What can make a museum membership worthwhile are repeated viewings of works of the Old Masters, and thinking about them chronologically and relative to contemporary art.
In my observations of visitors to the Art Institute of Chicago, Impressionist paintings still get the most "Likes". They were in some sense, the first "postcards", depicting scenes of people reclining, in places such as La Grande Jatte and the Bois de Boulogne. These artists really must have felt that a new zeitgeist had arrived, and perhaps viewers well over a century later are picking up on that feeling. In some ways Impressionism was the foreshadowing of abstraction, something we are now perfectly comfortable with.
"Only with the Impressionists did aesthetic theory begin to accept the view that the pictorial image is a product of the mind rather than a deposit of the physical object. The realization that the image differs in principle from the physical object lays the groundwork for the doctrine of modern art. The similar fundamental break with tradition occurs in the psychology of visual experience a few decades later. The comparison with Impressionist painting can also help us to understand the nature of "visual hints" and "flashes". Instead of spelling out the detailed shape of a human figure or a tree the Impressionists offered an approximation, a few strokes, which were not intended to create the illusion of the fully duplicated figure or tree....The elusive quality of such experiences is hard to capture with our language, which commonly describes objects by their tangible, material dimensions. But it is a quality and valuable for abstract thought in that it offers the possibility of reducing a theme visually to a skeleton of essential dynamic features, none of which is a tangible part of the actual object" Arnheim, Rudolf. Visual Thinking. Berkeley: U of California, 1969. 108
The Impressionist gallery is one of the two "ante rooms" for the museum, the other displays 18th- century religious-themed work by Tiepolo. They are the first two galleries at the top of the grand staircase, and is my understanding has been this way since the museum was built.
(If the museum was virtual, the galleries would be the equivalent of what's not at the top of the stairs but what has ascended to the top of your Facebook feed.)
As you move through the European Art galleries from the 16th-century forward, you realize the painters started having more freedom in what they were doing, from themes to pallets, to artists signing the work. (Artists didn't typically sign paintings and were usually attributed to a collective or studio of artisans.) Painting was gradually becoming more innovative--surely with Van Gogh and Cezanne. Technological progress was evident. Certainly, Monet's Water Lilly series was full of a sense of freedom of experimentation with light effects and use of more high-frequency color (blues and purples) as well as oriental influences such as Japanese woodblock prints.
By the 1900s, technology again was having an influence, with the advent of electricity, radio broadcasts and new forms of automation, as grist for new freedoms of expression. The idea of "pop" must have been there in its earliest stirrings, but the term would take fifty years to be coined. There was also the element of speed; They were simply painting faster, because the allure of abstraction obviated the painting of things like catch-lights with a one-hair brush. By 1950 Pollock was almost "supersonic" in paint application.
Ironically the galleries showing the 17th and 18th-century Dutch portraits seemed to get very little traffic. These were commissioned "look at me's". The gallery with the famous Rembrandt "Old Man With a Gold Chain" was almost empty.
The contrast between the Old Master's work and contemporary work is shocking. It could be that people are still attracted to the ambiguity inherent in 20th-century art. It could be that the "don't make me think" contingent is shrinking. Given the heady nature of contemporary SciArt, we love thinking.
Perhaps the feeling is "we're not going back to the old ways". Painting with a mop and paint bucket is still somehow more interesting and you can tell by its popularity in the galleries, even if people don't get it. But they're getting something...
To be a successful artist you need just a few popular pieces that are completely misunderstood, or understood for reasons other than your own.
The most interesting area for any medium, whether old or new is how users synthesize them, and in some sense "misuse" them for artistic effect. Architects build VR walk-throughs expecting that people will walk around in the rooms and look out of the windows, but some people apparently like to jump out of them as a way to blithely explore the extremes of the technology.
Creativity is like a variable weather system. There is "flow" but patterns can persist into a kind of doldrums. That's why I like to make my own slight perturbations or interruptions of the process, and sometimes decamp to another medium altogether.
There really is no flow when certain parts of a project are tedious and boring (like music mixing), but once something is resolved or completed, there is a kind of flow in retrospect, which is very useful for the sake of perseverance in one's craft.
For example, I hate tweaking individual tracks, but I like the effect it has on the song itself, and in the other songs in an album or playlist. Ultimately there's a flow in a larger system.
I love working in the digital realm, but computers can become too seductive, drawing everything into themselves, such that the spiritual aspects ("soul") can't escape their allure. (Computers can create fake Flow, masquerading as endless editing).
"Flow" is a term of art word that flows and ebbs based on the flows in your inner experience and what the mood is. When Flow is high, the ideas (seem) good, and you're on a High. When the ideas need shaping usually the Flow is low, but can give one the feeling that you always operate in flow in the end, you just don't see it as such in edit mode.
Photographs of banal subjects are interesting because they exist in the gap between pictoriality and nothingness.
Very often your best ideas will happen within 15 minutes after you begin creative work. Luck comes early, or is always present; You just have to access that "wavelength", or get in the "red zone", like the Stoplight Loosejaw. Or as David Lynch says, "Catching the Big Fish", where "you've got to go deeper".
We know that there is an intimate connection established between new technologies and what art becomes as a result.
I like what James Bridle has done with the self-driving car as a didactic subject for art.
The new definition of an Artist now slips along with trends. The interesting thing about the New Aesthetic is that it isn't necessarily concerned with aesthetics but rather how aesthetics as an aspect of cognition, affects "artistic" behaviors. As artists give us alternate ways of seeing, new artists give us new ways of awareness of technology.
Art can't just be about decoration. Once cleverness came into the picture, pictures (aesthetics) were less interesting. Art can still be that, but hasn't been that way since Dada.
Artists like Ellsworth Kelly abstracted things seen in the world, such as shapes of windows and shapes of shadows. What we have with New Aesthetic is the new shape and shadow of inspiration, not in the real world but in networks.
You can't make art without a sense of spirituality at some point, either at the time it is being created by the artist(s), or perhaps centuries later. Even digital art made completely with algorithms can have spiritual qualities. Consider early prototypes of robots (or even their voices), that we can become endeared to. It is the appreciation or love of the art and/or technology that gives it special meaning, that may or may not have been there at the time of its creation. The goal shouldn't necessarily be the perfect union of human and machine but rather the useful emotions that emerge as a result. (10/2016)
Creative blocks are typically the result of perfectionism and fear of making mistakes. Creative jams, or bottlenecks arise from being overwhelmed by possibilities. This is why imposing limitations and constraints is an effective strategy. If you make a mistake you can blame the limitations.
Younger generations will more readily adopt new technologies because the more recent technologies are all they've ever experienced, and will fully invest in them. It takes a while for feelings of nostalgia to arise, and when it does, the common one is that analog is a superior technology. When all there was was analog, it wasn't always better. The grass is always greener on the other side of the technology fence when the new technology starts to grow weeds.
The problem lies not in the state of the technology, but the ideas it allows or disallows. It's not that one technology obviates the other; it just shifts our attention for a while. Like the thinking that one understands a book merely on its title, understanding art through its technology is ultimately misguided.
I hardly ever read an e-book if I can get a print version, or perhaps the audio version. I think a lot of people are more attracted to print now because it removes the noise of opinion. This is also why I prefer looking at framed photographs in galleries: it reduces the experience to a room, a wall and contemplation of the image in context with others in the room. I want to know as much as I can about them with the limited time viewing them.
Richard Dawkins remarked in a recent interview with Sam Harris that the success of the "The Selfish Gene" is almost entirely in its title. People appropriate it based on the word "selfish" and never really know what the book is about or what the main point is about natural selection.
If you look only at the technology (or what the technology makes possible), you can completely miss the point.