There was significant turbulence during the emergence of Modernism in the 1890s and especially Abstract Expressionism in the 1940s, similar to the trouble Impressionism faced and most other major revolutionary art movements.
And then the dust settled, followed by a better understanding or at least a certain degree of acceptance of the new ideas.
But, today, after several decades, there are still some that insist that art equates to skill and that modern abstract art is a disgraceful mockery of all that is right and good in the art realm.
These ideas are utterly ridiculous! Have we forgotten what art is?
All great art was great not because it was the result of expertise and skill but because it was borne out of invention, creative expression, rebellion against the restraints of the current academia!
I read the following statement expressing concern for this dilemma:
“I would prefer there was no art, and no great paintings anywhere in the world, than that the freedoms and liberties that we hold so dear would be lost.” (Art Renewal Center Chairman, Fred Ross)
Yes, freedom and liberties are vital for art to thrive! There should be no boundaries set for creative expression. In the same way that Rembrandt manipulated light to evoke a sense of space, the way Sargent employed bold yet simple brushstrokes to provide such depth to his works and Bouguereau created astounding luminous skin tones unseen in the natural world, real artists have always had the vision to create new and profound visual stimuli for our contemplation and pleasure. If we dare to stifle creative expression we slur the names of all artists, even the Old Masters and offend their respective works.
I say that, “To stifle creative expression is to bind and gag our very souls.”
Creative expression, that is the key. And you can’t be creative if you simply copy.
So, an abstract painter abstracts an image from nature or his imagination. Because his image doesn’t already exists in nature, he is branded a fraud? How preposterous!
So, why is modern Abstract Art unaccepted by some? Why should realists ever feel threatened by modern abstract artists? I may not care for either the primitive works of Rousseau or the photo-realism of Ralph Goings, but who am I to question whether or not they created good art? The works of Picasso and Matisse don’t diminish my admiration of Sargent, Bouguereau or any of the Old Masters.
Art lovers didn’t need to be convinced or coerced into accepting modern art as some who believe in some big art conspiracy. Even today we celebrate the vision of Monet and sing songs about van Gogh. Why?
They produced great works!
Art appreciation and acceptance isn’t so troublesome in other fields. Great art is well understood in theater and ballet. The “perfect” dancer isn’t as sought after as the dancer who is a true artist. Art is what delineates the technically-correct dancer from the dancer who has skill and passion!
Why aren’t all the best actors the most handsome or the most beautiful? Because creative expression is necessary to portray a character. The best and greatest actors are artists.
Not all great singers stay in tune all the time. They don’t all have perfectly smooth voices. What they do have is the capacity of creative expression. They are artists.
The greatest vocal performer isn’t the one who “copies” more closely. He’s the one who creates a new sound and ends up getting copied. A good songwriter doesn’t take the melody of a mockingbird, put it to musical notation and says, “Look what I wrote!” Rather, he creates an entirely new melody.
Therefore, the greatest artist is not the one that skillfully copies a landscape. He’s the one that creates a new image, abstracted from either nature or his own imagination. Why should he be less creative than artists in other fields? To be known as a true artist he must possess and employ creative expression.
If the qualification of art is hinged directly on the ability to paint what one sees, then van Gogh failed miserably. So did Rembrandt. In fact there are actually very few artists throughout history who could pass that test!
If an musician whistles to imitate a bird, do we call it art? Of course not. Now what if he constructs a catchy melody? Ah, then he has something. He becomes a creative artist.
What we call Classical music is a complete fabrication of artificial sound; creative expression. It’s abstract! Singing is not a natural sound. It is abstracted from nature. Yet, these composers and musicians are considered artists.
What was the source Mozart’s symphonies? Did he hear it from the birds while strolling through the park? No, he created it. He was an artist.
Art is creation. Art is not “a copy of something.”
Michelangelo is quoted as saying that, “A man paints with his brains and not with his hands.” It’s not the ability to paint that makes an artist. If art was defined simply by the ability to draw, then my HP printer would be a greater artist than Michelangelo.
True artists throughout history, from the Classical to the realists, all understand what art really is and would disagree with those trying to dismiss and discredit modern abstract art.
The bottom line is that the act of abstraction is at the very core of what art is. True art is not a copy of nature. Art is abstract.
“All great art is due to the abstraction process.”