There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterward you can remove all traces of reality.
— Pablo Picasso
For lack of desire to do something worthwhile, I decided to surf the internet—something, more than any other activity, that can result in the purest form of intellectual discovery or the most repulsive evidence of human depravity. I, myself, ended up somewhere in between those ends at images of abstract art.
Now this is a question that has dogged me for years: Is abstract art really even to be considered art at all? I’ve heard horror stories of such pieces as a canvas, painted in one coat of white acrylic, attributed as art. I’ve seen splatters of paint, seemingly haphazard spills of paint cans, called art and hung in galleries. So what’s the answer?
My field test is this: if I believe a blindfolded five-year-old could have produced a similar work, it doesn’t count as art. In fact, it hardly counts as firewood.
I believe art has to have some deal of skill behind it, a deliberate attempt by the painter, author, ice-sculptor, to create a piece of work that captures a truth or emotion or theme. Throwing paint at a canvas and hoping your constellation of droplets form some connect-the-dot-picture only understood by pencil-mustached men and some alien race fond of randomness, shouldn’t count as art. But it’s not just paintings that fall prey to this.
I have read a number of short stories, particularly flash-fiction works, that seem so bizarre and random I thought a scrabble board was dumped on to the paper. Now for some people, they like this. They like to debate the intention behind the work, revel in the “depth” of the piece and the meaning behind it all. But if that’s all you’re looking for, just drop a bunch of toothpicks on the ground and see if you can find a picture.
I’m not asking for much it to be called art. Just give me a shape, you know, something with connected lines, maybe even an intentional picture to it, and I’ll call it art. Granted, I might call it bad art, but at least I’ll bunch it into that category. Abstract art doesn’t even deserve the second word of its title.
Maybe I’m just being too critical of something I, myself, lack most expertly. Unless I’m trying to depict a rectangle, a star, or emaciated caricature (my professional term for a stick figure), I can’t draw anything recognizable. However, I don’t think you always have to have talent in the field to be capable of critiquing. All book critics would lose their jobs if this weren’t the case.
So I guess all I’m trying to say, is that the next time my mom or my girlfriend or my one culturally snobbish friend tries to drag me to an art exhibit featuring some prominent abstract artist, I’m going to go to this blog post, press ctrl+a, then ctrl+c and paste it in email for them to read.