Abstracts: The Love – Hate Art

In her article on “Why Do Some People Hate Abstract Art So?” Marion Boddy-Evans, About.com Guide  writes Abstract artist Philip Edson says he thinks he “must have heard every possible reason why abstract art is not regarded as ‘proper art’ by some people.” These include the argument that it’s “easier than realistic painting and only failed realistic painters paint in an abstract style.” Philip believes “People who usually put forward these views (rather strongly quite often) clearly feel threatened by something that they don’t understand” and that “although abstract art has been around for some time now, the education system seriously lags behind artistic developments in society. This leaves it to us as contemporary artists to try and spread the word.” 

On the same, now-deleted blog, Artist Rebecca Crowell said: “Many people think of abstraction as easily created, meaningless and randomly produced, or (a bit more generously) as nothing more than decorative design. In fact, good abstract artists work with themes, ideas and specific intentions for their work. In some cases, these are arrived at intuitively or experimentally, in others, there is considerable planning involved.” This is part of a curator’s statement Rebecca wrote for an abstract art exhibition, which is an eloquently worded “explanation” of abstract art that’s worth showing anyone who doesn’t “get” abstracts.

My take on the subject is that, indeed, most people have difficulty in interpreting abstract art and determining good from bad. As with any work of art, and especially with abstract art, the viewer rightfully determines their acceptance and enjoyment of the piece (or lack of). Through his or her art, the artist has spoken and the message is left to interpretation. There are as many inferior works of art in the representational genre as would be in the abstract realm, but because the viewer recognizes the subject, whether it be a bowl of fruit or a watercolor scenic, he/she is more likely to consider it good art even if it is not necessarily so. Conversely many, not understanding abstracts, simply consider abstract art as lacking merit.

The bottom line is that there are levels of excellence as well as levels of mediocrity in all genres of art. And it’s okay to live and let live, create and let create…okay to accept and enjoy the art that best speaks to you. The key is to look at art – not overlook it.  Look at enough art – really look – and you will grow to know good art from bad art, in both the realistic and abstract genres.