I've seen some big Pollocks in person and, especially when I could stand where the painting filled my entire field of vision, and there were no other people milling between me and the painting, I found some of them thrilling on a visceral, non-intellectual level.

There are all sorts of stories wandering the internet along the same lines as the "experts can't tell on thing from another." I don't agree with the usual moral of the story, that the "experts" are posers and that the "art" is bogus, that it's all subjective so you can just go with your gut and you're done - easy peasy. I think it's all terrifically more complicated than that - and people want what's simple and immediate for the most part. And what could be more fun than making a fool of a supposed "expert"? Such an easy dismissal of expertise is what's bogus in my book.

There's this huge shift in art when Modernism came in. You look at most art before modernism, and there's something in it just about anyone can understand. Cathedrals, murals, sculpture, portraits, history paintings, landscapes, on and on, there's a recognizeable something and although there are subtleties only the experts see and understand, there's a common artistic language of representing recognizeable objects, people, places, things. Everyone just about would start off with the same immediate understanding - this is beautiful, or grand, or incredibly lifelike, or sad, or amusing, or profound, etc., etc.

But Modernism wanted to bust all that up and start over. Representing things, making the rubes say "wow, she looks like she could just talk to you!" was cheap special effects. What was wanted was a deeper dive into the mysteries of experience, of psychology, of reality for lack of a better term. More real than just surface representations and actor's faces, laughing or crying.

The early Moderns took lots of cues from the science and the cutting-edge philosphies of their day. Long story short, there was this huge shift from the expression of recognizeable forms to the expression of ideas. And the ideas were not the ideas of everyday people, but were intensely personal, and often tied to some intellectual program that was different than the next guy's. Artists started abandoning the common artistic language or representation, and moved elsewhere, into personal philosophies, personal iconography, experimentation, psychology, and so on.

So like with Pollock, you have someone who believed in some sort of cosmic random ultimate state of oneness. So he had a personal program of trying to exorcise any possible recognizeable particular thing in his drip paintings - because that destroyed the sort of spiritual nirvana he had in mind. It was hard to do! He painting many paintings trying to get there - and he felt that he succeeded in some of them. We are talking about a heavy, intellectual, spiritual, artistic obsession.

So if you go the museum and you don't know squat about this sort of Modernist intellectual, idea-driven art, and you like paintings of lovely women, beautiful sunsets, french street cafes, pretty lilly ponds, and so on - Pollock is absolutely indistinguishable from a painter's dropcloth. I kind of suspect that Pollock would have not minded the comparison - seeing that the dropcloth was created in such a random fashion.

So the modern stuff is heavy into ideas, concepts, experimentation, upsetting conventions, working out intense personal ideas and making the viewer do all the work, if they have a mind to. If you read up, find a few favorites and artists that resonate with you, the modern stuff can be an incredible resource of art to enjoy, contemplate, mystify over. Personally I'm crazy about Paul Klee, the Cubists, Picasso (who is totally on the outs with most critics these days), Matisse, Rothko, Tobey, and others. But it took a lot of looking and thinking, reading and contemplating to develop what appreciation I can muster. There are more of them I get zero out of than get anything out of - but it's all worth the effort, either way, to me.


Last edited by Nowarezman; 09/23/20 07:26 PM.