Don’t Judge an Artist by their Simplicity

“Katlynn, I could’ve done that.”

Anyone else get this reaction after going to see abstract art with family/friends? It’s frustrating, but sometimes you catch yourself thinking the same thing. Why is this guy famous for a squiggle on a canvas? What’s the big deal about this woman’s random rectangles all over the page?

Abstract art is as hard to make as it is to understand, believe it or not. I learned this after going to Marywood’s very own Suraci Gallery to see the American Abstract Artists (AAA) 75th Anniversary Print Portfolio show. The pieces might look simple at first, but you can’t judge a piece of art by its random squiggles. The show featured work by AAA members such as Emily Berger, Manfred Mohr, and Thornton Willis.

Abstract art dates back to the 1930’s and has survived despite many attempts throughout history to stop it. Robert Storr, the dean of the Yale School of Art, wrote in the portfolio introduction to this show that, even though the AAA is getting older, abstract art remains a channel for new ideas. He explained that the AAA cherishes the “value of visual experience” and describes abstract art as the “poetry of the plain.”

This particular portfolio is actually the first of the AAA to be digitally produced. Past portfolios were printed using “old-school” lithography and printmaking. But don’t worry, digital didn’t stop the artists from adding unique craftsmanship to their work. They used techniques such as photography, scanning, digital composting, and vector art with hand-coded algorithms.

Overall, abstract artists see beauty and complexity in things we usually find simple. This skill deserves our respect, even if we don’t see things like they do. These artists appreciate the simple things that today’s high-tech world take for granted.

The AAA show will be up until October 18th in the Suraci Gallery. A free gallery talk about the show will be given by professor and AAA member Steven Alexander on September 30th, 2015 at 3 PM.


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