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Two AIBUs: 1- To want to to talk about Art 2- Modern Art AIBU?

(71 Posts)
questionzzz Thu 07-Dec-17 18:48:57

Hi everybody, yesterday we (I and two DCs) had the privilege of travelling to a big North American city (we live in a smallish town) and, being a bit of a culture vulture, one of the things we did was visit the city art gallery. Since nobody IRL seems to want to talk about "Art", here I am.

So one floor had an exhibit called "Self-portraits", and it had works through the centuries by the great masters, eg Rubens, Rembrandt, also David Hockney, Lucien Freud, and it was absolutely fascinating.

The second floor was showcasing important / influential "Modern Art", and I guess here is where the AIBU really begins. Basically I know there are tons of parodies and satires about Modern Art (a particularly charming episode of Jeeves and Wooster comes to mind), and I know the standard smart-ass answer to "I could have drawn this" is "But you didn't". But really? Huge monochrome canvases, just white, or red, or yellow. Other canvases, not so huge, covered with random squiggles and splashes. (not Jackson Pollock). Or lines of black and white (not op-art as far as I could tell). Or circles of pastels. I am a mere layman, but you couldn't help comparing the workmanship gone into the works of the first floor, not to mention the sheer beauty and wonder, which is what I guess is considered "real art", to the "Modern Art" .

I know there are tons of works by professional critics explaining exactly what is so arresting and important about the squiggles and the monochromes. And depending on the circles you move, you are either "edgy" to say you think it's shite, or a provincial peasant (I am the latter, I would say). But, there you go, I think "Modern Art" (not the Hockney and Freud- but the squiggles and scratchings and monochromes) is shite, and a scam. AIBU?

theymademejoin Thu 07-Dec-17 19:10:24

Don't get me started about "installations". Pile a load of crap in a corner, and start talking about the juxtaposition of the dichotomous elements etc. etc. and you have Art with a capital O.

MatildaTheCat Thu 07-Dec-17 19:15:26

This is really difficult because I struggle a lot with modern art. However there are some absolute masterpieces. I have a friend who makes very abstract oil paintings and I know for a fact her slaves over them and they are rather lovely but I cannot compare then to, for instance, a wonderful portrait.

Installations are another thing. I’ve very rarely seen one that does it for me.

I think I more of a Renaissance girl at heart. smile

ArbitraryName Thu 07-Dec-17 19:18:43

I always feel that the work is a bit of a failure if you need to read a small novel of information to figure out what it’s about. The ideas can be as clever as you like but, if the art doesn’t communicate them to the audience without accompanying commentary, then it isn’t doing a very good job. Especially not in those cases when you could switch all the information cards around and no one would actually notice.

Allthebestnamesareused Thu 07-Dec-17 19:23:24

Yes - we went to MOMA - saw Starry Nights (fab) and then looked at the modern shite (eg. canvas painted entirely blue and called "Blue") and figured shopping on Madison Avenue was more fun and left!

theymademejoin Thu 07-Dec-17 19:24:25

I agree matilda. There are some fantastic pieces of abstract painting but I do struggle with the whole white on white thing or blue square on green background etc. Mid to late 19th and early to mid 20th century would be my thing. I also love naive or primitive art.

mothertruck3r Thu 07-Dec-17 19:26:33

I love Ron Mueck's "installations". Would you call them art? I think they are fascinating.

Bookridden Thu 07-Dec-17 19:50:51

But there is a huge amount of skill in a Mueck installation. Plus, as someone said above, they work on their own, and don't need mini-essays to explain them.

I can see value and beauty in some abstract art. However, I personally feel this sort of stuff is over-represented in modern art galleries these days, and rather tired. Surely it's time for a new and innovative art movement or style to emerge?

questionzzz Thu 07-Dec-17 19:56:49

Ok I am glad some ppl agree with me about modern art as you can never tell.

Here is a pic of an modern "installation" piece we saw yesterday- I had to some modern art over DS there sorry. But basically torn and splatted pieces of canvas hanging from ceiling.

hooochycoo Thu 07-Dec-17 20:01:34

Ron Mueck doesn't make installations, he makes hyper realistic sculptures.

Like what you like, buy what you like, it is obviously totally fine for everyone to have their own taste in Art. But art is an extremely broad term. Lots of things can be art without you necessarily liking them. and there is a history and a context for art that extends beyond one person's tastes, and if you don't know that history or context, it doesn't then mean that it isn't art. It's just a different type of art that you don't know about. and you definitely don't have to like it.

questionzzz Thu 07-Dec-17 20:02:45

I also saw Starry Night but the crush of the tourists and selfie sticks kind of obliterate that memory.

there is a kind of modern abstract art I like- the black grids and squares of basic colours- I think they would be quite hard to paint irl with no digital technology. and then the Jeff Koons-style cartoons.

But yeah, in general would agree that more of Renaissance girl as Matilda said. In 2015 we were fortunate enough to visit Florence.

NeilPetark Thu 07-Dec-17 20:05:18

Some installations are fascinating, eacpially the ones in the Tate Moden like the big white cubes which were genuinely interesting to wander round.

Portraits, real life I find amazing, to be able to paint like that. But a green circle on a white canvas? What has that got to do with talent? It’s all about the blurb about what it ‘represents’, which seems like a load of made up bollocks.

questionzzz Thu 07-Dec-17 20:11:01

It feels a bit trite to say "not everyone has to like it". There are certainly some artwork which I don't find personally to my taste but no denying the mastery gone into it (eg- the self-portrait of Lucien Freud I saw yesterday- quite "horrible", but stunning too). I mean to say, it's not about "liking" or not, but rather, some of these pieces of "Art" there seems to be no skill on display, no aesthetic achievement, yeah ok there is some reason why it is worth gazillion dollars and prestigously displayed and mounted, but it still comes off as the emperor's new clothes-ish, if you see what I mean.

Whether we like something or not- different to whether it has artistic merit or not-which translates to power/prestige/fame and fortune or not.

user1478806039 Thu 07-Dec-17 20:14:44

In Tate Britain there is currently a length of thick rope (like you might see at the seaside) lying on the floor (mostly behind one of the columns) in the main hall. It wasn't there the last time I visited and I thought initially it had been left behind temporarily by a workman while putting an installation up. But no, it had it's own card on the wall and is an artwork dating from 1967. Apparently it doesn't have to be laid out a particular's rope...on the floor...

I honestly don't know what criteria to judge these things by. With "traditional" paintings I can think about skill/emotional content/composition/use of colour...... with something like randomly laid rope...I don't know where to start.

loveablether Thu 07-Dec-17 20:18:21

My mum is a retired art teacher and we went to a gallery and I used to really love watching her expression as she saw some of the modern art pieces as she was disgusted with how simple they were.

There was once piece that was literally a painting of a close up white crumpled bed sheet. She started with her usual ‘it’s just a white crumpled sheet’ however when we got talking it really did get your imagination going. - how many shades of white it took to make look so realistic and the what (or who!?) was making the folds or lying underneath...blush

I’ll always remember that was a lovely moment. However a blue canvas titled ‘blue’ just enrages me.

questionzzz Thu 07-Dec-17 20:22:49

LOL at the rope in Tate. I had a similar reaction with the canvas hangings above- is this an unfinished piece, are they falling down? I suppose from the artist or the curator's pov, that was the reaction I was supposed to have.

The crumpled white sheet sounds cool. at least it wasn't spotted with period stains and snot in the name of art smile

hooochycoo Thu 07-Dec-17 20:24:08

Art moved away from being a show of skill or the ability to make something aesthetically "beautiful" over a hundred years ago. The advent of photography ( and other factors) rendered these qualities less important and therefore less interesting to artists. What followed was over a century of art that has explored many different avenues and tangents there off. Contemporary art like that which you are referring to is a results of over a century of research and study by generations of artists and follows on from and reacts to it's historical and cultural precedents, swell as being influenced by the world around us now.

I often find it helps to compare it to science. The advancements in science over the last 100 years have been substantial and respected professional scientists operating today may not make work that you necessarily understand as science, that you understand the context and precedence of. But I doubt you'd argue that they weren't science and say they were shite or a scam. You'd realise that you maybe didn't understand them and either do some studying and learn more, or move on with respect for professionals operating within their field.

TheLastSoala Thu 07-Dec-17 20:24:58

Art doesn't have to be liked by everyone to be great. I can't stand anything from the renaissance masters... find them all immensely tedious and dislike the way they focus on demonstrating "correct" ways of showing form instead of illustrating the concept and nature of the piece.

I love the direction art has gone in since the search for the primitive at the end of the nineteenth century. Give me a Rothko over Michelangelo any day,

Modern art moves past something as simple as form in favour of depth. Much better IMO.

BlueFleece Thu 07-Dec-17 20:25:05

Art normally fits into one of three categories for me:
1) things I love (aesthetically or otherwise)
2) things I don't particularly like but can appreciate the skill/effort/time involved in producing
3) things I don't really get (mostly 'simple' paintings and installation art.

I always remember at GCSE that we were told how important it was to see how your final piece developed - you couldn't just paint brilliant picture and get a brilliant grade. I often think a bit more background would help with the more esoteric stuff.

ArcheryAnnie Thu 07-Dec-17 20:28:50

I really enjoy disliking a lot of modern art. There's nothing finer than going with a mate to the Tate Modern, and interspersing trips to the cafe with a wander round and some really dedicated bitching about how crap most of it is. I mean, there is some stuff I like, but the last visit one of the artistic wonders included a linen sheet propped against the wall with two sticks. Rothko it wasn't. (I love Rothko.)

RestingGrinchFace Thu 07-Dec-17 20:30:07

This is basically my year 11 philosophy end of term essay in a nutshell. I remember spending hours agonising over whether bkack square was actually art or not. Good times.

You may be interested in reading more about aesthetics (as a philosophical discipline). Ruskin presents are particularly interesting argument for realism (that nicely cross applies to literary realists) and the relationship between art and religion and truth. In particular this contrast with the belief that art must be 'beautiful' in the traditional sense, essentially paving the way for a redefinition of beauty in art away from the ordered or superficially beautiful in favour of individual expression. This was of course written at a time before our modern (scientific) understanding of art (so more of a focus on colour, composition etc) evolved. You may also be interested to read slighty more modern arguments that arose during the impressionist movement which serves as a good introduction to art beyond realism. you may also be interested to read the contemporary criticisms of turner's works. It's a shame that you don't have anyone to talk to this about. I always find it makes for fun conversations but unfortunately most people I spend time with these days are incredibly serious, too serious for art which is a bit sad for them but I talk to myself about it.

questionzzz Thu 07-Dec-17 20:33:55

@hoochy- I agree that art doesn't have to be necessarily "beautiful" in the conventional sense to be art. As I mentioned- I saw some works which were not conventionally beautiful or pleasing, but there was no denying the artistry and merit of it, even to the layman's eye.

BUT I find the comparison to science odd. The point with science is that there is simply SO MUCH of it being produced now- all the journals and so on, that it is quite hard, if not impossible, to get anything other than a general understanding of anything beyond your narrow area of expertise. As has been remarked, we have become a society of specialists more and more.

I don't agree that art, or rather "Art", the kind of art that gets showcased and exhibited in a city gallery and considered influential by critics, works like science. I think some of those pieces ended up where they did by fluke, chance and connections, not because they had anything very important to say about history and context.

Nomoresugar Thu 07-Dec-17 20:38:08

Shit on pavement could be considered art nowadays 💩

hooochycoo Thu 07-Dec-17 20:42:22

I think you are showing you lack of knowledge of art questionzzz. you could be talking about art in your second paragraph. Art is an extremely broad discipline with SO MANY tangents and ideas and areas of research. In art there are specialists within their fields too. It is not necessarily easy for an artist making one kind of work to understand an artist making another kind of work.
and artists are as serious and professional as scientists when it comes to their work. They research and experiment and produce findings.
Art is critically and unremittingly peer reviewed and the artists that are exhibited in well known galleries will be extremely well respected professionals with track records of research and experience a plenty. It's a cliche to thin it's luck or nepotism. and also quite an insult to artists.

questionzzz Thu 07-Dec-17 20:44:40

@Resting I find the people around me- as if there is a virulent strain of anti-elitism or anti-intellectualism, so you're not "allowed" to say you've visited a gallery- you can talk ad nauseum about the malls and christmas shopping and baking. Not that they're too serious, but almost as if they are afraid of appearing in interested in anything other than that, as if they might be labelled "snobbish" or "elitist". I remember the surprise I felt when I heard a newish colleague talking about books, because the the way he had talked before, it was as if all books were alien suspicious objects.

I really admire impressionism- I am not saying all art should be realist, fwiw!!! I've even tried to copy Chagall and Dali - my walls are a testament to that! I would never ever even try to copy realists. Ever.

But the torn canvases though, something else again.

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