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The Nature Of Abstract Art Criticism and Dismissals

Updated on August 23, 2016

Art Criticism and Its Discontents

Despite the fact abstract art remains one of the most well known art movements in history, artwork born of the genre remains misunderstood. The misconceptions frequently derive mostly from mistaken impressions of abstract art's merits. The inability to understand the merits comes from merely looking at the art and solely examining its visuals. While virtually everyone can recognize abstract art when they come across it, not very many will be able to explain the themes and motivations that create a particular distinct work. Misconceptions about the value and merits of abstract art are born of merely not understand why the art is the way it is.

A Cliched Criticism that Never Goes Away

The common clichéd criticism of abstract art has always been that anyone can “do that”. In other words, the art is not real art. It is just splotches or marks on a canvas. As such, the art has no value because it has no motivation, no thematic underpinnings, and no real creativity. Adding up all these drawbacks equates with artwork that is....worthless. Dismissive attitudes such as these should be addressed with a question. The question that should be posed towards those making errant dismissals of the movement should why they not capable of creating the next “lame“ art movement “anyone“ can come up with.

Yes, it is easy to say you can “do something“ (In this case, create new art movements or genre) after the movement has been established. Duplicating something that already exists is not a form of doing something. It is the act making an imitation after all the hard work has been done.

It is not so easy to create a revolutionary art movement that establishes a new genre and evoke a visceral and impacting response in an art educated audience. The new genre also has to have an intellectual quality to it or else it simply will not evoke anything. The lack of an intellectual component would make the finished work something akin to a run of the mill landscape painting.

Abstract Art is an Evolutionary Process

This being another point why abstract art is special. The movement reflects a long line in the continual evolution of art movements. Each art movement builds on the previous one. Frequently, new art movements are reactions to prior ones. Often, the movements will be influenced by the perspectives and biases of the artist in relation to the cultural times in which they lived. The pop art of Andy Warhol, for example, reflected a response to classical art of antiquity and was heavy influenced by the television consumer culture of the 1950s and 1960s.

Abstract art could be seen as a means of taking surrealism to the next level. While surrealism makes no logical sense due to the presence of elements in the canvas that have nothing to do with one another, abstract art makes no logical sense...period.

Or so it seems.

The Emotional Nature of Abstract Art

To truly appreciate abstract art, one has to realize this form of art is a reflection of raw emotion amidst racing thoughts. There is a lot of chaos on the canvas in a piece of abstract art. It could even be argued that the emotional reactions associated with such artwork are angry and somewhat emotionally violent. While not the case with all forms of abstract art, there is a true anarchism present in the painting of the movement. For those looking for realism or classical art work, abstract material comes off very poorly. Those interested in visceral intellectualism consider abstract art comprised of works of brilliance.

The Traditional Safe Norms of Generic Artwork

As with pop art, abstract art is a rebellion against common, traditional norms found in most forms of classical artwork. The traditional, laymen concept of artwork of merit is anything worthy of hanging on the wall of a home falls under the categories of landscapes or images of people performing tasks. Fisherman on boats are common subjects on canvases that have been selling on retail store shelves for decades. There is definitely nothing wrong with such paintings and some of them are truly outstanding works. However, they are commonly selected by the consumer culture because of the safe and recognizable nature of the images on the canvas. Recognizable images have a tendency to evoke the same safe prefabricated reactions among all those viewing the artwork. Such safe reactions allow such basic artwork to be excellent for the living room wall. Unfortunately, another likely common response among many looking at such art is indifference.

The Abstract Value

Attitudes towards abstract art are many things, but indifference would hardly be among them, How can you be indifferent towards a work that is a true shock to the senses when you see it? And truth be told, there will be those that absolutely detest what they see. This returns us to the dismissive Anyone can do that criticism. A word to the wise here is it would be best to be dismissive of the dismissive. Anyone can like or dislike something based on any reasons of personal taste. Serious criticism on the merits of the material, however, has to be rooted in knowledge and a sense of history. Lacking both means it is not really serious criticism.

Other similar works:

To Be Experienced and Not Watched: The Cinema of Federico Fellini Films

Andy Warhol: The Images of Classical Antiquity Just Don't Know Where They Are Going


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    • Mery Adams profile image

      Mery Adams 2 months ago

      It is an art that marks meaning but a personal one, depending on what the artist wants to convey through their feelings, and that each person feels when observing the paintings, to me for example I like the Spanish painter Gabino Amaya Cacho, creator of pointillism abstract, they waste a lot of light and flashy colors.