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How to look at art

Art is a very personal thing. It is subjective. There are no truths in the art world - only opinions.

I frequently notice that when people walk into our gallery, people I have not seen before, they often act as if they feel insufficient. I guess this is because they assume that we know more than they do. And while this may be true. It really doesn't matter.

(I must insert here that I am speaking about my experiences in our gallery and that to a large extent, I think we are different from many other galleries. Whether or not this is really true, I am not sure. What I think makes us different is that we care not only about people who may purchase something from us, but we also care about people who care about art, regardless of their intent to buy from us.)

The art world, to the novice, seems big and scary, with a zillion things to consider before knowing what one likes and all to often the brain gets in the way of one's aesthetic experience.

To a very large extent, art is not a mental thing. It is an emotional thing. To enjoy art, and to further one's knowledge of art it is best to start simply by:

1) looking at art

2) asking oneself if you like what your are looking at

3) moving on.

At the end of any given period of time (an hour, a day, a week, or longer), from memory, take a look at the things you liked. Is there a common thread that runs through what you responded to? Maybe you like work that is red, or you like things that tell a story, or you like black and white lines, or old art, or na´ve art, or aboriginal art, or whatever.

There should not be self-judgment going on here. Don't say "I know I am supposed to like this but don't." Instead, just say to yourself "I don't like it." or "Hmmm, I like this," and leave it at that. Keep in mind that this is not a mental experience as much as it is an emotional one. Let your eyes and your gut respond, keep your head out of it for the time-being.

Once you have seen enough art, you will realize that there are certain types of art you respond to. They may all be in one category or they may fall into three groups or whatever. This is fine. Accept what it is that you respond to.

Now that you have a certain type of art that you realize you like, try to get more information about what you respond to.

Go to museums or galleries that you think will have what you like. Ask some questions. Museums have docents to lead tours and/or answer questions. People in galleries are they to help out. If they think you might buy something they will almost always be helpful. A "good" gallery will help you.

Look at some art magazines, or art books. If they have stuff you like, read about it. If the writing sounds too esoteric (a lot of art writing is total goobledygook) toss it and find something else.

Another thing you can do when looking at art publications; books, magazines, whatever, is to use the same criteria you did in looking at art. Look at the pictures, see what you respond to, and if you like it read more about it. I am not suggesting that you buy a ton of books. I am suggesting libraries, perusing the magazine racks in book stores, the books in those stores and the like. If it hits you right, you might want to buy it, but there is a lot you can learn without spending much money.

Do not assume that what you are reading is written by someone who is speaking the truth - remember: there are no truths in the art world, only opinions. If what the writer is saying sounds okay, go with it. Follow your instincts.

That's really about it. What happens with this process is that your taste, your aesthetic will progressively get more refined, and then you will either move on to something else or explore this one further.

Keep the following in mind: if there are no truths in the art world, only opinions; your opinion is as good as anyone else's. There is no need to feel insufficient.

KLEIN ART WORKS    400 North Morgan Chicago, IL 60622    (312) 243-0400