Misconceptions of Contemporary Art

Lindsay Cook, Reporter

For anyone who has attended an art gallery exhibition, the feeling of frustration is overwhelming and familiar. We often find ourselves looking at an exhibited piece and thinking, “How can that toilet seat possibly be art??” Contemporary art, (not to be confused with modern, which is a historical era) is often ambiguous, mysterious, and can feel out of reach to us “peasants” on the sidelines.
Comparatively, pieces like the “Mona Lisa” are accessible, complex, and so embedded in European culture that the general populace instantly understands any reference to lacking eyebrows. However, contemporary art is by no means any less essential or rich in style than art from the Renaissance; we often feel left out of the joke when looking at confusing contemporary pieces. Rather than admitting a lack of knowledge or understanding of context, we take the opportunity to bash the artists who use unconventional methods to create unconventional pieces.
When we look to the past, the more famous artists such as da Vinci or van Gogh are thought to be the model for all art; yet it is often forgotten that in their day such artists received heavy criticism and were barely considered to be talented at all. Monet was scorned and Gentileschi mocked.
Art is and always will be considered revolutionary. It will always be pushing the boundaries of what is socially acceptable, and provide social commentary. That toilet seat you mock is famous because it threw the art community into a frenzy over what qualifies as art. It’s worth millions because it upheaved social expectations that art should be pretty and make you feel good. Art is not only meant to be hung on your wall.
Most people assume that geometric art is indicative of a lack of talent. This is not the case. The artist who painted that monotone-colored block of canvas is just as capable of painting dramatic portraits or a detailed study of the night sky. Instead of judging, step back and consider why they chose to create the art that they did.
When asked about her opinion on contemporary art Mrs. Taylor said, “I get out in the community and look at art a lot. I am always amazed with the makings and going on in the city and state. I love the installations, street art, and gallery exhibitions I see in SLC and the surrounding communities. Utah is a hotbed of great working artists! There are some things I am not drawn to – but quite often, I see the contemporary pieces with an artist statement which helps me understand their intent and the context within which it was created. I don’t love it all, and at times will avert my gaze – other stuff I just can’t tear my gaze away…..I don’t know if it has a bad rep. – don’t care. If people don’t like it – they can’t be forced. I think education and an open mind will help people develop an appreciation for all art genre and make it more accessible to the general population.”