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Lessons in ART #3. The Manifesto and Art

The Manifesto and Art

It was a glorious sunny summer day. I spent the morning bicycling all over. I eventually found myself in a large hall in a museum, surrounded by a series of large black and white canvases. Barnett Newman’s “13 Stations of The Cross”. I stood standing in the middle of the cool white-walled gallery, trying to figure out the meaning of the exhibit in general and the relationship between each painting and its caption. I was between my second and third year at art school. I had yet to take courses in lost American abstract expressionism (fourth year) and I stood there at lost. The family that I was staying with that helped map out my stay, were raving about the exhibit, telling me it was a “must” as an art student. With my limited understanding, I tried to make sense of what I was looking at. The total exhibit was extremely aesthetic. The crisp clean feeling was invigorating. The size and general feeling left me in awe. It was like entering a holy space. Beyond that, it was too much with little information. It was beyond me and my abilities. I left, feeling somewhat crushed, like being pushed away by the older kids in the crowd.

“Sea View” - Acrylic on Canvas 21/30 cm @ Barbara Adler Art 2021

That is often the problem when looking at abstract art; a slightly embarrassed/ uncomfortable feeling of misconstruing the artwork shown. It has often, aesthetic value and can be mistakenly considered decorative. Be assured, that was not the artist's intent! The duality of abstract art is how much of form, line, color, and composition can one remove to the bare base of the painting without losing meaning and actually adding more into the story that one can perceive. It is like minimalistic poetry, each line, comma and word have double or triple meaning. The artist actually has a lot to say. Much more than the cliché of “a picture is worth a thousand words”. Often, the artist wishes to remain clocked, adding more mystery to the work by not giving a name to the work or the caption causing much frustration on the spectator’s part. Others like Newman and the Dadaist and Surrealist prior to him, wrote, giving insight both to their works and the times. That I discovered, naturally, in my fourth year of studies, but especially when doing my masters. I really needed closure on Barnett Newman. One of my major papers was on Newman. As one can imagine, I really was sorry that my visit to the exhibit did not coincide with my advanced studies. Looking at his works AFTER reading articles that Newman wrote in “The Tiger’s Eye”, gave a different and more complete understanding of his works. The flaw I find with some abstract art is that one cannot expect every layman art appreciator to read works and manifestos written by these artists. The work must be somewhat approachable. Giving “handles” in the form of captions or names to the work, enabling the interested and slightly challenged spectator to dwell on the artwork. Reflecting upon it. Taking home pictures and memories in their mind, drawing upon their own associations in their inner world. That is the true value of the arts; to transport one to another dimension or world. Artists often load and burden the artwork with too much meaning and intent, more than the artwork can handle. As a student, I was often told, that if I want to write, then write! Don’t way down the work with unnecessary baggage.

“Between The Sea and The Park” - Acrylic on Italian Canvas, 155/40cm - @Barbara Adler Art 2021

Art can be extremely intellectual as well as extremely technical. It can be straightforward as still life, or as complicated and full of meaning as Jackson Pollack’s “Cathedral”. In both cases, art is meant first and foremost from and for the heart. Our understanding starts with intuition and then goes upwards to logic, to the mind. Words are meant for our mind through ears and eyes and need to be processed and filtered before they enter our hearts. Music and color are direct and unfiltered to the heart and gut, they are processed, often making the spectator feel, subjectively vulnerable.

Relax. Breathe. Enjoy art. Allow yourself to be carried away. It’s like falling in love…

Everybody needs art. There is Art for everyone’s state of mind, desires, and tastes. Take a break, reflect and delve into some of my art, to my stories.

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