Monday, September 30, 2013

Looking at Art

Art is about the intend of the artist, the result itself, the viewer and his/her interpretation of the work. The latter being heavily influenced by individual background, a knowledge of art history helps to understand the impact of a work of art and appreciate it ("like" it or not).
What Are You Looking At written by Will Gompertz caught my attention with its catchy subtitle "the surprising, shocking, and sometimes strange story of 150 years of modern art".
The author's statement in the preface makes it clear to the reader, the dialogues between artists are pure fiction and he does not provide his references. The book offers an easy chronological navigation in the world of modern art with a goal of helping the reader interpret artworks in their context.
Movements are well-defined, each the subject of a chapter, sometimes overlapping like Neoplasticism 1917-31, Bauhaus 1919-1933 and Dadaism 1916-1923.
The concepts presented in an informal language, which never becomes colloquial, are easy to grasp and mundane stories are told to cement the big history.
The duo Picasso-Braque, Malevich's fistfight with Tatlin, Duchamp buying THE "fountain"... The author is a great story-teller and transforms a possibly dry and boring subject into a pleasant reading, provoking aha moments along the way, when the relationships between movements, artists, works of art make sense.
The text is illustrated with relevant black and white figures and a section of color photographs. With an obvious deep knowledge, Gompertz manages to present his subject in a clear, entertaining manner.
At the end, he introduces us to the future with question marks. What is next, who?

"Olympia" 1863, Edouard Manet, Wikimedia
"Woman I", 1950-52, Wilhem de Kooning by the author
"My Bed", 1998, Tracy Emin, Flickr photo sharing

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