A lot of people don’t like or understand Modern Art, so I just want to give some short summaries of the various movements of Modern Art that encapsulate why they can be considered enjoyable, in the hopes that more people will come to understand, if not like Modern Art as well.
First I think it is important to distinguish between Modern Art and Contemporary Art. Modern art is pretty much a set of art movements that lasted from about 1890 to 1970. Contemporary art is whatever happened after that, and whatever is happening right now. Modern art, I love, it’s beautiful. Contemporary art, I don’t like, I don’t understand. That’s why I’m going to talk about Modern art.
Modern art encompasses quite a few movements. My favorite of which is abstract expressionism. That’s your Pollocks, Rothkos, Kandinskis and the like. There is also just Expressionism, as well as Cubism, Fauvism, Impressionism, Surrealism, Futurism, and Dada. I’ll sum these up in a few words for you.
For Cubism think Picasso. It is an attempt to visually describe shapes in the way we interpret them and feel about them rather than the way we see them.
For Fauvism a good key name is Matisse. It is meant to communicate the more primitive, basic, inner nature of things, loudly, without censor, through the use of strong unapologetic color.
Impressionism is a popular one, Monet and Degas are good ones to know. It’s communicating a mood or impression of a moment rather than the objects in the moment. Definition is not important, just the…gist of the idea.
Surrealism is best associated with Dali. The best way for me to understand it is as dream art. Sometimes beautiful, sometimes horrible, but always unintelligible in a way that is tauntingly familiar.
For Futurism I like Boccioni. It’s about movement, and speed and time. Trying to capture time as it goes by, moving so fast it practically destroys itself. Looks similar to Cubism, but generally is more dynamic.
Dada goes with Duchamp. I think of it like surrealism but without the familiarity, and without the dream-like quality. It’s art as incoherence and contradiction and nonsense.
And best for last, Abstract Expressionism is like Impressionism, but does not try to represent objects or places. It is purely an attempt to capture a concept, a feeling, or a mood.
In a scene from Mad Men Season 2, episode 7, the characters contemplate a Rothko. Rothko is an abstract expressionist, and one of my favorites. One character says that he does not think it is supposed to mean anything, it is only meant to be experience. “Cus, when you look at it, you do feel something. It’s like looking into something very deep. You could fall in.” This is to me exactly why I love abstract expressionism. It is nothing but what you experience it as. The artist is not trying to force a message or meaning down your throat, they are only trying to give you an experience. I enjoy Rothko for the same reason I enjoy looking at the sky. It’s not a unique experience, and the sky to me does not really mean anything. It is just pleasing. It makes me feel happy, and open and free.
More Abstract Expressionism cuz it’s my favorite and this is my blog so there.
Rothko – Large blocks of color that are ‘experienced’. His pieces are huge.
Kandinsky – Tried to visually represent music. Some speculate he was a synesthete (if you don’t know, look it up, its cool).