Thursday, February 18, 2010

Abstract Art: Part 3

OK, this is the final post about abstract art. For now. Maybe I'll do some more in the future.

For this final post I thought I would talk about a piece of minimalist art that I really, really like. Yesterday I wrote about how some artist used minimalism as a means of showing that art can have no meaning--that it's just an object. Today, I'll write about how minimalism can be used to represent some very big ideas. The piece of art de jour:

It's the Vietnam Veterans Memorial by Maya Ying Lin.

In case you've never been there before, let me describe it to you. Ahem. It's a huge granite "V" cut into the ground with the names of dead soldiers on it. It doesn't sound like much, but it's the most visited memorial in Washington D.C. People are often moved to tears when they visit it, even those who don't know anyone who fought in the war. I think it's because of what the wall represents. 

The wall is effective because it doesn't try to portray the war. The war is too big of an idea, too emotionally charged to be effectively represented. A sculpture of a soldier wouldn't do it justice. (Interestingly, there is another Vietnam sculpture that was made because this one sparked so much controversy.  It's a depiction of three soldiers standing in their uniforms. I don't think it's nearly as effective.) So Maya Lin chose a different route. She decided that by using minimalist art, she could bypass the usual route and get straight at the symbolism. She thought of the bulldozers ripping into the ground as the war itself, leaving behind a deep scar. The grass would eventually grow back, but the scar will always remain.

Sometimes we want to have something simple represent something bigger. This collection of punctuation marks can represent something: (^.^)! Or think of a wedding ring. That's a great example of some simple object representing a huge concept. I remember when Chris came home from his mission, during his homecoming talk he said he didn't want to share any stories from his mission because it wouldn't do it justice. Maybe he could use a type of minimalist memorial like this one.

So that's it on abstract art! I hope you all have learned a lot and appreciate it a little bit. Sure, you probably could make a lot of modern art yourself in like 5 minutes, but that's not the point.  The point is the ideas behind the idea, and that's a lot harder to think up. There was a big painting that I saw when I went on my class trip to Barcelona which was just a big diagonal line across the canvas. The inscription next to the painting read:
"This painting took a lifetime to prepare for, an instant to create."


Kathy Haynie said...

I, too, find the Vietnam Memorial very moving. And I've thought a lot about the machines in my life since you posted the "Die" picture.

Patricia said...

Dear Bryan,

First off, thanks for your daily posts. We love them!
Sorry I don't comment as often as I read them. I have enjoyed them very much.
Second, thanks for your insights on art. I don't know a lot about art, but have learned more since I've visited several museums around the world. Mostly, I've learned that art is what you feel when you experience it.
Today I taught at the middle school, and there was a sign on the wall by the art room that caught my attention and I thought of you. I was walking to another class, so I couldn't write it down then, but as soon as I was able, I penned the words. It said, "A man paints with his brains and not with his hands." -Michelangelo
I appreciate your brain and your hands when it comes to art.

hadisis Art said...

Dear Bryan,
I am a painter living in Indonesia.
I like the block you, and all the friends who joined in your blog.
I hope by joining here, in addition to adding friends, also will add my insight, especially in the field of art painting.
Greetings introduction from me.