Can This System Hold the “Keys” to Modern Art?
Art Business

Can This System Hold the “Keys” to Modern Art?

Louise Bourgeois with ‘Maman,’ Brooklyn (photo © Jean-François Jaussaud / Art: © The Easton Foundation) Let’s face it: to an inexperienced viewer, modern art can seem bizarre and intimidating, if not indecipherable. In the recent western canon, urinals are given as much importance as depictions of world war; abstraction coexists with realism; and experiential works that seem to have been designed for Instagram-sharing are gaining more and more traction. In Seven Keys to Modern Art , artist and lecturer Simon Morley presents a system that might help us find meaning in this madness. He outlines seven “keys” — various lenses through which he interprets twenty modern artworks, from Kazimir Malevich’s “Black Square” to Louise Bourgeois’ “Maman.” First, he presents the “biographical” and “historical” keys, which provide the reader with insight into the artist’s life and historical context. The “aesthetic” key analyzes an artwork’s formal properties, while the “experiential” key highlights the affective and psychological impact a work can have on viewers across time.The “theoretical” key aims to examine how the work of art explores abstract philosophical concepts (such as existence or causality), and how that same artwork operates within its institutional framework. The “skeptical” key helps us identify shortcomings […]

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