My “other” and I were talking via Skype yesterday, and like many of our conversations it rambled from the weather to complaining about budget cuts to what the dog had for dinner. It was nice, because we live so far apart that our conversations are typically very to the point so that we can cram as much into our Skype calls as possible. I recently visited, and together we watched most of the “Next Great Artist” show. I have no idea what network aired it, as I don’t have television at home. It was a show that we both enjoyed.
I learned who “won” the show. It was the artist that I’d hoped would win, but thought didn’t stand a chance. I ran to Google to see if I could find images of his show and came across a commentary from the LA Times art critic that sort of got my back up. At first read, I thought that the critic was defending the elitism of the art world, but I mulled it over quietly. I figured that jumping to an immediate opinion on this commentary would most likely just end up making me look stupid. Essentially, the critic said, in my opinion, that seeing an image of a work of art doesn’t qualify one to make a judgment of the work.
As I said before, this post got my back up and I was a tad offended. It appeared that this critic just wanted to feel important about his job. Then came all the mulling, and I completely changed my mind. The complete about-face came about during the aforementioned Skype call with my “other.” We were discussing a show that I plan on participating in this coming autumn. There was discussion about art in general, and I mentioned this commentary that I’d just read.
“Others” response was, “I don’t know what kind of art I like, or why, but I KNOW I don’t like modern art.” I then gently reminded “other” of all of the works that we saw watching “Next Great Artist” and how many of those we both enjoyed. It was a good exchange.
I pointed out that, until I’d seen Picasso’s works IN PERSON, I just didn’t get them. I couldn’t fully appreciate them, but now that I’ve been about 2 inches away from the canvas, they are some of my favorites. To be fair, I pointed out that I’d had the same experience with Mondrian’s work but that I still didn’t “get” the fine art aspect of it.
It was a lively discussion. In the end, “other” agreed that yes, the show had worked a little mind voodoo. “Other” also (reluctantly) admitted that yes, I was right. We agreed that while the “pretentious art critic” was right, his argument could have been worded in a less egotistical way to get across his true point.
Art is a thing to be experienced. This is why art museums are “bland” and “quiet” and “boring.” It’s so that a viewer can fully experience the works of art without outside stimuli or interference. When I go to a museum, or even a gallery show, I like to take a notebook with me so that I can record my impressions of the pieces that I’m there to see. It keeps them fresh in my mind so that I’m able to do a little of my famous “mulling” long after I’m back at home.
So, my big question is this: What do YOU think of modern art?
It’s a hard question to answer, because of the variety of things that fall into the category of “modern art.” I mean, we’ve got everything from the Tilda Swinton exhibit currently at MoMA to Banksy’s street art to van Gogh to Matisse and Monet. It’s a pretty broad spectrum, and this list is no where NEAR comprehensive. By the way, every artist’s who is publishing their work currently on Pinetrest and DeviantArt and Tumblr, they’re technically “modern artists.” I’m a modern artist.
I think that the biggest thing that any of us should remember when approaching this world of “modern” art is to STAND YOUR GROUND. If you don’t “get” an artist’s message then you’re not an idiot. If you don’t like something that’s critically acclaimed, guess what? You’re still not an idiot. The key to standing your ground in the face of the righteousness of the art world is to develop a vocabulary and know what you like.
I’ll use Mondrain. He’s the guy that paints black lines then fills some of the boxes created in with primary colours. He’s considered a “biggie” in modern art. I do not get his work. I don’t like it. It doesn’t speak to me and worse, it doesn’t inspire me to run to my studio and create something on my own. I find his paintings without warmth, both in colour and in content and lacking in texture. This is why I don’t understand how his work is fine art. It doesn’t make me FEEL anything. It doesn’t emote, and therefore there is no experience for me when looking at his work.
Well, I’m sure you all gave me up for a monkey at a keyboard when I said I didn’t like that work, but I’m still going to wrap it up for those of you that feel like the monkey might have a point. Don’t be afraid of modern art. Don’t judge all modern art by that label. Go out and EXPERIENCE modern art without fear. Find pieces that attract you and figure out why, and find the ones that you don’t like and figure that out as well. In other words, find a museum or a gallery and experience some art and get inspired by it. And don’t forget to enjoy yourself in the process.