If you’ve been on TikTok over the past few months, you may have seen a trend in which museum-goers stand next to pieces they believe they could have painted. From an artist’s perspective, it’s a disheartening trend. It reduces art to its blandest definition: something pretty to look at.
When many people think of abstract art, their mind tends to conjure up blank canvases or fruit taped to walls — something with a total lack of significance. In reality, abstract art is something with deep meaning and skill sets that many viewers simply neglect or refuse to acknowledge.
An example that may be familiar if you’ve seen the previously mentioned TikTok trend is the painting “IKB 79” by Yves Klein. At first glance, it may seem as though there’s nothing special about it. Blue canvas, wow. Amazing work.
Examining the context of the piece, though, you’d realize that Klein created an entirely new paint to make that painting. Klein was obsessed with color, and found a unique way to preserve the vibrancy of ultramarine pigment in the process of making paint.
And thus, a blue so striking that it draws the viewer in was born.
Of course, it’s easy to find such a color on our phones, so it’s nothing impressive when you’re scrolling and happen upon a piece like that. In real life, though, it’s an entirely different experience. It’s such a vivid blue that it pulls you in and makes you wonder how someone created such a color so pure.
For another example, take Barnett Newman. Newman was an abstract artist that created a number of paintings that enraged some viewers at the time and still do to this day. His pieces are another example of something that, at a quick glance, one may write off as requiring little to no skill to create.
However, Newman’s paintings were special in that they had no distinguishable brush strokes. This takes an incredibly steady hand to do and is difficult to fully appreciate without seeing his pieces in real life. His works were created in such a way that they look as though they were printed onto the canvas.
Even disregarding the important political contexts behind his works, the skill and patience behind paintings such as his goes largely unappreciated by most viewers. After all, why would anyone stay long enough to ponder the context when they could simply scroll to the next, more stimulating piece of content?
Newman’s steady hand was something so difficult to replicate that when one of his paintings was vandalized, no conservators even wanted to attempt restoring it. Months later, when someone did step forth to do the job, they botched the painting so badly with improper technique that the original was considered to be completely destroyed.
Abstract art is largely unpopular with modern viewers, and it’s no wonder why. There is essential context to every piece that the average viewer often has no interest in, especially when viewed through a screen.
There are so many abstract, modern and contemporary artists that have created pieces with deep meaning and through incredible feats of skill. Art, though many would disagree, is not always meant to be a simple display of aestheticism. In fact, that’s rarely what it’s meant to be.