Abstract Art

I remember back in college, in my contemporary art class, we learned about non-objective and abstract expressionism art. I remember learning about artists like Pollock and Rothko, and a class discussion on non-objective art. The teacher (her name escapes me at the moment) set up a debate on whether or not abstract impressionism was really “art.” She then divided the class into two opposing sides. Going into this, I didn’t have a lot of respect for what abstract expressionism truly was, and I was dealth the “for” abstract expressionism viewpoint. I had to defend abstract expressionism as art. Each side was given two essays to read, one for and one against, and then we had to make a case for our argument and defend it. Now, it is a personal philosophy of mine to keep my mind maleable and open to change, so as I started to shift perceptions for the sake of the exercise, I learned and I felt my opinions changing.

Before I continue I want to take a moment to ask you, the reader, “what is art?” We all know the superficial interpretation as paintings and sculptures and things that are generally aesthetically pleasing. We often define it from the perspective of consumer or audience. When you can only see art from this point of view it does become very difficult to comprehend non-objective art as something that has a lot of value, especially when compared to the works of a more traditional artist like Michelangelo. The way Michelangelo recreated the human form with such detail and emotion is indeed extremely impressive. Now when you compare one of Mark Rothko’s color fields to the Sistine Chapel you might find yourself wondering how any comparison can be made. Well, this all goes back to the question “what is art?”

Art is a process that starts with a blank canvas. It’s definition goes much much deeper than the final product. You have to look at art from the perspective of the artist. Why do people become artists? I think it is because they have these concrete and abstract concepts in their head and it brings the artist great joy to have them materialize onto canvas or into a mic or to pour from the strings of a violin, etc. It’s not always about the audience. It’s taking the ideas and visions in your head and materializing them somehow.

blue poles jackson pollock

Jackson Pollock, Blue Poles

 Imagine if you had been born with no eyes. You experience the same emotions and hear the same sounds and feel the same sensations, yet you don’t know what anything looks like, but you can still daydream. What would you daydream? If you dreamed about being a princess and being swept off your feet and falling in love with a prince what mental imagery would accompany this dream? Or if you dreamed of being a soldier who defeated the odds and took down an evil empire by fighting your way to the top.. if you had no idea what a soldier or empire looked like how could you imagine it? You don’t need eyes to conjure these scenarios, and you don’t necessarily need eyes to express them in a physical form. Now, Pollock could see the colors and shapes he was creating but it wasn’t his goal to show us a recognizable form. Maybe you will view the painting above and be reminded of a trip to the zoo in elementary school, or somebody’s kitchen, or what it was like to be dumped by your boyfriend in 7th grade. You will notice that many pieces from the abstract expressionism movement are untitled. That’s because many of these paintings aren’t representative of anything. Pollock was thinking of something when he painted this, of course, but it might not have been a person place or thing, it might have simply been a feeling. He could have been feeling a combination of anger and envy and resentment, or maybe he was happy and complacent and balanced (unlikely). During the process of creating this piece, when it reached the point where it looks like it does above, that is when he felt his work was done. The feeling or idea or whatever in his head, has been represented on canvas to his satisfaction.

 You need to view abstract art from a minimalist point of view. Take the time to look at the colors and the lines and all the small details. See where your mind wanders to.

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