Modern art not just lines and colors

As an art major, I have heard many varying opinions on the quality of particular groups of art. One group in particular, modern art, seems to get picked on and criticized the most. I usually find this stems from a lack of true knowledge and understanding on the subject.

Modern art was the time of the “ism.” From Realism to Impressionism to Symbolism, each type had its own unique style. Although each of these groups has a certain uniqueness to it, the artists from all of these groups had several things in common. Most notably, these artists began to trust their inner visions, and they began to create art based on real life as opposed to the many religious based art pieces. Additionally, they began to incorporate modern life and social issues into their work.

These artists were innovators and unafraid to explore types of images that had never been created before. They were ready and willing to break the mold, which history has shown us time and time again is no easy feat.

The endless comment that I hear about modern art is “I could do that.” Do you really think you could? First, would you be willing to center your life and career around the creation of art? Then would you be willing to change the face of it entirely? These are the reasons that modern artists are so revered. Stay with me here, I’ll explain.

As a graphic design major, one artist I am very fond of is Piet Mondrian. He worked during the De Stijl movement, but created his own style called Neo-Plasticism. These groups focused on pure abstraction and the reduction to essentials.

 In many cases, Mondrian only used the primary colors. His piece titled “Composition II in Red, Blue, and Yellow” consists of a white background with black lines and squares of each of the primary colors. It may seem incredibly simple, but he was the first to do it. He did it with reason and called it art.

Many consider the painting “Broadway Boogie-Woogie” to be Mondrian’s masterpiece. At first look, this grid of red, yellow and blue squares may not make much sense, but the title explains much of its purpose. It is an abstraction of the grid of Manhattan and inspired by the lively music that Mondrian loved to dance to. It incorporates the taxis on the streets and the flashing signs of Broadway. In short, it shows a whole lot with very little and it works.

As I said before, the key to understanding modern and abstract art is the knowledge that everything was done for a specific reason. It wasn’t necessarily done because it was an impressive technical feat.

Pablo Picasso is famous for painting in the style of Cubism. I’ve heard many people say that they consider his art weird and unappealing. Picasso is not famous for his ability to paint a realistic human form. In a way, his art is almost mathematical. He painted objects so that every plane was visible from the front. He broke them down, reassembled them and laid them flat. The subject is shown from multiple viewpoints rather that just one. The result is a strange and unique piece of art.

I tell you all of this not to be condescending. I wanted to point all of this out because I find that too many people reject modern art because they have no understanding of why it is important. A simplistic pattern created for a reason does not equal “easy.”

I consider the phrase “I could do that” a challenge. If you look at a piece of art and say it, then I hope you are ready to change the face of the art world once again. I think it’s high time for a new movement, anyway.