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It’s been a while since I actually visited the MoMA’s abstract expressionism exhibit, but I still remember the art very clearly.  But even more clearly, I remember the emotions and preconceptions I had coming into the museum and how much they changed throughout the exhibit.  I had always viewed abstract expressionists as con artists who randomly threw paint on a canvas then sold it as art.  Now, thanks to the tour by Agnes Berecz, my opinion of these abstract artists has been altered.

Agnes began with a little history of the abstract expressionist movement in the early 1900s.  This was interesting enough, but what really caught my attention was the way in which she explained the mindset and inspiration of some of the artists.  This helped me make sense of some paintings that at first seemed to have no subject matter.  She also described the techniques of some artists, like Hans Hofmann.  When she explained the optical impressions of different colors, like the depth of cool colors and the boldness of red colors, and how Hofmann used these impressions in his painting, it became clear to me that there was indeed a lot of technique in abstract expressionism.

One thing I never understood about abstract expressionism was the assortment of colors on the canvas.  Thanks to Hofmann I now understood the thought process behind the use of different colors, but I still couldn’t get how they could just throw it on a canvas with seemingly no pattern at all.  I couldn’t consider it art, probably because I didn’t know much about art at the time.  But thanks to this exhibit, and this class as a whole, I understand art in a much different way.  When I see paintings from Arshile Gorky, I no longer look for what they meant to the artist or the people around me; I look inside myself to see which emotions they bring out of my own mind.  When I let the painting inspire me instead of looking for the artist’s inspiration, I enjoy them on an entirely different level.  After gaining a bit of insight as to how much skill and effort is put into each painting, I can comfortably look at a lot more expressionist art and let them draw emotion out of me.

Now I appreciate abstract expressionism, as long as it can bring out emotions in me.  Some art, like the Red Canvas White Line that we’ve talked about so much in class still fails to appeal to me, but I have developed huge respect for many other expressionists, Pollock in particular. The way he manipulates and blurs the lines of direction and orientation make his paintings even more accessible because it allows me to interpret his work in the way I see fit.  I also find his innovation admirable.  Pollock used anything to paint anything; he would use things like knives, sticks, or his own fingers to paint, and his subject matter was too deep to be depicted as something tangible or literal.

To say that I appreciated this exhibit is an understatement.  I not only learned a lot about the abstract expressionist movement, but I also learned about myself.  I now know that it’s impossible to determine what “art” is, and all I can do is continue to explore my mind and enjoy what I can.

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