PICTURE FIRST, MEANING SECOND – [PART I] took you inside the mind of a Classical painter, who dominated fine art throughout the impressionist, post-impressionist, modern, and postmodern movements (so this was the main school of thought for the last 150 years). I explained that the vast majority of artists over the last 150 years cared about the arrangement of shapes, patterns, values, colors, and rhythms, but they did not care about content, meaning, or message. These artists aimed to create a visual experience for the viewer, and they coolly tossed out meanings to accompany their paintings only after their picture came together. Artists’ methods perplex onlookers who expect all artwork to communicate meaningful messages. I want to share an article from ArtNews that speaks to these onlookers.
The article is called “How to learn to stop worrying and love the art you don’t understand.”
It’s all in the title. This article asks puzzled art collectors and museumgoers to halt their desperate clamor for elusive meanings, and just to appreciate the experience a picture offers. This article also shows an array of experts trying to come to grips with the meaninglessness of most art (which of course is only meaningless because meaning was an afterthought and a rationalization following the artist’s picturemaking). I want this article to help you understand that my “picture first, meaning second” ideology is not a lowbrow, fringe belief, but a necessary concession one must make in order to seriously engage artwork.
Children seem to have an easier time “getting it” than adults . . . I watch children in museums, especially looking at some of the so-called difficult work . . . They move freely throughout these pieces, and there’s a joy of discovery. I don’t think that to them the challenge is to understand but rather to observe and participate. Children might say, ‘Wow, that’s really neat,’ or just shrug their shoulders, but they don’t put their hands on their hips and say, ‘I don’t get it.’
Children focus on the experience–the meaning doesn’t add anything to the work for them. If the work sucks when it doesn’t make sense, it still sucks when it does make sense. Remember, meaning alone can’t carry a work of art because real art is an experience that affects a viewer, not a message telegraphed from artist to viewer.
Follow this link to the fine article: