I was just looking at the Wikipedia page for abstract expressionism, and it led me to a discovery about my psychology of art.
While looking at their examples of the genre, I learned that there is abstract expressionist sculpture as well as painting, and I immediately concluded that I didn’t mind its sculpture, because that at least has to look like real objects, because they are real objects. Objects in paintings can have all kinds of unrealistic boundaries and can generally not look like anything. I prefer paintings that look like something.
Then I thought, well, the objects in these sculptures aren’t anything you’d find in the real world, so they’re not “real” objects, but what I mean is that the sculptures themselves are something real that I could walk around and touch (if that were encouraged). Of course, the paintings are real objects too. The canvas is real. The paint is real. It’s just that what they’re depicting doesn’t look like anything that could really exist.
So I realized that I automatically think of paintings as depicting three-dimensional objects. I always think of them as a window onto a scene. I even think of color fields that way. I think of the color as being projected onto some kind of cloth or screen. Since this style is called abstract expressionism, I wonder if the artists are trying to get away from that way of looking at things. Well, at least the ones like Jackson Pollock.
I think I like the three-dimensionality of sculpture because it allows me to look at it from different angles, which gives me a sense of discovery. And I like paintings that act like windows for a similar reason—I can imagine that something is happening or at least that I’m there interacting what whatever I’m being shown, which again delivers a sense of discovery. Discovery, and newness in general, is one of my major motivating values.
I don’t usually read about art. A couple of days ago I found an iGoogle artist theme by Reg Mombassa, and his style reminded me of a painting I had seen at the Dallas Museum of Art in high school. I had stuck in my mind, but I couldn’t remember the artist, which had always bugged me. It was next to Edward Hopper’s Lighthouse Hill, which I had reproduced in colored pencil for an art history project. So after finding Reg Mombassa, I searched for 20th-century American painters, found a list of them on Artcyclopedia, and started clicking. Finally I just scrolled through the thumbnails and found one that sort of reminded me of the painting, and by chance it was the guy I was looking for: Thomas Hart Benton. The painting was Prodigal Son. From the Wikipedia article on Benton I ended up in the one on abstract expressionism. For some reason I have a compulsion to trace my trains of thought like that, probably because I like to know that my ideas are grounded in something.
I imagine you think of paintings as a window into a scene and not as a 3D object itself very likely because you’ve been conditioned for all of your life to interpret images in that way—photographs, television, non-abstract paintings.
I beg to differ, though, about the “realness” of the objects in many abstract sculptures: Nature produces some very interestingly shaped rocks that bear a certain resemblance to abstract art.