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  1. #1
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    Art appreciation

    I was discussing with the family today (all of whom are 'arty' (my dad writes, plays music, my mum paints etc, and we all have an interest in art and art history) the question of art appreciation, and how people with different artistic leanings appreciate art.

    The question I want to ask has two facets:

    Do artists appreciate art more or less than the average Joe for their experience (like that hasn't been asked before, but still)?
    and:
    Do you think Concept Artists in particular have less appreciation for the less formal-element-based techniques like minimalism, cubism or expressionism?

    Personally I prefer Da Vinci over Rothko, for example, but is that because my brain is wired to enjoy art purely based on the breathtaking skill of the artist, or because my brain isn't tuned into the spiritual experience of seeing an original Rothko in all it's glory, maybe?
    I mean, I've heard people say that you don't see a Rothko painting so much as watch it, and that the experience is something akin to standing on the edge of a high building or skydiving or floating or something.
    I can't say I've ever felt something like that when looking at art, but maybe because of the way people describe it, I'm expecting some great orgasmic sudden understanding, and in reality it's nothing so quite so grand, and people are over selling it for the sake of pretence.

    What are your thoughts?


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  3. #2
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    Artists appreciate art differently, not necessarily more or less than the average Joe.

    In particular, a trained artist could 1) be more familiar with the art scene, styles, well-known artists and oeuvres and 2) be able to discern the technical elements better. This colors the appreciation of art.

    Take, for instance, a layman who had only seen crude stuff, surrounds herself with kitsch and remembers a few famous paintings which she never saw in original, and a trained artist who has a broader perspective on art history and context, and can judge the technical side of the picture. What impresses the layman may then seem awful to the artist. The artist sees a blatant and clueless ripoff of a ripoff of a Man Ray shot where the layman sees a wonderful thing which "looks just like a photo".


    I am not sure why concept artists in particular should be less appreciative of the 20th century "isms". Any figurative artist with enough technical skill and schooling could see most of the "isms" as overblown hype around technical tricks and student exercises taken out of the whole complex of art technique and touted around as the last word in art. Minimalism has a firm place in the spectrum of traditional arts which span things from highly elaborate detail and photorealistic depiction of things, and to the most minimalistic drawings of Japanese Zen art where less is always more. Impressionism focuses on the overall effect of momentary light at the cost of storytelling and detail. Pointillism uses only superpositional color mixing and avoids other techniques. Abstractionism tosses out everything but composition, which is a fundamental thing in figurative arts but only one of the several fundamental things. Cubism raises the plane breakdown to the summit and ignores most of the rest. Lucien Freud emphasizes the color analysis until overwhelms everything else, down to the point where he stops seeing the model as a human being. Rothko simply makes the incidental paint texture the focus and ignores the rest 99.999% of what constitutes visual art.

    There is literally nothing in all the "isms" that wasn't used as a technique or device in the prior history of art, sometimes as an indispensable part of the craft, sometimes as a gimmick. You find cubist sketches of art students, abstract patterns, use of incidental paint texture, fleeting state of colored light, grotesque and baffling fantasies, everything. Some of these tricks haven't been picked up by the "modern art" factory yet, either. For example, if Arcimboldo had been living in the 20th century he would no doubt be called a founder of a new grand art movement, "fruitism" or what you call it. But he lived back when art was just art, and not an artistic statement.

    The whole "modern art" thing is pretense. It is about art critics and art sellers, not artists, and has been for quite a while - it spun out of control or sanity approximately at the time of Picasso and Duchamp. Some people do buy into it; I actually know one who literally trained herself to see any painting as nothing but a composition of abstract color blots. She keeps covering faces in paintings with her hand, saying that they work better this way. I find it rather disconcerting. But most people aren't like that; they appreciate art if it looks pretty or moves something in them, and they don't understand the "modern art" because there is nothing pretty or relatable in it. They just repeat the babble because there is an army of critics and journalists and gallerists and whoever, which keep telling them that it has a deep meaning and importance. So they follow the crowd and begin thinking that the flaw is in them, not in the "art" if they cannot see neither meaning nor importance on their own - and they don't want to seem uncultured or go against the flow. The whole modern art scene is a massively repeated ruse of the naked emperor.

    So don't fret because you cannot get exhilarated by Rothko. There is precious little in Rothko to be exhilarated with, if you have not been steeped in the hype enough to be conditioned to feel the exhilaration in presence of certain pieces of painted canvas. Sometimes gut feelings are telling the truth.

  4. #3
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    Aren't you defining art for everyone arenhaus? Are you doing anything different than all of the critics you condemn? Throwing out the whole bathwater of Modernism for a few bad babies is denying an important part of the history of art. By condemning all "isms" (I understand the desire to condemn the use of isms to organize academic structure) you are condemning honest artists in there who were actually searching for more. And for me if there is no element of search and discovery then there is no art. You seem to be relegating art to a set of technical rules.

  5. #4
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    What impresses the layman may then seem awful to the artist.
    I've personally experienced this loads of times; and I'm sure so has everyone on this site. When you are first developing as an artist, and pulling ahead of the pack in Art class at school for example, people will say "oh, that's so good!" about a piece of work, and you can look back on it a year or two later and think "Christ that's bad; what was I doing?" That's got to be your practised eye picking out what whoever else didn't see.

    You seem to be relegating art to a set of technical rules.
    I thought Concept Artists might do this more, considering how much more down-to-earth they are in general, compared to other artists.
    EDIT: or is that idea false?

  6. #5
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    I think there is a false notion of down to earth. What I might call down to earth another might find snobbish. Down to earth is relative. In any conversation about art we need to separate what someone likes from what is successful from what is a masterpiece, etc. Lay people might know what they like and that can certainly be enough if one is decorating a house. But what one may like would never work as a professional cover or illustration. What one may like may never stand the test of time and generations of artists, art historians and art critics. Everything is about context.

  7. #6
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    I think there is a false notion of down to earth. What I might call down to earth another might find snobbish. Down to earth is relative.
    I meant compared to the traditional image of an artist; an eccentric creative with his/her head in the clouds

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