Experimentation is the Answer…If the Question is How to Make Art

This week’s gallery and museum exhibition selections feature people who chose to experiment rather than follow the crowd, pushing art into new styles and forms. Now, we all know this isn’t easy: it requires a willingness to make and learn from mistakes, a fair amount of tenacity, and a hell of a lot of thinking. Still, for those who are ready to try, the reward is not about fame and fortune (as nice as they are) but getting an idea from your mind to the paper, canvas, or object. After that, it’s up to the art to find its audience, although the cynic in us says the audience in question will a: get it wrong, b: interpret it according to their thoughts, not the artist’s, or c: get it right, but not for a while.

But we digress.

The art we’re discussing this week was made by three very different people who worked hard at putting their ideas into action, generating unusual combinations and strong emotions in viewers. In ‘Opening This Week’ featuring the photographer Kali, her manipulation of the chemicals used to print photographs created complex layers of color and shapes over the original picture. The surface effect has a psychedelic flavor to it but on closer examination the obscuring and coloration altering the base image produces a change in the viewer’s perception. In E. McKnight Kauffer’s work (in ‘Gallery Shows’), his synthesis of new art styles and ideas in the era between the world wars made for era-defining graphic images to represent a diverse commercial clientele. And finally, Jasper Johns simply decided he could not and would not do art in the prevalent style of abstract expressionism, instead choosing to make work that answered only to his own ideas. You can learn more about his art in our review of the Whitney’s new show ‘Jasper Johns: Mind/Mirror’.