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Drawing the line between art and abstraction

Over+the+years%2C+the+meaning+of+art+has+changed+from+classical+art+to+with+limiting+rules+to+more+open-minded+demonstrations+of+beauty.
Inaaya Yousuf
Over the years, the meaning of art has changed from classical art to with limiting rules to more open-minded demonstrations of beauty.

Classical art

From the ancient Greeks and Romans, classical art became prominent, and it continued to influence art produced in the following centuries while becoming the standard. For this style, there was an emphasis on form, proportion, perfection and restrained emotion. As a result, artists with strong mechanical skills were more rewarded as they were able to replicate near-perfect copies of the real-life objects they were trying to depict. This was extremely limiting to those who wanted to express themselves differently and restrained their artistic execution. Tastemakers also began demanding this specific style, not allowing other skills to flourish.

“Here’s the important thing behind art,” art teacher Matthew Reynolds said. “It’s about: Who are the tastemakers of this era? In the future? Who is making the decisions about whose art is valuable? Whose art gets to be remembered?”

Much of the art that was being put into museums were decided by tastemakers — the people who ultimately decided whether or not a piece was “worthy” enough. However, art shouldn’t be decided by a group of people who have influence on the art world, but rather it’s case by case. During the Renaissance period from the 14th to 17th centuries, classical art was reborn and largely influenced western art. “David” by Michelangelo was made extremely meticulously, having the exact proportions of an idealized human figure. At the time, this was the standard that artists had to follow. Similarly, the “Mona Lisa” by Leonardo da Vinci is characterized by her mysterious yet realistic expression, and embodied the ideal woman of the time. Though these masterpieces are beautiful, they emphasize how harsh the standards for art were at the time.

Modern art

Modern art became popular in the 1860s and maintained its popularity until the 1970s. This was a completely new movement that broke many of the unwritten principles of art previously set. Artists could then focus more on expression and develop their own personal style. Unconventional materials such as metal and mixed media, where multiple different traditional mediums are combined, were used to reach a unique product. 

Many people were confused by this sudden change in style and did not easily accept this new movement. However, since art is about expression, it should represent the artist’s message and should not have to follow any predetermined rules. Being able to communicate emotions is more valuable than perfect portrayals of a subject. This often includes showcasing things beyond what can be seen visually such as stories and emotions. 

“The intent of sitting down and making something to express oneself, a concept or an idea, and  putting something out there for somebody else to view or interact with is important,” Reynolds said. “If that one single person has an idea and finds a way to manifest that as an art object, I think for me, whether or not I like it, it is art.”

Popular pieces that incorporate these themes include Jackson Pollock’s “Number 1, 1950 (Lavender Mist).” Visually, there isn’t a solid object that the viewer’s eyes can latch onto; instead, their eyes are constantly wandering, following the flow of the different paint strokes. These pieces evoke deeper thoughts from the viewer about what is really happening in the piece, which in itself is art.

Contemporary art

In the 20th century, contemporary art appeared, mainly characterized by the pushing of boundaries to what can be considered art. However, this open acceptance of expression has led to many controversial pieces being produced and sold. 

There should be a boundary between real art and random lines on a canvas. The artist should have demonstrated incredible technical skill in the past to showcase their capabilities. Otherwise, someone who has no experience could declare themselves as skilled of an artist as someone who practiced for years. “The Comedian” by Maurizio Cattelan portrays a banana taped to a wall, a piece that has been going viral in the past few years. This piece was made to mock and “laugh” at the art world for allowing so many odd pieces to reach fame, including itself.

“I don’t agree with artists who are like ‘What can I do just to get out there and get more eyes and more clicks?’” Reynolds said. “It’s like the art-equivalent of clickbait.”

Often, it contains elements that don’t depict any specific subject, but rather an abstract concept. This idea was first developed in the modern-art era, which began in the 19th century. This makes it very different from traditional standards, making people question whether or not it should really be considered art. However, there should be a standard that creative pieces must fulfill to fit into the category of real art. Art will continue to break traditional standards as our society moves forward, and we should be open-minded and discover the beauty that isn’t just surface-level visuals. Art is subjective and differs between artists; however, it should have been made with effort and the intent of enjoyment, making it art rather than a low effort painting.

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About the Contributors
Amanda Jin, Staffer
(she/her) Amanda is a sophomore and a new staffer for the Epic. In her free time, she enjoys playing video games, listening to music, and watching random cat videos.
Inaaya Yousuf, Staffer
(she/her) Inaaya is a junior and this is her second year as an Epic staff member. Outside of school, she loves reading, writing, and watching Formula 1.

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