Have you ever looked at a piece of modern art or sculpture and thought, "I could have done that when I was five years old"? Maybe you've thought, "I just don't get it!" or "How is this art?"
Broadly speaking, there are two types of art, representational and abstract. Representational art portrays specific, recognizable physical objects. You can react to the painting and decide quickly whether or not you like what you see. Abstract art, on the other hand, features designs that do not look like specific physical objects, but rather lines, space, color, and shapes are the subject of the art.
Some early abstract paintings portray objects that have been "abstracted,"
or taken from nature, such as Claude Monet's Water Lilies.
Although the objects don't really look real, they are close enough
that you know what you are looking at. Other abstract paintings
show no signs of reality; all you see are shapes, colors, lines,
and patterns. For example, Jackson Pollock, a pioneer of what came
to be called "action painting," would fasten large canvases to the
floor of his studio and then drip, fling, and spill paint on them.
At first glance, Pollock's work may look like a kindergarten class gone wild with the tempera paints. You might even ask, "Is it art?" Well, for most of history, the primary purpose of painting was to portray images, rather than to evoke feelings and emotions. Art was created for decoration, to tell a story, to capture or preserve an image, or to illustrate an idea. But as art became more abstract, artists began to create something that, when viewed by an observer, evokes subconscious feelings and emotions. To fully appreciate this type of art, you must be willing to throw your conscious out the window and allow your feelings and emotions to take over.
Now that doesn't mean that you will automatically have a personal connection with every abstract painting. Abstract art is like a mirror: What you see in the art reflects your personality and your experiences. So, perhaps the next time you look at a work by Wassily Kandinsky, Mark Rothko, or Joan Miro, rather than asking, "What do I think about this piece of abstract art?" it would be better to ask, "How do I feel?"