Monday, October 29, 2012

What Are You Looking At? by Will Gompertz

What Are You Looking At? The Surprising, Shocking, and Sometimes Strange Story of 150 Years of Modern Art. Will Gompertz. Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated. October 2012. 432 pp. hardcover. ISBN #: 9780525952671.

Here is a comprehensive, readable book for those ranging from art lovers who those looking at modern art and thinking, "I don't have a clue to what this is!"  

Beginning with a short overview of how art as investment increases for both living and dead artists, the author begins with the story of how Marcel Duchamp rocked the art world with his "Fountain," a urinal turned upside down with some drilled holes.  The point?  What do you see?  The artist would say to keep looking and then the layers of meaning may unfold for the viewer - or - perhaps it's just a urinal which elicits a variety of responses from the viewer.  Is Gustave Courbet's "The Origin of the World" pornography or much more than its surface physicality? These flagrantly different  conceptions are comic yet also a window into the world of contemplation and artistic creation that spans 150 years, that which is called "modern art."

The text then covers multiple schools of art, beginning with pre-Impressionism and Impressionism which is much more than many viewers perceive of as "just dots" and really convey the first time artists wanted to paint outdoors, carefully watching how light and shade created beauty in nature's everyday scenes.  It also describes how the artists of this period risked so much and even started their own schools to rival the prevailing "Academy" system, speaking for the passion of creativity that they felt deserved a larger, appreciative audience.

So this story continues with coverage of Cezanne, Primitivism, Fauvism, Cubism, Futurism, Suprematism, Constructivism, Neo-Plasticism, Dadaism, Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art, Conceptualism, Minimalism, Post-Modernism, and Art Now.  Making art three-dimensional on a flat surface, variations of color expressing how one views reality with more vivid colors creating emotional appeal, art with two simple colors that viewed long enough brought the viewer's unconscious into the perception, and so much more.

What Are You Looking At?... is a fascinating, intelligently written, very readable look into similarities, differences, and new concepts in the modern artistic world quite frequently seen at the Museum of Modern Art as well as other museums and galleries throughout the world.  It's a must read for every person who wants to understand and appreciate great art!  Superb and highly recommended!!!

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