I’ve heard some people say that abstract art makes them feel stupid. If they are at an opening or art event, they fear that if they ask the artist a question, it will only further reveal their incomprehension. I have had this fear too. However, as a painter, I think if the artist finds the right words to say or write, he/she could ease this fear and start to engage their audience more.
As an audience we need to be open minded and realize that we only receive from an artwork what we put in. Some work, for instance: conceptual art (look up Marcel Duchamp, Urinal) does need some understanding in art history or philosophy in order to enjoy it. If we are able to put this knowledge or effort of understanding into a piece of art, it can be uplifting or even mind bending. As well, rather than be offended if we don’t get it, we might simply feel relieved that we live in a place where artists are allowed to express themselves and explore ideas.
I think it was the poet Al Purdy who I heard say in an interview: “I write for my ideal audience”. As a viewer, I realize I may not always be the ideal audience for a certain work – but there is probably someone else who is. As an artist, I try to be aware of my ideal audience and keep practicing on the best way to communicate with them.
Do you have any interesting experiences communicating with artists about their work you would like to share?
Above image: standing in front of Chris Burden’s, Urban Light, outside Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). This art piece was even more interesting once I learned all these street lamps were actually in use in different municipalities across southern California in the 1920’s and 30’s, and that there were 17 different styles of them.