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Irritated by Artists?

Have any of you ever gone to a gallery opening or a show and there’s an artist there with 30 gray canvases, otherwise blank, hanging on the wall and they are explaining what it all means and meanwhile you’re looking at these 30 GRAY canvases, otherwise blank, going WTF? I find that very irritating. Or am I not supposed to say that?


  • edited June 2019
    Yes, @jodie2025. That has happened to me quite often. I feel like they are having me on. If there were anything worth seeing in such slabs I would have seen it. But there's #*$&ing nothing there! If someone has to tell me what a painting means for me to appreciate it then the painting has not done it's job. It's just not a good picture. Primarily, painters operate visually - they make pictures or objects d'art, not stories about them. Although sometimes, as in @Boudicca's paintings, a snappy title and a little explanation can help situate a picture historically or socially. But before we get to that, the picture must speak for itself. So, yeah, I'm totally with you on this. :)
  • jodie2025

    Give the artist a blank square of grey cardboard saying that this is worth a million dollars in the new fiat currency about to be globally adopted. Take the thirty grey canvases home.

  • PaulBPaulB mod
    Yep. But...

    Isn't that what any realism painter would say about an abstract? We put so much effort into edges, form and value, and see none of that. Those artists would also ask what's the point of making a painting that looks like a photo. We're all going to look at other kinds of art and not always get it. I'm certainly not educated in other forms of art, and have little to no appreciation.

    That said, David Leffel says, and I quote, "there's no skill in it" and "it's inventive at best".  I'm not a fan of being shown something that looks like my palette at the end of the day, or even just a primed canvas, and expected to feel anything but disdain.
  • edited June 2019
    I can appreciate some abstact work. Indeed, I've bought some and have it hanging in my house.  As I said, if there's anything worth seeing in a painting, I'll see it. But, if there's nothing there, telling me some high faluten clap trap about what a flat, grey canvas means ain't gonna make me see anything worthy of the name ART. If it's there I'll see it.  If it's not, I won't. :)
  • dencaldencal -
    edited June 2019

    Thanks for an interesting story.

    As artists or general viewers of art we have a myopic focus on the object, the painting, the sculpture, the song, the book etc. We are then enmeshed in a limited culture bound interpretation scheme where the elephant in the cave moral applies.

    The making of Art is a process. Art is a primary driver of cultural and social evolution. Art is also the driver of an evolving consciousness. Art is valuable, enduring, collected, debated, published, curated, conserved, restored, secured, insured. Why? Art gives meaning and identity, purpose and order to life. The illiterate understood religion through Art. Art becomes a tool of manipulation by despots and tyrants.

    Art as a process is about conception in a cultural soup. Creation in poverty. Traded in a fickle economy. Imbued by meaning and interpretation. Acquiring a provenance along the way. Exhibited. Reviewed. Auctioned.

    In this context a grey canvas or a black one can acquire a process based value and meaning. There is a continuity from Pollock to Rothko. There is an evolving consciousness. Works that contribute more will endure.

  • When my reaction is wtf to a painting, this reminds me that wtf is not a "real" feeling in my interpretation and I move on. Lol!
  • edited June 2019
    @jodie2025, yes Ive experienced this.
    I went to a gallery in Bruges, actually with a group of other students and the teacher from an art workshop I was attending. It had the most amazing works of art with such gorgeous colours on really old of paintings with brilliant colours and detail.

    Then in another room there appeared to be about 10 canvases by a modern artist. They all just looked plain white. I found it a bit insulting for them to be in the same building as the other great works by masters.

    I ended up blurting out, perhaps a little loudly, to our group as I looked at one of the white canvases.

    "I can see that this one is a polar bear in a snow storm with its eyes closed"

    But hey, its all in the eye of the beholder I guess, and someone, I'm sure, would have appreciated those plain white canvases and seen things that my philistine eyes could never.
  • edited June 2019
    Arctic whiteout blizzard. Snow blind. Without nightvision.
  • @jodie2025 I'm not irritated by artists - I love it when anyone anywhere paints or draws or creates something - anything.  I do get irritated with some mindsets of "this is great because I say it is" without consideration for personal preference.  Personally, I don't get hyper-realism - so, you've shown you can copy a color and put it on a surface - the tinier the spot or brush, the easier it is and it is extremely boring (to me).  I get most irritated with the posers - the people who have a snobbish air about their way or the highway. "The Toxic Critic" is a great book - it kind of feeds into the closed mindedness and toxicity that is rampant in each of our little worlds - there are key characteristics that help identify the toxic critics in our lives.  I think that many snobby curators would pass the toxic critic test with high marks :).

    I'm getting ready to get verbose so forgive me @jodie2025 for hogging this thread.

    @Weatherford !!!!   Holy cow, what a fascinating story.

    A few years ago, I took a course given by MOMA - Coursera has instructors from all over the world that teach courses for almost anything you can imagine and....   IT IS FREE!!!!!
     - I take every course they offer that interests me (I even took a Micro-Economics course) - MOMA has a "Postwar Abstract Painting" course taught by Corey D'Augustine who is fabulous - one whole week was dedicated to Ad Reinhardt and his techniques and we also "had" to try to paint a painting in his style.  The entire course was fascinating, Corey is amazing and he knows a ton about Ad - I bet you anything with your letters and that painting, Corey could authenticate your painting without the need of the wife.

    People who need college credits pay but people like me who don't care about credits, I take the courses absolutely free - now, you do have to pass the weekly tests to move on to the following week's lessons but if you're paying attention, the tests are extremely easy.  I'm not into abstract either but the course was fascinating - some of us students were even chosen to exhibit a painting from the course at MOMA so that was really cool.

    Hopefully, these links work - I think that one of Corey's videos on Ad is viewable even if you're not enrolled.  I think you would very much enjoy it.

    Corey's bio:

    Corey D'Augustine is an art conservator, technical art historian, and artist. He has worked at MoMA for many years and is the principal conservator at Corey D'Augustine Conservation.

    He is very approachable and kind - I bet he would love to hear your story and read those letters and see that painting!!!

  • All this has a sort of Christmasy feel and makes me want to say "Bah Humbug"!
  • How might this translate in other forms of art expression?
    Sometimes looking at an equivalency helps me to understand it better.

    1) Visual artist  
    A canvas covered in same color

    2) An Actor
    Stand on the stage and utter the same word repeatedly.

    3) A musician
    Repeat the same note.

    4) A dancer
    Walk back and forth across the stage.

    5) A writer
    Imagine Jack Nicholson in the Shining writing the great American novel "All work and no play make Jack a dull boy"...

    hm.. so thinking of it in that context confirms that while it is interesting from a philosophical perspective, once it's been expressed as an idea, it cannot be repeated without becoming a mere trope.
  • Renoir, you've stated the problem so well. Comparing it to extreme minimalism in other arts is a brilliant way to look at it.  :)
  • @Bancroft414 I’ve stood in front of Rothko’s and they are amazing. Pollack and Picasso and Salvador Dali- amazing. @weatherford -what a story! I’ve enjoyed hearing your thoughts. @Julianna I will read the book! @Bob73.... hmmm.
  • I do believe figurative and let's call it "abstract / minimalist " arts, are two different worlds, even if they share the same purpose. The way of enjoying an abstract painting is so intellectual and personal that is difficult to speak to a lot of people. Actually the first painting I did was an abstract one representing the retinas receptors, but I do realised I was not ready yet so I started to learn the classical way..For me the problem, and actually the only one, I have with modern art is the difficulty I have to separate the wheat from the chaff. I do not trust if they are famous or not, Fontana did around 1500 tagli/cuts in 10 years and than said he could spend 3 weeks before cutting a canvas... lets make the calculs it is 87 years not 10, the point is even him for me tried to justify himself trying to make an aura of mysticism on his work to justify the work. For me a real good artist doesn't need to create a legend or to explain too much about his works to be enjoyed (and I like Fontana btw)..and the reason is that for me the act of creation once is done is outside of us, and it doesn't belong to us anymore.. Can you imagine a God explaining you all the time why the universe "he" created is good and wonderful and how lucky you are to see it? It isn't that the real beauty doesn't need words? I am not saying art should be easy, actually for me art is almost everything and the more I know about the world the more I start to open my heart about conceptual art too, but there will be always a problem intrinsic with abstraction, which is not "pop" , "popular", in the more positive way of this terms. Coming from a modest family and have studied too much to be fouled or intimidated by someone who tell me that a beach in a room is art (actually won a price this year at the Biennale of Venice). 
    There will be always a discussion about this topic, once in an Italian movie there was this dialogue between a modest guy and a professor. He asked if the Toilet installed as a piece of art, in 2000 years could be still considered art or a normal toilet, if some archeologist discovered it without having any knowledge of it being an art piece..
    I know for sure even aliens could not be indifferent to a Cagnacci, Reni, Caravaggio, Tiepolo, Raffaello, Michelangelo, Rembrandt and the list is so long..
    I think the world moved into abstraction because we became a more individualistic society, art is speaking more to the soul of one and not to the hearts of many, maybe I understand the 30 white canvases, maybe the final form of art will be staring in the void because we stopped to believe in beauty.
  • edited June 2019
    Well said, @Bobitaly. The great masters will live forever because the language they speak is universal.
    Once the first White Square on White was painted there was no point in anyone else doing it. I guess minimalism might still be an appealing option if an artists found him/herself with only a week left to prepare 30 canvases for a show. 
  • As you can see from my profile pic, I've been there, done that.  Couldn't take the heat.  Back to "normal" now but that is not to say that I am not ever tempted.  Hmm. 
  • It is an interesting topic for sure @tassieguy and @Summer :) I found that most of the contemporary art works I like are the ones that are able to mix both of this worlds.. In fact I think every artist is an abstract one because the action of distilling reality through the funnel of consciousness is always there.. Maybe I just dont like things easily achievable:D I am a snob myself.
  • edited June 2019
    Has anyone listened to John Cages' composition 4' 33"? It's quite a musical experience. It's comprised of  two movements. It's a difficult peice to get to grips with but once you do so it's a jaw dropper. Sublime. Profound. Regardless of what the philistine critics may say. Anyone interested in minimalism in the arts should hear it. You can do so here:   

    Following the score as it is played can be instructive so I've included it below for your erudition and the enhancement of musical appreciation. It's quite a difficult piece and most people don't understand it but follow along with the score as best you can:

    PS  I prefer the Peters edition of the score in which the dynamics seem clearer but the above is the best I could find online. 
  • edited June 2019
    @Kaustav, don't be a philistine. You are not supposed to imagine anything. The composer put everything in that was meant to be there - not a note more and not a note less. To imagine notes not written by the composer would be artistic vandalism and demonstrate a complete lack of understanding of the music and of the  genius of the artist. And, in respect of the pianist, I must say that I have rarely heard a better performance of this peice. 
  • tassieguy said:
    @Kaustav, don't be a philistine. You are not supposed to imagine anything. The composer put everything in that was meant to be there - not a note more and not a note less. To imagine notes not written by the composer would be artistic vadalism!
    @Oh my God! I din't know that there was something to understand in this. I saw the staves were empty so I put my imaginary notes there!  :( I've learnt nothing after years of listening to the Germans!  :s
  • edited June 2019
    Obviously, @Kaustav, music is not your forte. You must listen harder, more closely - let Cage's music wash over you like a wave.
    But maybe minimalism in painting would bring you more satisfaction than minimalist music... and perhaps even great artistic acclaim. However I, for one, would be sorry to see you abandon realism. I guess some of us are just doomed to be forever stuck in the past. I've thought about trying minimalism myself - you know, knocking out 30 grey canvases for a show - but I fear that I just don't have the talent. So, I'm stuck, bogged down in realist landscapes.
  • @tassieguy
    Are you sure its by John Cage ?

    I think it may have been ghost written.
  • edited June 2019
    I'm glad you noticed his handling of the lid, @MichaelD. Not many do. Very perceptive of you.  But I personally thought his fingering was pure genius. And he played every note as written. With this peice an exact performance is a fine performance. In fine music there are two things to consider - the genius of the composer and the genius of the perfomer. In this performance they coalesce  beautifully.  :)
  • edited June 2019
    Roxy said:
    Reminds me of other movements I have experienced Rob, but I won’t go into that here. 
    I find them hard to compare but which of the two movements in this piece did you find most moving, @Roxy?
  • @tassieguy ☺ this discusssion is getting very interesting...just between us I used to teach university graduates Western classical theory
  • SummerSummer -
    edited June 2019
    And I wish I hadn't forgotten how to write music.  More likely, have lost the motivation to do so.  Haven't done so since my early twenties.  Now that my hearing is half gone, I hear the most beautiful men's choral group while I'm cleaning our home.  The music is always the same passages.  And, it's always Blue Grass music while I'm vacuuming.  The unfinished symphony finished upon awakening from a deep sleep.  Some of the classical music we have today credited to certain composers were just transcriptions, note for note, of the music they heard in their heads as their hearing faded.  Just hallucinations.  Only a few composers dared to admit this and did.  At the time, they felt it was spirits of dead composers dictating the notes.  I recently had a dream of a room full of paintings that I had completed.  Just saying that living is amazing sometimes.   
  • I want a refund! I might have enjoyed it if it lasted 1/4 of the time and been performed by Victor Borgia or a flatulent cow. 
  • PaulBPaulB mod
    I can play that. But I always **** it up at the end.
  • @Bobitaly quote”or me the act of creation once is done is outside of us, and it doesn't belong to us anymore” I could not agree more. That’s what I tell people. What does this mean? Whatever you WANT it to me. It’s not mine once it’s out there.
  • edited June 2019
    @ tassieguy wow, quite a response
  • @Tassieguy John Cages 4 33 or whatever is exactly the kind of thing that irritates me. Complete BS. A pianist who never touches the keys is as bad as an artist who never wields a brush. It doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like to have a pint with you mate, it just means I can’t justify minimalism past a certain point. If art has to be explained I really don’t want to be involved in it.
  • @Summer have you ever read Haruki Murakami? I think you would love his books... you just reminded me of him. Love, Jodie
  • @Summer Killing Commendatore or Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
  • edited June 2019
    I'm totally with you a this, @jodie2025. It irritates the hell out of me. My reason for posting the Cage peice was to demonstrate how ridicilous minimalism is. And what followed in my subsquent responses was a parody of the sort of nonsense people go on with about minimalist paintings. It's all a load of pure BS.
  • SummerSummer -
    edited June 2019
    Hi Jodie.
    Here is a coincidence that has just happened.  I'm acquainting myself with this genius by reading: "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, perhaps his best-known work outside of Japan, begins prosaically—as a man’s search for his missing wife—then quietly mutates into the strangest hybrid narrative since Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy.  Murakami’s world is an allegorical one, constructed of familiar symbols—an empty well, an underground city—but the meaning of those symbols remains hermetic to the last. His debt to popular culture (and American pop culture, in particular) notwithstanding, it could be argued that no author’s body of work has ever been more private."
    Only minutes pass when my husband walks into the room telling me about this strange dream he just had about me having gone missing from an airport and he and our dog are searching for me.  Hmm.

  • The value of said piece of art is evident by all the healthy discussion in this thread. I love to hear discussions answering the question: What is art!
  • Ha ha @tassieguy, this could be called ultra radical pianisimmo. The emotional void of the unplayed note.
  • This all seems to stretch the imagination to the breaking point.  Hmm
  • edited June 2019
    MichaelD said:
    I cant argue with that @tassieguy.

    I have had good reports of his performance of The Sound Of Silence.
    @MichaelD @[email protected]
    After your comment my perspective changed about that piece. John Cage wasn't an idiot...he made many innovations. Was he really after this in this piece? Goes similar to Ad Reinhardt or Rothko! It's very easy to laugh at things you know.

    Wikipedia states something like this: The piece consists of the sounds of the environment that the listeners hear while it is performed, I am not sure if that's music but could be a forced (not a good word to use) listening experience. Think about the piece 'un-played' in a garden for 4′33″. 

    All of these are thematically similar. One is slightly clear, One is unclear and one is abstract. 

  • I can hear the sound of the environment all around me 24/7. Why do I need to pay to go to concert hall to hear it or waste my time listening to a silent video clip of a guy not playing the piano? It's silly. And I can get a white canvas, paint a white square on it in under 4 minutes and 33 seconds and tell the gullible all sorts of deep and meaningful sounding nonsense about it. Again, it's just silly. Especially after it's done the first time.
  • tassieguy said:
    I can hear the sound of the environment all around me 24/7. Why do I need to pay to go to concert hall to hear it or waste my time listening to a silent video clip of a guy not playing the piano? It's silly. And I can get a white canvas, paint a white square on it in under 4 minutes and 33 seconds and tell the gullible all sorts of deep and meaningful sounding nonsense about it. Again, it's just silly. Especially after it's done the first time.
    =)  =)  :p My God you're angry!  =)  You know...there is an old music album called 'Are You Experienced' seems that you're not experiencing anything in 4′33″  =)
  • This conversation reminds me of trying to watch the movie Roma with my wife. She wanted to talk through most of the film asking questions about its meaning and what it was really about. I wanted to just quietly experience it. And although I tried to explain to her -- that if she would just be quiet and pay attention -- that she might get something out of it. That it was a quiet film intended to be an experience not necessarily something to be immediately understood.  She wasn't having it and I finished watching it on my own. Neither of us were right or wrong. It was merely a difference in taste.  Modern and postmodern pieces that are well conceived and well executed can have a tremendous impact on an audience open to receiving the information the artist is presenting. Even if we don't necessarily ever know what the artist truly intended. And, appreciating a piece of art (no matter the medium) does not necessarily mean we liked it but merely that we were open to experiencing it. 
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