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(Un)common visual language: Real World – Art World

One of the most beautiful things about art is communication. It has been with humanity since the cave painting days of 30,000 years ago. It can start a discussion, display a point of view, start a revolution and so much more. In the “art world,” there is a common visual language. When artwork is referenced and there is a cultural context that is used just as word choice is used in a language. We can all recognize the Mona Lisa. We can all recognize Adam’s hand outstretched to God on the Sistine Chapel. We can read that the baby is Jesus in Madonna’s arms regardless of if we are Christian. Art language has its basics, but it also has its nuances. The more conceptual a work, speaking with layers of art history and purely learned non-instinctual context, the more it is art for art world’s sake. The easier to read and more direct a piece the more that the general public is invited to participate without extensive explanation. Take for example the Lisson Gallery’s upcoming show of James Casebere’s work. From the press release: For his exhibition in Milan, Casebere once again executes a shift in perspective, this time immersing the viewer in the midst of landscapes that directly reference the art of the past to critically address man’s uneasy relationship with nature today. A major new piece from last year, Sea of Ice, and related works Trees and Bushes in the Snow (all 2014) revisit the work of the German Romantic landscape painter Caspar David Friedrich (1774 – 1840) to comment subtly on climate crisis. http://www.lissongallery.com/exhibitions/james-casebere–3 This work...

I’m Starting to See

Have you ever really looked at something? Now, most of us aren’t blind, and we’ve seen a lot of things, every day, day in and day out. But did you really look? Perhaps you did a double take. A triple take? But, have you taken a long hard analyzing look? It was years before I did. I thought I had. One summer in my college years I worked in Yosemite National Park. This allowed me ample time to draw. One afternoon I sat on a meadow path drawing Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls. A couple stopped and watched me draw for a minute. The woman made a remark about me being lucky to have enough time to draw when every one else was taking a photo. I explained that I was living there for the whole summer so that I had the time. She said that she wished she had the time but that they had to hurry in order to see everything during their short visit. I’ve thought about this for years. For a while I had sense of self-righteousness about this. Like, “I looked, they didn’t.” Luckily, I’m starting to get over myself. While I took 30 minutes to look at something that everyone else decided to capture in a split second, I could have looked for much longer. I could have sat there for hours and watched the changes that come with the passing day. There’s only so much time we can spend in one spot, looking at one thing. Many of us have never taken the time to really look at something. Have you watched...