A few years ago a friend and I visited the art museum at Vassar College. A lot of it was impressive. Some was not, like the 10' x 10' sheet of what I can only describe as graph paper. White with black vertical and horizontal lines making squares maybe 5" x 5". Just plain old graph paper, made big.
Art? I don't get it.
A few years ago a friend and I visited the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MoCA). There was a room with a bunch of large white squares of paper. Apparently identical white squares. Each square had a placard next to it explaining it. I don't remember the exact descriptions, but it was something like this: The first had been exposed to sunlight for several hours. The second had been kept in the dark for several hours. The third had been snowed on. Another had been exposed to a cloudy sky. One had been exposed to loud rock music, while another has been exposed to classical music. And so on. As if that wasn't already ridiculous enough, there were people in the room walking from piece to piece examining them carefully, stoking their VanDykes, and commenting to each other on ... something. I don't know what they found so fascinating (yeah, the idea for the exhibit was amusing, but that doesn't need examining each canvas) and I didn't have a chance to find out what they were saying because I was giggling too loud. I got dirty looks from the cognoscenti.
Art? I don't get it.
I don't understand a lot of the stuff that is called art. That guy who blocked off the canvas with black horizontal and vertical lines and then painted some of the rectangles with primary colors - Piet Mondrian. Apparently a lot of people think/thought he's just wonderful. Mind-blowing.
You can natter on all you want about "movement", and "weight" and "structure", yeah, I get all that, but, uh, no. I see no "art" there. I see craft only.
A woman died recently, Agnes Martin. Her work is in major museums all over the world. She's a "minimalist", which apparently means "paint a canvas solid blue and call it the sea", and "copy a sheet of lined notepaper". (There's a good chance she was responsible for the graph paper at Vassar.) This thing sold for $2,000,000.00. Seriously.
Two million? Why? I see no particular skill or talent. Go to the Google images of her work (here) and find anything there that couldn't be essentially duplicated by anyone with minimal training in technique (like, how to draw a straight line, how to color within the lines, etc.)!
Is most of contemporary art a big joke?
I don't get it.
And then there's Cy Twombly. Some few of his floral-looking things are interesting, but most of his output is like this:
Check out his gallery at http://www.cytwombly.info/twombly_gallery.htm.
I think the REAL "talent" in the contemporary art world consists of showmanship, contacts, networking, salesmanship, business acumen, and a talent for convincing suggestible (rich! famous!) people that what they are looking at is somehow special.
Cyndi Lauper and Madonna hit the music charts at about the same time. Madonna took off and soared while Cindi petered out. In my opinion, Cyndi was a much better musician, but Madonna was a better manipulator.
I guess art works the same way.
I used to live near Woodstock, NY, and there are a lot of talentless people there who define themselves as artists. I guess they're right. They can pick up a brush (or whatever) and daub paint (or whatever) on a canvas (or whatever), and that makes them a painter, by definition. But just because you can put paint on a surface doesn't make you an artist.
Or does it?
Maybe so. Maybe they just need to develop that other talent.