I saw a documentary last week called “My kid could paint that”. It’s about Maria Olmstead, a 4 year old girl (at the time) who sold abstract paintings for thousands of dollars, thereby vindicating the millions of people out there who think a child could do abstract art. As the documentary progresses doubts are raised whether her parents were the ones behind the paintings, and that aspect of the story takes over the documentary. I would have preferred a discussion on abstract art and why so many people hate it, but that was interesting too.

While I understand people not liking abstract art, I don’t think it’s something a child could do. Apparently most people can tell the difference between an abstract picture done by a child and one done by an adult, so there must be something to it. Not all abstract work is crap. Sure, I may not like Picasso’s paintings, doesn’t mean it doesn’t take skill to do what he did. I think there are two reasons for the disconnect between the art world and the masses.

The first reason is that a lot of art is only accessible to people who have studied it. Most people don’t have an art education, and are not open to the idea of seeing something that doesn’t look like anything. For instance, cubism attempts to show everyday objects in multiple angles at the same time. Most people aren’t aware of that, and so they can only say “The picture says it’s a vase, but it doesn’t look like a vase, therefore it sucks”. The way I see it, a lot of abstract art is experimentation, and some of the things it attempts to do can then be applied to commercial art. In graphic design, thumbnail sketches of layouts resemble constructivist drawings.

The other reason why people don’t like abstract art (and this is my particular beef with it), is that some of it doesn’t look like it requires any skill to do…like abstract expressionism. Moreover, the exorbitant price of some paintings only makes people angrier at the whole charade.

Here is an article that does a better job discussing people’s reaction to abstract art.

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