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Interpretation vs. Experience:
When learning about art like Pollock’s and, indeed, a lot of post-war art, it can be tempting to conclude that training and skill don’t matter because the art is more about big ideas than anything else. But while it is true that ideas are centrally important to the analysis of art, it is important to consider how interpretation differs from experience. When you look at a work of art in person, you might start thinking about what it means that someone made it, or even consider its place within the history of art. Or you might have an emotional and visceral response and look at it in awe, unable to think anything at all. And many times, you might just be confused. Need some help analyzing art? Try these two lessons: Andy Warhol, Campbell's Soup Cans: Why is this Art? and How art can help you analyze by Amy E. Herman.

Paradoxically, sometimes the more you know about an artist, the movement they are associated with or the ideas that are prevalent about their work, the harder it can be to actually see what you’re looking at. Because of this, when you study art history in a university setting, one of the first and most important things you learn is to look at something closely and for an extended period of time. The longer you look at something, the more it reveals to you, and the better you can be at connecting the theories you read about to the reality of an experience viewing art. Try the TED-Ed lesson Why is this painting so captivating? by James Earle and Christina Bozsik. 

The opportunity to immerse yourself in a piece of art is one of the main reasons that museums are so useful - but also why they can sometimes be frustrating.  For a list of the art museums across the world, visit ARTCYCLOPEDIA. It’s always ideal for visitors to feel that they understand the art, or can at least take something away from the experience. Curators and others responsible for museums face a constant dilemma: is it better to provide visitors with helpful but distracting information, or to leave the interaction between art and viewer unmediated, risking that they have no idea what to think at all? For more on art museums, watch this TED Ed lesson: Building a museum of museums on the web.

There’s no right way to view art - it's worth bearing in mind that a lot of art is about asking questions and trying to find ways to communicate things that are impossible to express through language. So whenever you see something you don't understand at all, try spend as much time as possible looking at it before giving in to the urge to seek external information about it.  Because, if the artist just wanted us to think about ideas, they wouldn’t have needed to create their art in the first place. He or she could have just written an essay instead. For another lesson about another type of art, watch What is Minimalist Art and Why Does It Matter?

If you want to learn more about why art historians and critics are so interested in Jackson Pollock and Abstract Expressionism, there are many interesting articles and essays to read. Ann Gibson’s essay in the list below is especially recommended, as it not only discusses the significance of Pollock’s work, but also approaches it from a critical angle. And no list of Pollock literature would be complete without mention of Clement Greenberg, who championed Pollock’s work as a revolution in painting.

Ann Gibson, “The Abstract Expressionist Hero,” in Abstract Expressionism: Other Politics (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997), 1-17, 196-200.

Clement Greenberg, “The Crisis of the Easel Picture,” in Partisan Review (April 1948), reprinted in Clement Greenberg: The Collected Essays and Criticism, vol. 2, 1945-49 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986).

Rosalind Krauss, “The Crisis of the Easel Picture,” in Kirk Varnedoe and Pepe Karmel, eds., Jackson Pollock: New Approaches, (New York: MoMA, 1999), 155- 179.

Allan Kaprow, “The Legacy of Jackson Pollock, ” in Art News, LVII, October 1958, 24-26.

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