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Author Topic: As abstract as you can stomach  (Read 34694 times)

neek

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As abstract as you can stomach
« on: 04 Dec 2006, 23:32 »

Anyone ever just look at non-objective abstract art and wonder, what sort of bullshit are they pulling? I don't mean the obvious hacked attempts at being "deep"--you know, the balled up A1 drawing paper or the white canvas painted white. I mean, things that look like someone put effort into, but it's confusing as to how much. Or if the meaning you're getting is "intentional."

When I produce abstract art, I generally produce it as a satire of it (cf. candy wrapper bondage i or the plague), though some abstract art is a serious attempt at self-expression (cf. guilt or the leash). Ultimately, however, I cannot but help satire this artform. But that's perhaps I haven't seen anything good come out of this in a LONG while. Does anyone even have an appreciation of abstraction? Discuss.
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mberan42

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Re: As abstract as you can stomach
« Reply #1 on: 05 Dec 2006, 02:21 »

or the white canvas painted white.

My 2nd favourite play is Art by Yazmine Reza. Discusses this completely.
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Re: As abstract as you can stomach
« Reply #2 on: 05 Dec 2006, 03:12 »

Kurt Vonnegut's book "Bluebeard" hits on this a little bit, if I recall correctly.  I may be wrong, but I believe he was the one that mentioned the whole notion that in modern art, you don't have to be the best at doing something, just the first?  For example, the only person who really gets any artistic credit for, say, a white-paint-on-white-canvas painting would be the person that first did it; all others would just then be copying it?

I also liked one of the characters in Chuck Palahniuk's novel "Diary;" she talks about how in her art classes, everyone was trying so hard to be abstract and post-modern that the only real way to 'rebel' against the standard expectations was to paint 'typical' still-lifes and the like.

I'm not much of an artist though, and I usually don't know what the hell I am talking about.  I just know that at LEAST 50% of the time, modern art makes me feel fucking dumb.
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Re: As abstract as you can stomach
« Reply #3 on: 05 Dec 2006, 03:35 »

The whole idea of the abstract expressionist movement is found in two things (though not exclusively): first, the persona of the artist and the process of making, and second, the experience of the material, paint, for its own sake. Jackson pollock became famous not because of his paintings, though they were unique and had this strange optical quality, but because he embodied this exceedingly masculine, expressive, brooding persona that was captivating. the other reason abstract expressionism became popular, as i mentioned, was the paint itself. it's a gorgeous material, sumptuous, bright and beautiful. painters like Rothko and Pollock, and those who followed, found a way to make paint be only paint, and beautiful. a canvas painted white, on the other hand, straddles a number of issues. some art, like John Cages' 4.33 and Duchamps "fountain", and alot of what Beuys did were important simply because they challenged what art was. the white canvas is supposed to be a challenge to the conventions of art, be it ironic or not.
is is bullshit? not quite, but it has gone very much out of favor in the past few years, for a few notable reasons. first, the abstract expressionists were often drunken, misogynist assholes(misogynist in that the style of painting was seen to be exclusively masculine). Pollock died in a drunk driving accident. Rothko committed suicide on finding he had both cirhossis of the liver(sp?) and lung cancer from smoking and drinking. so, it's okay to think theyr'e bullshit, so long as you know there was a seed of something important in there somewhere.
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mberan42

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Re: As abstract as you can stomach
« Reply #4 on: 05 Dec 2006, 21:02 »

Also, apparently some genius' at Case Western Reserve figured out how to duplicate Jackson Pollack's works in photoshop... I'll link the article once I find it again.
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Cernunnos

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Re: As abstract as you can stomach
« Reply #5 on: 05 Dec 2006, 22:28 »

That would be awesome if you find that link. I'm on Case's campus like every freakin' day. T'would be cool to meet the guy.
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Re: As abstract as you can stomach
« Reply #6 on: 05 Dec 2006, 23:54 »

I also liked one of the characters in Chuck Palahniuk's novel "Diary;" she talks about how in her art classes, everyone was trying so hard to be abstract and post-modern that the only real way to 'rebel' against the standard expectations was to paint 'typical' still-lifes and the like.

ditto.

most non-objective abstract art, like minimalism, though i understand what the artist is going for, i don't like it. i never will. there's something completely different between a pollock and a canvas painted white. no matter how hard you try, if you tried to paint like pollock or rothko or kline, it wouldn't come out anywhere near the same, but anyone can paint a canvas white. there is no skill behind a canvas painted white. i want to appreciate art not only for its ideas, but its craft and its beauty because of it. there are other ways to show your appreciation for paint.
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mberan42

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Re: As abstract as you can stomach
« Reply #7 on: 06 Dec 2006, 01:00 »

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Re: As abstract as you can stomach
« Reply #8 on: 06 Dec 2006, 03:03 »

Thanks. I'm reading it now.
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neek

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Re: As abstract as you can stomach
« Reply #9 on: 07 Dec 2006, 21:16 »

Cage's 4'33" is a great piece. It's easy to make four and a half minutes of silence, but it's hard to make that silence meaningful. So far, that's what it seems to be getting at with modern art.

I'll have to plow through these articles once the semester's done and finished...
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Re: As abstract as you can stomach
« Reply #10 on: 10 Dec 2006, 22:17 »

<3 expressionism
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Re: As abstract as you can stomach
« Reply #11 on: 15 Dec 2006, 10:18 »

Most abstract art is valid and meaningful. If you ever take a survey course (i.e. the history of) in Western art, all the way from 3000 BCE to the present, when the teacher FINALLY gets to Modernism and Post-Modernism, you will understand. A thousand angels will descend from heaven, there will be singing, and you will say, "I get it!"

Unfortunately, few people have the mettle or the resources to do such a thing. As a result, I'll try for a simpler explanation:

Aesthetic simplicity is not the same thing as technical inferiority. That is, some of the greatest paintings in the world are Chinese ink-on-paper zen drawings of one or two strokes, yet they are proportionally and emotionally some of the most perfect things in the world. The (imho) greatest painting of the 20th Century, Constantin Malevich's _White on White_ (you can Google it), is just a white square, yet it is artistically equal to thousands that have come before it. Why? Not because he did it first, but because like all paintings, there are emotional and technical reasons he did what he did, and his painting successfully communicates those subconscious reasons to the viewer.

(I'm an Art History major. Could you tell?)
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neek

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Re: As abstract as you can stomach
« Reply #12 on: 15 Dec 2006, 22:09 »

My art appreciation course covered it. Well, some of it. I have to take it again, though. Not satisfied with a grade of F, quite frankly. So far, it seems that not everyone will get the message of the art piece. And that the line between bullshit and art is quite, quite thin.
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kallisti

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Re: As abstract as you can stomach
« Reply #13 on: 15 Dec 2006, 22:43 »

The (imho) greatest painting of the 20th Century, Constantin Malevich's _White on White_ (you can Google it), is just a white square, yet it is artistically equal to thousands that have come before it. Why? Not because he did it first, but because like all paintings, there are emotional and technical reasons he did what he did, and his painting successfully communicates those subconscious reasons to the viewer.

(I'm an Art History major. Could you tell?)

Does it successfully communicate said subconscious reasons to the viewer if he/she has not read up on them?

I've just googled it and I think I like it. I find it visually pleasing, but it doesn't say anything to me yet. If it only says something to me after I read what he thought it was supposed to say, or what other people think it says, I don't know if I consider that a successful communication.

That said, Rothko touches a weird chord in me but I've spent more time looking at his stuff so maybe I just need to stare at "White on White" for awhile.

The thing about most of the abstract expressionist stuff is that, at least as far as my studies have indicated, they were going for completely emotional responses to aesthetics. No symbols, no figures, just a gut reaction to an aesthetic arrangement of color and shape and whatnot.  This is, of course, debatable as just about anything in art tends to be.

I'm not an art history major myself, but I did just study Pollock and Rothko and DeKooning and others and the like in a class and I'm considering a minor in art history to go with my Communications major.
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ekmesnz

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Re: As abstract as you can stomach
« Reply #14 on: 16 Dec 2006, 08:00 »

Does it successfully communicate said subconscious reasons to the viewer if he/she has not read up on them?

I've just googled it and I think I like it. I find it visually pleasing, but it doesn't say anything to me yet. If it only says something to me after I read what he thought it was supposed to say, or what other people think it says, I don't know if I consider that a successful communication.

That said, Rothko touches a weird chord in me but I've spent more time looking at his stuff so maybe I just need to stare at "White on White" for awhile.

The thing about most of the abstract expressionist stuff is that, at least as far as my studies have indicated, they were going for completely emotional responses to aesthetics. No symbols, no figures, just a gut reaction to an aesthetic arrangement of color and shape and whatnot.  This is, of course, debatable as just about anything in art tends to be.

I'm not an art history major myself, but I did just study Pollock and Rothko and DeKooning and others and the like in a class and I'm considering a minor in art history to go with my Communications major.

Malevich was a member of a movement he founded called Suprematism. Suprematism, White on White especially, was founded on the principle that viewing its artwork required no cultural context or outside knowledge. Since Art History has been dominated in the Western world by Christian iconography and other themes that play off of historical and cultural concepts (as is natural in art), viewing artwork inherently requires some knowledge of the culture or time. According to Malevich, his work is the greatest common denominator among all men--reduced to abstract shapes and colors, the emotional response is pure and unfettered by context. In other words, yes: the very idea is that you need not read up on Malevich to "get" his work.

Rothko is wonderful. Hard to find people who agree with me there, though.
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ScrambledGregs

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Re: As abstract as you can stomach
« Reply #15 on: 16 Dec 2006, 11:00 »

I don't "know" anything about art. The extent of my art learning was a philosophy course last year in college called Aesthetics, where we debated such things as what is art, what is perception and how does it effect art, etc etc. When it comes to art, I honestly don't give a shit what method/material the artist used, or what their intention was, or anything like that. I look at art and either I like it or I don't. I hate the idea that I need to study hundreds of years of art to be "qualified" to say that I think if White on White is the greatest painting of the 20th century, then we are totally fucked as a civilization. It does not communicate a god damn thing to me, subconsciously or not. If I have to read any kind of background on a piece to appreciate it--let's not deal in "understand" because that is too pretentious for me--then it has utterly failed in my opinion.

In that Aesthetics class, we were asked to pretend that we saw three identical pieces of art. It was abstract expressionism. We were supposed to imagine that they were identical, completely identical. One was by Jackson Pollock, one was by an ape, and one was by an art student trying to be a smartass. Which was is art?? Are any of them art?? Is the ape one not art because the creature didn't intend to make art?? We went in circles, as you can imagine, but I remember wanting to say that, art or not, it just wasn't interesting. Abstract expressionism is more interesting in theory than in result. It's funner to talk about than to look at, IMO.

I like art to be intuitive. I suppose it's why I've never gotten into art, and have stuck to words and music as my art forms of choice. Sometimes you do have to work at art to get into it, but abstract expressionism has never worked for me. Some of it is cool to look at, but that's all it "means" to me. I can read my own ideas and images into it, but I do the same thing with clouds, oil rainbows in puddles, and ceiling patterns.
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Johnny C

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Re: As abstract as you can stomach
« Reply #16 on: 16 Dec 2006, 22:46 »

Intent is key, sorry. If you don't care about intention and just care about pretty pictures, might I suggest watercolours of flowers and velvet paintings of Elvis?

Also you're confusing abstraction with non-objective art.
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ekmesnz

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Re: As abstract as you can stomach
« Reply #17 on: 17 Dec 2006, 04:37 »

I don't "know" anything about art. The extent of my art learning was a philosophy course last year in college called Aesthetics, where we debated such things as what is art, what is perception and how does it effect art, etc etc. When it comes to art, I honestly don't give a shit what method/material the artist used, or what their intention was, or anything like that. I look at art and either I like it or I don't. I hate the idea that I need to study hundreds of years of art to be "qualified" to say that I think if White on White is the greatest painting of the 20th century, then we are totally fucked as a civilization. It does not communicate a god damn thing to me, subconsciously or not. If I have to read any kind of background on a piece to appreciate it--let's not deal in "understand" because that is too pretentious for me--then it has utterly failed in my opinion.

In that Aesthetics class, we were asked to pretend that we saw three identical pieces of art. It was abstract expressionism. We were supposed to imagine that they were identical, completely identical. One was by Jackson Pollock, one was by an ape, and one was by an art student trying to be a smartass. Which was is art?? Are any of them art?? Is the ape one not art because the creature didn't intend to make art?? We went in circles, as you can imagine, but I remember wanting to say that, art or not, it just wasn't interesting. Abstract expressionism is more interesting in theory than in result. It's funner to talk about than to look at, IMO.

I like art to be intuitive. I suppose it's why I've never gotten into art, and have stuck to words and music as my art forms of choice. Sometimes you do have to work at art to get into it, but abstract expressionism has never worked for me. Some of it is cool to look at, but that's all it "means" to me. I can read my own ideas and images into it, but I do the same thing with clouds, oil rainbows in puddles, and ceiling patterns.

I think you missed part of my point. Intent is NOT key, and the very IDEA is that you need not read anything to enjoy White on White. This fact does not mean you must enjoy it--revulsion or apathy are both valid responses to what Malevich has done; they just aren't my responses.

Jackson Pollock is a genius, with the power to create what apes and smartass art students cannot. To give you an idea: mathematicians are finding fractals in his work. In other words, his artistic sensibility, his sense of what looks good on paper, creates some of the most complex and beautiful concepts in the known world. That's pretty intense. Again, however, not liking it is okay.

It is true that the study of thousands of years of art is a helpful component in understanding why those artists did and do what they do, but that is because these artists aren't painting in a void. They saw those thousands of years of art, and modernism and post-modernism was their response.

And about Pollock not being interesting: I highly recommend checking him out in person. It is, at least for me, life altering.

Edit:

Quote
Also you're confusing abstraction with non-objective art.

Oh, and non-objective art is a form of abstraction in the pedestrian sense that abstraction are forms that you can't identify with real world objects, so they can't really be confused. However, strictly speaking, all works of art, even photographs, are abstract.
« Last Edit: 17 Dec 2006, 04:40 by ekmesnz »
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ScrambledGregs

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Re: As abstract as you can stomach
« Reply #18 on: 17 Dec 2006, 07:31 »

This is why I like words and music better. You don't have to know anything about intent to like it or get it. Again, intuitive art trumps non-intuitive art everytime for this reason. I remember hearing Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band as a young'un and not knowing anything about concept albums or pop art or any of that, and I loved it anyway. There was a kind of mystery to it before I read up on the Beatles and what their 'intent' was, but knowing or not knowing the intent I liked it equally.
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öde

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Re: As abstract as you can stomach
« Reply #19 on: 17 Dec 2006, 17:44 »

This is why I like words and music better. You don't have to know anything about intent to like it or get it.

I disagree strongly with that. Books like Lord Of The Flies become a million times better once you discover the intent of the author. Also the intent of many musicians  makes me appreciate the music a lot more.
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ekmesnz

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Re: As abstract as you can stomach
« Reply #20 on: 17 Dec 2006, 22:34 »

This is why I like words and music better. You don't have to know anything about intent to like it or get it.

Is no one listening? >< Intent does not matter.
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ScrambledGregs

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Re: As abstract as you can stomach
« Reply #21 on: 18 Dec 2006, 05:49 »

But hard-to-type-username just said it does matter.
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ekmesnz

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Re: As abstract as you can stomach
« Reply #22 on: 18 Dec 2006, 10:33 »

But hard-to-type-username just said it does matter.

Well, in cases of an allegory like Lord of the Flies I guess it may be interesting to see what he is talking about, but I don't think that significantly affects how the story appeals or doesn't appeal to the reader.
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cTony

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Re: As abstract as you can stomach
« Reply #23 on: 19 Dec 2006, 00:34 »

Intent can even direct you away from it - It takes away from how much they art means to you in particular, and reduces the individuality of your relationship with the particular art piece.
Isn't art so much more interesting when everyone each has their own individual interpretation on it?
Thoughts, i think, will all be very unique, but the one thing that is interpreted in almost the same from everyone is feeling, emotion. Intent is not usually required in explaining the feeling. unless the art is particularly complex and bad at doing that...
.. IMO.
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KharBevNor

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Re: As abstract as you can stomach
« Reply #24 on: 19 Dec 2006, 04:54 »

The problem with suprematism, and e erfu similiar idea that has attemptedc to direct people away from art as something that exists in a ctultural context has been that it itselft has been part of its cultural context. Al ths shit exists in the context of the somewhat elite western fine art movements that attempted to concieve it. It is no more divorced from its cultural context or possesed of a universal appeal than any art in historu. No one has ever fucking looked at white on white and felt some sort of universal emotiuonal connection without the context of knowing its intent, which is of course to have no intent. To have no intent is itself an intwent. Pieces like that are  based around the idea of reflection, not communiocation, and to me art is communication. Whote on white is just a mirror. If I was to define art, meaning just visual media, I would say it is a non verbal language, that is, it is a medium for communication. The problem with 'fine' art, that is art which just exists for arts sake, is that it is insular, that is it speaks only to people who are versed in the cultural context of fine art. And that can be fine, but there;s no way that can be universal. I mean, whats that fucking piece called, its' called something like oak tree, and its actually a glass of water, and its got that long piece of text with it, fuck, but anyway, that piece is really, really, fucking clever, but its not like thats gonna be some great amaxing universal peice of art. Art is, to be honest, pretty fucking up itself. But then again, I am an illustrator, so my entire life resolves around trying to communicate via artwork, so, yeah.

Whatever.

What I'm trying to say, at the end of the day, is that Rothko fucking sucks. Go look at fuckign Hogarth or Kittelsen. That's treal fucking art. Thats communication. That's clever. That's fucking GOOD. You knopw?
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Johnny C

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Re: As abstract as you can stomach
« Reply #25 on: 19 Dec 2006, 06:58 »

Is no one listening? >< Intent does not matter.

Allow me to make a rebuttal.

I'm going to paraphrase a book that I own about literature: if you don't know the actual intent and you merely guess or attempt to provide your own interpretation based on nothing but your own insight, then you are essentially standing on an unlit dock at night attempting to jump onto a boat. You're going to get soaked. The artist's intent - in music, literature, drama, visual art - is a lamp you can set at your feet to help you aim. It's there as a guideline to allow for deeper understanding.

If you don't at least acknowledge and use the artist's intent as a guideline then the art can be manipulated and perverted to suit individual whims that they may be in complete opposition to. Can you imagine if Springsteen's intent with "Born in the U.S.A." was ignored and Ronald Reagan's version of what it meant became the public perception of the song?

Basically, don't be ridiculous. The intent is absolutely important. You do need to know how to read art, and intent helps with that beyond belief.
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ScrambledGregs

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Re: As abstract as you can stomach
« Reply #26 on: 19 Dec 2006, 07:16 »

I always prefer my interpretations of art to what the artist's intent was. I don't think that's egotistical. I just DESPISE the idea that I can read a book or hear a song and not be qualified to talk about it/rate it/whatever until I know the artist's intent.
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Re: As abstract as you can stomach
« Reply #27 on: 19 Dec 2006, 08:54 »

something we talked about in my aesthetics/philosophy of art class was that intent really only matters if you want to determine if a work is successful or not. intent shouldn't matter in determining if you like something, but if it succeeds in doing what the artist meant for it to do. you can completely disagree with an intent and see a piece as something else, but still like it. so in a way, it doesn't matter, but then again it does. personally i don't want to know the intent until after i have viewed a piece. usually, i separate likability from intent/success. just because something is successful doesn't mean i'm going to love it. i probably hate the intent just as much as the piece, or vice versa. so seriously, it depends on the viewer, not the artist, to say whether intent is important or not. intent is important to me, because if there wasn't an intent, art would not exist. no matter what the meaning in art is, the basic intent is expression of some kind. if it isn't expressing something, where's the art?

personally, i find white on white boring to look at. i find the intent boring. it's just boring to me. i don't like it. i understand it, but i still don't like it. it is the kind of art i walk right past in the museum. taking a 20th century art course actually made me dislike this kind of art even more, because basically what i learned from it, this is where art goes to die.

i'm a more traditional artist, could you tell?
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Re: As abstract as you can stomach
« Reply #28 on: 19 Dec 2006, 12:24 »

That's fair. I find it tough to separate intent from my ability to enjoy or appreciate art. Once I know what the artist means to say I can figure out whether I agree or disagree and then whether or not I like the piece.
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ekmesnz

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Re: As abstract as you can stomach
« Reply #29 on: 20 Dec 2006, 09:36 »

The problem with suprematism, and e erfu similiar idea that has attemptedc to direct people away from art as something that exists in a ctultural context has been that it itselft has been part of its cultural context. Al ths shit exists in the context of the somewhat elite western fine art movements that attempted to concieve it. It is no more divorced from its cultural context or possesed of a universal appeal than any art in historu. No one has ever fucking looked at white on white and felt some sort of universal emotiuonal connection without the context of knowing its intent, which is of course to have no intent. To have no intent is itself an intwent. Pieces like that are  based around the idea of reflection, not communiocation, and to me art is communication. Whote on white is just a mirror. If I was to define art, meaning just visual media, I would say it is a non verbal language, that is, it is a medium for communication. The problem with 'fine' art, that is art which just exists for arts sake, is that it is insular, that is it speaks only to people who are versed in the cultural context of fine art. And that can be fine, but there;s no way that can be universal. I mean, whats that fucking piece called, its' called something like oak tree, and its actually a glass of water, and its got that long piece of text with it, fuck, but anyway, that piece is really, really, fucking clever, but its not like thats gonna be some great amaxing universal peice of art. Art is, to be honest, pretty fucking up itself. But then again, I am an illustrator, so my entire life resolves around trying to communicate via artwork, so, yeah.

Whatever.

What I'm trying to say, at the end of the day, is that Rothko fucking sucks. Go look at fuckign Hogarth or Kittelsen. That's treal fucking art. Thats communication. That's clever. That's fucking GOOD. You knopw?

Malevich did indeed succeed in divorcing White on White from its cultural context, in the sense that it is devoid of the iconography he sought to remove from modern work. Talking about how art is "communication" and not "reflection" is nonsense. Art can be both; it can induce reflection as well as communicate emotions. I think what you might be trying to say is that you do not identify with the Postmodern ideal: the self-awareness and examination that resulted from the Modernist movement.

"Fine art" does not exist for its own sake. Art remains a form of expression and communication on the part of the artist. It is senseless to try and convince anyone art is only a pretentious, vapid medium.

I think if you really thought about what I'm saying you'd sort of figure it out for yourself. You cannot possibly believe that White on White posesses an equal amount of social context as the Roettigen Pieta or the Isenheim altarpiece.

And for your information, when I first looked at White on White I felt an emotional connection before the reasoning behind the piece was explained to me, so (in the nicest possible way) I'd be quiet until you know what you're saying.

Is no one listening? >< Intent does not matter.

Allow me to make a rebuttal.

I'm going to paraphrase a book that I own about literature: if you don't know the actual intent and you merely guess or attempt to provide your own interpretation based on nothing but your own insight, then you are essentially standing on an unlit dock at night attempting to jump onto a boat. You're going to get soaked. The artist's intent - in music, literature, drama, visual art - is a lamp you can set at your feet to help you aim. It's there as a guideline to allow for deeper understanding.

If you don't at least acknowledge and use the artist's intent as a guideline then the art can be manipulated and perverted to suit individual whims that they may be in complete opposition to. Can you imagine if Springsteen's intent with "Born in the U.S.A." was ignored and Ronald Reagan's version of what it meant became the public perception of the song?

Basically, don't be ridiculous. The intent is absolutely important. You do need to know how to read art, and intent helps with that beyond belief.

Intent is interesting but not vital to receiving a work's emotional connection. No one needs it. Art is a visual medium! Everything you need is on the canvas before you. It is helpful in establishing reasons and trends in a larger context, however.

I think any halfwit who listens to Springsteen's words will realize that he is not expressing jingoistic patriotism of the kind Reagan would like to think he is.
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KharBevNor

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Re: As abstract as you can stomach
« Reply #30 on: 20 Dec 2006, 18:20 »

I think if you really thought about what I'm saying you'd sort of figure it out for yourself. You cannot possibly believe that White on White posesses an equal amount of social context as the Roettigen Pieta or the Isenheim altarpiece.

Of course it does. It posseses the cultural context of the Russian avant-garde in the 1910's. A fusion of cubism and futurism with philosophical, psychological and mathematical concepts of the time. Entirely of its era and place, inspired by contemporary Russian figures such as Ouspensky and artistic ideas like Zaum, born of the brief flowering of Russian culture at the end of the tsars and before the communists cracked down. It has exactly as much social context as any other picture produced in the history of man. The fact that is has tried to elude its cultural context is as much a comment on the culture that produced it as anything else. Its visual vocabulary is set and defined by certain narrow philosophical ideas. To imagine that this picture, or others similiar to it, can magically escape such restraints is a conceit. Indeed, to argue that this picture has no cultural context, you would have to invoke the artists intent to have it escape such context and...well, lets not even go there.

About fine art:

I'm an art student, studying to be a commercial illustrator. I find it impossible not to divide the world of art up by its academic provinces: Fine art, graphics, illustration, textiles, etc. etc. Thus, when I say 'fine art' I mean the area of art covered by a fine art degree which is, in fact, pretty much art for arts sake, except that, of course, it is a medium for communication. A visual language. Your point about reflection and communication existing simultaneously is interesting, but I don't accept it quite, except that to say communication causes reflection. It's a reaction to outside stimuli as much as anything we do is (a mirror only reflects something when there is something to reflect, or something like that.) In that case, we can still say that art is a medium of communication. Most, if not all, art exists to make a statement about the world. Often, nowadays, that statement is merely about art, which is one reason I consider fine art practice in the modern sense to be somewhat self-serving and insular. Art has become something whose audience is primarily other artists and a cultural or intellectual elite who take an interest in the cerebral side of the whole affair. I (drunkenly btw) bought up the example of Michael Craig-Martins piece 'An Oak Tree', which (you probably already know this) is a glass of water accompanied by a piece of text in which the artist claims via a Q and A to have turned the glass of water in to an oak tree without changing its appearance. It's a rather clever piece. It made me chucke a bit and think about Kant. But to the man on the street it is, quite frankly, a pile of shit. It's more a philosophical thought experiment than art, the same with many other peices, Fountain being perhaps the most famous, though I love that for the sheer fucking audacity. Goodness, I'm waffling on. Anyway, my point was that whilst white on white may, in fact, be communicating something, it is not, despite the concept behind it, communicating it well and clearly. The reception of the message is dependent to a large extent on the recipients ability to understand it, or even understand that it is an attempt to communicate. If you were to see White on White outside the gallery, your first idea, I can assure you, would not be to consider it a profound piece of art. You need a certain mindset or level of knowledge to even understand that a black circle or a white square might be trying to communicate something. Give me a Hiroshige any day!

EDIT: Twatted up the quote tags.
« Last Edit: 20 Dec 2006, 23:07 by KharBevNor »
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Re: As abstract as you can stomach
« Reply #31 on: 20 Dec 2006, 21:21 »

I respectfully bow out of this thread. It's over my head, and it's clear nobody is going to change my mind, or I their's.
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Re: As abstract as you can stomach
« Reply #32 on: 21 Dec 2006, 03:05 »

I think if you really thought about what I'm saying you'd sort of figure it out for yourself. You cannot possibly believe that White on White posesses an equal amount of social context as the Roettigen Pieta or the Isenheim altarpiece.

Of course it does. It posseses the cultural context of the Russian avant-garde in the 1910's. A fusion of cubism and futurism with philosophical, psychological and mathematical concepts of the time. Entirely of its era and place, inspired by contemporary Russian figures such as Ouspensky and artistic ideas like Zaum, born of the brief flowering of Russian culture at the end of the tsars and before the communists cracked down. It has exactly as much social context as any other picture produced in the history of man. The fact that is has tried to elude its cultural context is as much a comment on the culture that produced it as anything else. Its visual vocabulary is set and defined by certain narrow philosophical ideas. To imagine that this picture, or others similiar to it, can magically escape such restraints is a conceit. Indeed, to argue that this picture has no cultural context, you would have to invoke the artists intent to have it escape such context and...well, lets not even go there.

About fine art:

I'm an art student, studying to be a commercial illustrator. I find it impossible not to divide the world of art up by its academic provinces: Fine art, graphics, illustration, textiles, etc. etc. Thus, when I say 'fine art' I mean the area of art covered by a fine art degree which is, in fact, pretty much art for arts sake, except that, of course, it is a medium for communication. A visual language. Your point about reflection and communication existing simultaneously is interesting, but I don't accept it quite, except that to say communication causes reflection. It's a reaction to outside stimuli as much as anything we do is (a mirror only reflects something when there is something to reflect, or something like that.) In that case, we can still say that art is a medium of communication. Most, if not all, art exists to make a statement about the world. Often, nowadays, that statement is merely about art, which is one reason I consider fine art practice in the modern sense to be somewhat self-serving and insular. Art has become something whose audience is primarily other artists and a cultural or intellectual elite who take an interest in the cerebral side of the whole affair. I (drunkenly btw) bought up the example of Michael Craig-Martins piece 'An Oak Tree', which (you probably already know this) is a glass of water accompanied by a piece of text in which the artist claims via a Q and A to have turned the glass of water in to an oak tree without changing its appearance. It's a rather clever piece. It made me chucke a bit and think about Kant. But to the man on the street it is, quite frankly, a pile of shit. It's more a philosophical thought experiment than art, the same with many other peices, Fountain being perhaps the most famous, though I love that for the sheer fucking audacity. Goodness, I'm waffling on. Anyway, my point was that whilst white on white may, in fact, be communicating something, it is not, despite the concept behind it, communicating it well and clearly. The reception of the message is dependent to a large extent on the recipients ability to understand it, or even understand that it is an attempt to communicate. If you were to see White on White outside the gallery, your first idea, I can assure you, would not be to consider it a profound piece of art. You need a certain mindset or level of knowledge to even understand that a black circle or a white square might be trying to communicate something. Give me a Hiroshige any day!

EDIT: Twatted up the quote tags.

Just because a piece was produced at a particular time and place does not mean it bears symbols or the representation of that time in place on itself. White on White was made by a Russian in the middle of the 20th century, but so what? Show it to anyone on the street and ask them the nationality and time period of the work. Now, take another more representational piece and show it to them, and see if there aren't more clues as to when and where the piece was made. Additionally, it is plain that its effort to break free from cultural boundaries does not reflect on the Russians, since Suprematism was a movement fairly removed from other Russian works of the period.

The artist's intent is not what makes White on White so removed. It is the image--what you see on the canvas. The goddamned paint. The color white and squares are not immediately identifiable with a specific culture!

The area of art covered by a fine art degree can be, by decision, music composition, theory, performance, performance art, fine art, graphic design and illustration, theatre, technical theatre, theatre theory, and any other wide diversity of subject that pertains to the arts. Even if you narrow your definition down to an Art History degree, which is immediately concerned with aesthetic trends and movements within historical art pieces, it takes about five minutes to demonstrate that the art it is concerned with goes far and beyond the bounds of art for art's sake, and even those few pieces--pieces made solely as "art"--are not inherently incomprehensible to the "common man." Plenty of fine art is made specifically for the common man.

It is true that much of the art in the present era comments about itself. This is because we live during Postmodernism, and that is the aim of the movement. Fortunately for you, since you detest it so, it doubtlessly coming to a close.

It's interesting you bring up Duchamp's Fountain. Largely the beginning of the Dadaist movement, it is "anti-art." Duchamp entered it into the Academy in order to break down the pretension of the time about what was considered art and what wasn't. For Duchamp, placed on its side the urinal became a new and pleasing form, detached form its previous hygienic significance.

And you might want to stop making generalizations about other people. I DO think White on White is a profound piece of art, and as long as any piece strikes me as emotionally powerful and aesthetically pleasing as that did, I will call it art, too.

Not that there isn't plenty of shit out there.
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KharBevNor

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Re: As abstract as you can stomach
« Reply #33 on: 21 Dec 2006, 05:29 »

I never said it wasn't art.

Also, are you from the states?
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Re: As abstract as you can stomach
« Reply #34 on: 21 Dec 2006, 09:34 »

I am indeed from the states. Why?
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Re: As abstract as you can stomach
« Reply #35 on: 21 Dec 2006, 09:48 »

Thought so. You organise your art education a tad different over there it would seem.
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Re: As abstract as you can stomach
« Reply #36 on: 21 Dec 2006, 10:28 »

I remember the first time i saw some of Rothko's work for the first time, in a retrospective while I was travelling in Spain a few years ago. Absolutely floored me. I mean, I thought his stuff was kind of cool looking at it in books/slides/etc, but to actually experience the work firsthand is a completely different thing. Completely overwhelming, all-consuming stuff. I mean, I haven?t studied "fine art" art in ages (In my 4th year of a graphic design/international studies degree) and was never much chop at history, but all that aside, seeing Rothko?s stuff in person completey changed the way I think about/look at non-representational art.

Too boozed up & tired to write more. Plus I?m on a German keyboard. There?s a y where the z should be and the punctuation is just impossible. Just wanted to add my 2c.
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Re: As abstract as you can stomach
« Reply #37 on: 21 Dec 2006, 12:19 »

Right on, salada. I don't know if it is still up, but there's a dim room full of Rothkos at the Tate that are AMAZING.

I'd be interested to know, KharBevNor, what the differences you see are. My brother studies Art History among other things in the UK and he doesn't like it too much.
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Re: As abstract as you can stomach
« Reply #38 on: 21 Dec 2006, 19:09 »

Well, for a start, here, fine art here is, as far as I'm aware (and I was planning to do it at BA stage for a month) to be a lot more narrow than what: you'd do a theatre studies or design for theatre degree or music performance or whatnot for most of those things you mentioned, but there is a certain amount of cross-over into other areas of traditional art and media (the most obvious being that fine-art encompasses things like sculpture, video art, performance art and, of course, installations and interventions). I'm reasonably certain you can't do a specific degree in, for example, performance art, though places like Glasgow offer a lot of mickey mouse degrees like 'environmental art' that probably cover that. Most British art education seems to take a quite firm basis from a Bauhaus-derived foundation course (try getting in to anywhere half decent without a foundation degree. Just about possible if you're picasso mark 2. Even then Brighton would probably have objections.) So it's quite well divided into the five 'key areas' of 3D, graphics and design, fine art, lens based media and textiles and fashion. Of course, as I said, you get a lot of crossover, but the degrees themselves tend to stay together in those sort of groups, as it were, apart from obvious exceptions like fashion illustration.
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Re: As abstract as you can stomach
« Reply #39 on: 01 Jan 2007, 12:14 »

generally i can appreciate pretty much anything. very abstract can and often is very very good and far more interesting than photo realistic still lifes. the only piece i can think of that's "abstract" that i don't appreciate is andy warhol's 'brillio pad' box. mainly b/c it's just that, an empty box of brillo pads, that he did nothing to. it's a box. in a display case. not a big fan.
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Re: As abstract as you can stomach
« Reply #40 on: 01 Jan 2007, 14:18 »

It's the context, man.
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Re: As abstract as you can stomach
« Reply #41 on: 02 Jan 2007, 08:10 »

Well, for a start, here, fine art here is, as far as I'm aware (and I was planning to do it at BA stage for a month) to be a lot more narrow than what: you'd do a theatre studies or design for theatre degree or music performance or whatnot for most of those things you mentioned, but there is a certain amount of cross-over into other areas of traditional art and media (the most obvious being that fine-art encompasses things like sculpture, video art, performance art and, of course, installations and interventions). I'm reasonably certain you can't do a specific degree in, for example, performance art, though places like Glasgow offer a lot of mickey mouse degrees like 'environmental art' that probably cover that. Most British art education seems to take a quite firm basis from a Bauhaus-derived foundation course (try getting in to anywhere half decent without a foundation degree. Just about possible if you're picasso mark 2. Even then Brighton would probably have objections.) So it's quite well divided into the five 'key areas' of 3D, graphics and design, fine art, lens based media and textiles and fashion. Of course, as I said, you get a lot of crossover, but the degrees themselves tend to stay together in those sort of groups, as it were, apart from obvious exceptions like fashion illustration.

i guess here you're either fine arts, design, or communication arts. fine arts is your 2D, 3D, and photography/electronic media. design is geared for the corporate world, like graphic, industrial, and fashion. communication is kind of a mix, where illustration, etc. falls. at the school i go to, i get designers in my fine arts studios quite a bit, but i don't know any fine arts people in design studios unless they plan on transferring to design. i don't know how it works elsewhere, but my school is so freaking competitive and full because of it, that we really can't do both. we don't even have communication arts at my college, which sucks, because i like illustration. our foundation courses are also different, though somewhat similar in context, like drawing, color, etc.

and i still say intent matters. to me.
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Re: As abstract as you can stomach
« Reply #42 on: 05 Jan 2007, 20:45 »

Wow.  Okay, I'm jumping in a little late here, so bear with me. 

I took three years of fine art, two more of design and colour theory.  Not that any of that gives any more or less weight to my opinions, of course. 

I think the thing about suprematism, abstraction, non-representation or most of the 20th century movements, is that by and large, they are very much about the context of the culture they were in, and of the time they were produced.  Time becomes a context in and of itself.  Think about something like Futurism.  That was very much a product of Mussolini-era communist Italy.  The fascination with speed and the automobile, with war and conquest and might.  The era ends(well, the era blew itself to pieces)and while the art endures to this day, the context is perhaps slightly or grossely altered by the course of history.  The same thing can be said for the Dadaists.  Revolutionary for their time, and people still use their techniques, but their relevance has kind of been lost 60 years removed from Hitler(and that could be because new people might not get the context and those who do may prefer to forget about that era altogether).

Applying that concept to something like the abstraction or non-representation, the context of time matters because these things, in their time, had not been done before.  Perhaps that appreciation of the inventiveness of it erodes in the later generations because we're used to it by now or have known it to always be there.  While I do kind of wonder about whether the importance of it relies mainly upon the theory behind the styles or upon the art the era produced (as per Malevich's "White on White": did he really mean what he was getting at or did someone just hide all of his other paints that day?), there's not really much that can deny the fact that this was something new and it was and is best to not think of it in terms of emotions.  That isn't the purpose of it.  I do disagree though, that it's not a part of a specific culture.  It is.  Not a world culture, but an historical culture.  I've seen people cry in front of Rothko paintings and feel nothing for a terrifcially bleak and sad Schiele landscape.  To each thier own.  I appreciate the simplicity to an extent, and certainly in Rothko's case, the richness of colours their blending, but ultimately it does little to move me.  Representational or not, I really could care less why someone did something the way they did it.  If I want to know the history behind any specific era or painting, I'll seek that out and that affords insight but not the artist's rationale behind it.  I don't much care about that as I don't really want or feel it's good to have it explained to me.  That reduces the work to a singular viewpoint, eliminating the viewer's own feelings and experiences from the process.  It's not about sharing ideas then.  It's about showing off.

And speaking of Warhol, the best thing I've ever heard about him is that he's the single most overrated and underrated artist.  The Brillo box is just a take on Magritte's "Fountain", and yes, he did revolutionize art as a commodity, but the Romans were doing that with copies of Greek statues that had different head applied to them to suit the buyer centuries eariler. 
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Re: As abstract as you can stomach
« Reply #43 on: 18 Jan 2007, 04:17 »

The funny thing about Warhol's Brillo Box and other works like it that he and his contemporaries produced is that the artists really did craft those; they aren't ready-mades but a reinterpretation of the concept of the ready made.

As for the other points that have been made, there's no point in talking unless you read the posts before you, ESPECIALLISMUSLISTLY ABOUT CONTEXT :wink:.
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Re: As abstract as you can stomach
« Reply #44 on: 18 Jan 2007, 06:59 »

quick question, if any of the earlier posters are still following this thread: where would you place sculpture in all this?

i ask because i just got back from a trip to bilbao (one last hurrah before i pack up my life in SW france and head back to aus) and they have a room of richard serra sculptures -- not at all representational or anything, made from huge sheets of 12' tall 2" thick steel.

i've always liked his stuff from photos and the like, but it basically comes back to what i'd mentioned before in this thread: one of the things you just have to see in person (and in this case, walk in/through/around) to even begin to wrap you head around it.

thoughts? representation/abstraction in artwork besides painting?
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Re: As abstract as you can stomach
« Reply #45 on: 18 Jan 2007, 07:26 »

i like that kind of stuff. interactive isn't quite the right word but it's all i can think of. basically i think the steel sheets in a very interesting concept in theory and even better if you actually see it, much like christo's arches in central park/umbrellas in the desert. naysayers be damned, it's ambitious and it's certainly art to me.
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Re: As abstract as you can stomach
« Reply #46 on: 18 Jan 2007, 08:39 »

there's something about sculptures like Christo's gates and umbrellas that brings it to a whole new level above things like white on white. i think maybe it's the size/volume of the installations and all of the planning that goes into it, plus the fact that it's temporary. i can't word how it's different exactly, but i really like Christo's work, as well as Serra.
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Re: As abstract as you can stomach
« Reply #47 on: 19 Jan 2007, 01:23 »

I think the basic aesthetic rules and principles apply to sculpture, too. As for needing to be there to really get the full effect, I think it is unfair to judge too harshly any art you haven't actually seen in person! A picture of a picture can't really communicate the real life object.

Christo is very cool. Did anyone see the Gates?
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Re: As abstract as you can stomach
« Reply #48 on: 19 Jan 2007, 02:32 »

i managed to go and see them, yeh. they were very cool. the best was seeing them from the distance through the trees as the sun caught the cloth. it was a really nice piece i thought.
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Re: As abstract as you can stomach
« Reply #49 on: 19 Jan 2007, 03:58 »

My ideas about art are summed up by a quote that is commonly attributed to Canadian philosopher, Marshall McLuhan:

"Art is anything you can get away with."
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