Thursday, March 10, 2011

Subtle difference found! Hooray,Hooray!

In the New York Times from March there is a short, mercifully short article that reports the astonishing results and even more baffling conclusions regarding abstract art. Here it is:

Abstract Art Isn’t So Inscrutable, Study Finds

Do the canvases of Cy Twombly look like finger-painting to you? No matter how you answer, you’re probably more an of aesthete than you think.
Building on a put-down commonly directed at abstract art – “my kid (or a monkey/elephant) could do that” – researchers at Boston College tested whether laypeople and art students could distinguish between abstract paintings by professional artists and those made by schoolchildren and animals. As they report in the journal Psychological Science, even non-experts could tell the difference between finger (or trunk) painting and the real deal.
“Participants preferred professional paintings and judged them as better than the nonprofessional paintings even when the labels were reversed,” the study’s authors, Angelina Hawley-Dolan and Ellen Winner, write.
In the study, which was discussed in a story on the Miller-McCune Web site, Ms. Hawley Dolan, a Ph.D. candidate in psychology and Ms. Winner, a psychology professor, asked 72 undergraduates – studio art and psychology majors – to look at slide shows of similar-looking pairs of paintings. Each pair included a work from an art history textbook and one made by a child or a monkey, gorilla, chimpanzee or elephant. Sometimes they were labeled (“artist,” “child”), sometimes they weren’t, and sometimes the labels were incorrect.
“Art students preferred professional works more often than did non-art students, but the two groups’ judgments did not differ,” the researchers write, concluding: “The world of abstract art is more accessible than people realize.”

So, they found that this group of students in the main considered works of the great luminaries of abstract smears more preferable than ones done by monkeys and elephants. Among the comments there was an abstract painter who complained that he felt humiliated by the study [and there is always someone nowadays whose feelings were hurt-poor injured in his tender pride baby] because comparison like this would not be done in any other serious profession. That much is certainly true, but is it not telling that it seems reasonable to see why indeed the works of abstract art and primates were compared? Among the rich theatricality of his “feelings” I suggest he chose another emotional reaction. How would shame do? Sense of fraudulent behavior perhaps?
And now let’s take a look at the powerhouse of intellectual muddle-headedness of the conclusion: “abstract art is more accessible than people realize”. How that conclusion jumped out of nowhere? All we know now, after this epochal study is that a bunch of art students realized that the contrived chaos by the abstract artists can often be distinguished from the real thing done by monkeys. Secondly-it makes abstract art no more accessible whatsoever-if anybody actually wanted to access it, taking that to mean comprehend it. We know what monkeys mean by making smears; should we suddenly assume there was a different meaning when we are told that some of those things were done by grown homo sapiens?
High up the emerald canopy of Amazonian forest fruit-eating monkeys defecate very frequently making moving below full of constant surprises. If the “researchers” would place some abstract artists, conceptual “cutting-edge” pioneers of the new-york-quality new up there, would the dedicated students below be able to give equally “significant” conclusions, given the same fruity diet above?

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