Recently, I was asked, “What kind of art do you like”? A simple question but one I found incredibly difficult to answer. ‘I like lots of different types’ seemed inane. So did listing them, post impressionism, abstraction, installation…I don’t mind a bit of humor. I don’t like being too creeped out. I prefer painting to sculpture. I don’t want all technique and no emotion. Or all emotion and no technique. None seem satisfactory answers.
There’s always the old standby, stealing Justice Potter Stewart’s definition of pornography-I know it when I see it. And while that’s true, since being asked the question, I have been thinking about trying to figure out a real answer.
The hard problem is that every answer is both simultaneously true and false. For example, I have found that the more I learn about an artist or about an art form the more I love it. Except when I don’t. While I love Duchamp and have some knowledge about him, I have refused to learn anything about one of my favorite pieces, Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors. (Go see it at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.) I’ve always found the piece to be incredibly moving and unlike my general attitude to everything else art related I’ve decided to keep my interaction with the piece solely emotional rather than intellectual. I don’t know why.
Another answer that is both true and false; I want art that shows me something I haven’t seen before, either visually or emotionally. Look at enough art in enough galleries and you feel like you are seeing the same pieces over and over again. Something fresh, something that makes me stop and look again, is always desired. On the other hand, I can find myself visiting the same paintings over and over again, and the pleasure and impact is still there.
And none of these answers address perhaps the more important question, which is why do you like art at all? Why does it feel so important and so worthwhile? But perhaps that’s best left for another day.