Curator & Art
When you are looking to a piece of abstract or even conceptual art, remarks such as “My son does things like this”, “This is such a scam!” or “Is someone giving money for that?” is frequently repeated. Figurative art –a kind of art easier to understand- is barely rejected by people. But, what’s wrong with the rest? Contemporary art is something difficult to understand, even when Picasso, Goya or Van Gogh were still creating.
Nowadays, art is a very controversial topic. On the one hand, it is social rejected by people who are indifferent to it. First, this rejection arises to avoid being swindled or deceived. There are also people who, while observing an artwork, do not know about it or its features. This repudiation gives cause for the remarks previously mentioned and belongs to a society that cannot accept the development or changes in artistic production and their results. People feel comfortable with stereotypes and they are not interested in understand what is the artist looking for or what is trying to show. Joseph Beuys cleverly stated that “You are criticizing something you don’t know enough about” (From the book ‘Cada hombre, un artista’), this is exactly what people do when an artwork doesn’t belong to traditional art. There is some kind of figurative heritage -which has affected us from the past-, something we don’t want to lose.
On the other hand, the artwork rejected by the vast majority of people, is usually considered as something interesting by knowledgeable people. They are focused on the most unusual works, the actual or possible meanings are not important anymore. The more abstract your artwork is the more fulfilled person you are. It makes even harder this complex relation between art and society or the long-awaited relation between art and life. Several artists from a not-so-distant past have based their works on. These decisions depending on “being in fashion” or demonstrating you are an expert, are not always right.
In this atmosphere of chaos, there is an article written by Natalie Heinich for “Revista de Occidente” (nº364, Sept. 2011) on which a theory to understand contemporary art is explained. Her theory is based on the book ‘Le triple jeu de l’art contemporain’. Contemporary art can be considered as a type or category rather than an artistic movement. Natalie explains that Contemporary art is divided into three art types or categories which correspond to classic art, modern art and contemporary art. Each of them is independent, have the same relevance and can co-exist together. She also gives her definition about each type of art: Classic art is based on figures. It follows the standard rules to represent reality (e.g. Still life, portraits, landscapes, etc…) Modern art also respects tradition, but the artists are interested on showing their inner thoughts. Contemporary art breaks with all the previous rules, both from Classic and Modern art, to become contemporary.
If we agree with this classification about art, only a third is not understood or unknown by us. Thus, a deeper and necessary interpretation has to be done, in order to avoid further rejection against Contemporary art. This demonstrates that each period includes several types of art and each type has their own features to be considered. Many years later, there will be some remaining artworks which genuinely belong to this period and others will be regarded as a mere fashion. In my humble opinion, people have to trust on their feelings, because art is something able to move or irritate you. The important thing is that art wants to instill something; it was created with this purpose. Our instincts help us to appreciate it. It is better to follow our instincts rather than reject something aesthetically awful or not fashionable.
Marina P. Villarreal
Translated by: José María Ares Martínez