The special thing about contemporary art is that it holds so much more than it initially shows “My four year old daughter can do better than this.” – A random Facebook commenter reflected on Philip Guston’s ‘Late Works’. Despite Guston being an award-winning abstract expressionist from the twentieth century, there are still people who would put his works under ‘modern crap.’ Contemporary art happens to be often misunderstood by both the general public and some professional art critics for a variety of reasons.
One of them we could say is that the world is still holding on to classicism or that there is a part of the general public that cares so much about art that everything that happens to be more daring and innovative needs to pass their approval first. Another more realistic reason is that a lot of contemporary art focuses quite a lot on being abstract and therefore makes the meaning of the piece less obvious which appears to be quite challenging for a lot of the people who happen upon it.
the abstract may take away the piece’s obvious meaning but not necessarily to its disadvantage
As human nature suggests, when we don’t understand a certain work of art we don’t tend to particularly like it which leads to a lot of people establishing a certain viewpoint that contemporary art is weird, rushed, shallow or even an offense to real art that does not even deserve to be in that category. People not understanding contemporary art leads to them thinking that their young child could do a better work than a dedicated artist.
What those people do not understand is that the abstract may take away the piece’s obvious meaning but not necessarily to its disadvantage. In fact, it is but an asset that provides a way broader point of view and lets everyone who looks at it draw from their own experiences in order to understand it. It lets them shape their own emotional meaning and make art their own.
Your four year old child cannot, in fact, do that because they still wouldn’t have the emotional and intellectual capacity to give birth to the intent behind a contemporary project. Art is something that exists in two different dimensions – one of them is the one that the artist lives in, it is about everything they invest in their piece.
The special thing about contemporary art is that it holds so much more than it initially shows
To the artist, everything holds a certain meaning – the idea, the outline of the project, the materials they use, the canvas; all of these units are co-dependent and they put together is what makes the piece whole. The other dimension is one that the art viewer lives in. It is a way of looking at the piece of art in their own unique way, finding their own meaning that can be completely different from the one of the artist but would be just as relevant.
The special thing about contemporary art is that it holds so much more than it initially shows and it requires a lot more thought and attention. It may be often underestimated, made fun of and looked over but the only reason for that is that not everyone has learned to appreciate genius just yet.