing but was not apparent in my memory. All I could come up with was thinking that this person could only come up with that life was just two subtle shades of black... void and voider?
When chatting with a potter friend about abstract art one day while in a gallery in Toronto she was annoyed with my disbelief at laughing at an artist who had three stripes of colour on a small canvas and was asking 6,ooo dollars for it.
Yes galleries ask for and command the prices for works they carry. Can you create a demand for something through good marketing? Does that make it good art?
And then she replied, well good for him if he can get that much for his work! Could you do it? If so go ahead.
She had a point. And no I could not. I would love the money but I don't think I could pull it off. Maybe technically it was amazing.
For now I stumble along, trying to learn and discern.
Love the debate!


Karen said...

I think it is all to the good that art can/does elicit feelings and controversy and discussion and all the rest of it, whatever the issue.

Pat and Govind said...

I agree that visceral reactions are not in themselves bad, but a sign of life-not-yet-extinct. The real danger is in speaking or acting on them if they are going to do damage. Provided we reflect on why they arose, and learn to understand ourselves, they are a wonderful stimulus.

I was going to cite most "Comments" sections following news stories as ugly and destructive examples of visceral reactions, but it occurs to me now that they are something worse. Such comments have become part of an arsenal of weapons. They have bee honed, polished, sharpened, ready to be brought out at the slightest chance of hurting. Even if they once sprang from a visceral reaction, it is now far in the past.

By contrast, this blog provides an example of what Comments sections ought to offer --- it's a fascinating discussion. Thank you for providing the opportunity and stimulus, Elizabeth.

Pat

Elizabeth Barton said...

Hi Jo again...thank you for continuing to comment. One thing to remember too is that prices can be posted, but may never be achieved...and at the top of the art tree somebody like Warhol sells mainly to investors...there will be no more Warhols, there will be more people in the world, thus supply vs demand will suggest the value would go up. That's why old cars that will barely run and would be v. difficult to drive will command high prices if they're very rare. so the value of a painting in the broadest terms might be very different from its asking price!!
I did go to a Reinhardt retrospective and while there was some boring stuff, there was also some powerful and fascinating work...definitely worth spending time with and going back for a second look. I think the real answer is: keep on looking! you never know!
also if you really feel something - about anything - try to figure out what is happening. I've noticed that when I sell art work to "real people", as opposed to institutions wanting decorations for their walls, they always tell me they bought the piece because of what they felt when they looked at it - usually the memories it evoked - the pleasant memories - not the unpleasant ones!! I personally would never want a "Scream" on my wall, but by golly there are times I feel like doing just that!!