Instructions

Have you ever come across a painting, by Picasso, Mondrian, Miro, or any other modern abstract painter of this century, and found yourself engulfed in a brightly coloured canvas which your senses cannot interpret? Many people would tend to denounce abstractionism as senseless trash. These people are disoriented by Miro's bright, fanciful creatures and two- dimensional canvases. They click their tongues and shake their heads at Mondrian's grid works, declaring the poor guy played too many scrabble games. They silently shake their heads in sympathy for Picasso, whose gruesome, distorted figures must be a reflection of his mental health. Then, standing in front of a work by Charlie Russell, the famous Western artist, they'll declare it a work of God. People feel more comfortable with something they can relate to and understand immediately without too much thought. This is the case with the work of Charlie Russell. Being able to recognize the elements in his paintings - trees, horses and cowboys - gives people a safety line to their world of "reality". There are some who would disagree when I say abstract art requires more creativity and artistic talent to produce a good piece than does representational art, but there are many weaknesses in their arguments.

People who look down on abstract art have several major arguments to support their beliefs. They feel that artists turn abstract because they are not capable of the technical drafting skills that appear in a Russell; therefore, such artists create an art form that anyone is capable of and that is less time consuming, and then parade it as artistic progress. Secondly, they feel that the purpose of art is to create something of beauty in an orderly, logical composition. Russell's compositions are balanced and rational, everything sits calmly on the canvas, leaving the viewer satisfied that he has seen all there is to see. The modern abstractionists, on the other hand, seem to compose their pieces irrationally. For example, upon seeing Picasso's Guernica, a friend of mine asked me, "What's the point?" Finally, many people feel that art should portray the ideal and real. The exactness of detail in Charlie Russell's work is an example of this. He has been called a great historian because his pieces depict the life style, dress, and events of the times. His subject matter is derived from his own experiences on the trail, and reproduced to the smallest detail.

I agree in part with many of these arguments, and at one time even endorsed them. But now, I believe differently. Firstly, I object to the argument that abstract artists are not capable of drafting. Many abstract artists, such as Picasso, are excellent draftsmen. As his work matured, Picasso became more abstract in order to increase the expressive quality of his work. Guernica was meant as a protest against the bombing of that city by the Germans. To express the terror and suffering of the victims more vividly, he distorted the figures and presented them in a black and white journalistic manner. If he had used representational images and colour, much of the emotional content would have been lost and the piece would not have caused the demand for justice that it did. Secondly, I do not think that a piece must be logical and aesthetically pleasing to be art. The message it conveys to its viewers is more important. It should reflect the ideals and issues of its time and be true to itself, not just a flowery, glossy surface. For example, through his work, Mondrian was trying to present a system of simplicity, logic, and rational order. As a result, his pieces did end up looking like a scrabble board.

Miro created powerful, surrealistic images from his dreams and subconscious. These artists were trying to evoke a response from society through an expressionistic manner. Finally, abstract artists and representational artists maintain different ideas about 'reality'. To the representational artist, reality is what he sees with his eyes. This is the reality he reproduces on canvas. To the abstract artist, reality is what he feels about what his eyes see. This is the reality he interprets on canvas. This can be illustrated by Mondrian's Trees series. You can actually see the progression from the early recognizable, though abstracted, Trees, to his final Explanation, the grid system.

A cycle of abstract and representational art began with the first scratchings of prehistoric man. From the abstractions of ancient Egypt to representational, classical Rome, returning to abstractionism in early Christian art and so on up to the present day, the cycle has been going on. But this day and age may witness its death through the camera. With film, there is no need to produce finely detailed, historical records manually; the camera does this for us more efficiently. Maybe, representational art would cease to exist. With abstractionism as the victor of the first battle, may be a different kind of cycle will be touched off. Possibly, some time in the distant future, thousands of years from now, art itself will be physically non-existent. Some artists today believe that once they have planned and constructed a piece in their mind, there is no sense in finishing it with their hands; it has already been done and can never be duplicated.

Question 88

The author acknowledges that Mondrian's pieces may have ended up looking like a scrabble board because

Solution

The passage states that:

For example, through his work, Mondrian was trying to present a system of simplicity, logic, and rational order. As a result, his pieces did end up looking like a scrabble board.

Hence, option C is the right answer.

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