Chase Tower

Chase Tower

“Aesthetics is to artists what ornithology is to birds.”

That’s what Barnett Newman said to Harold Rosenberg at the gallery reception in New York back in 1948.

Barnett Newman is one of my favorite artists, along with Mark Rothko and Clyfford Still. Art critics put his name into an abstract expressionism file cabinet, specifically into the color field movement folder.

Harold Rosenberg was one of those art critics. And he challenged Barnett Newman to explain his abstract paintings. What is it about? What does it mean?

To which Barnett Newman replied with now famous answer. Just as ornithology does not have any effect on a bird’s life, aesthetics is irrelevant to an artist’s creative work.

The more you try to find the essence of beauty, the more elusive it becomes. There are no rules in art, as well as an objective meaning. Every human being is a unique individual. And the way you perceive art is special to you. You have your own subjective and unique prism of perception.

One of the most bizarre notions of quantum mechanics is that the observer can change the observed reality. Simply by the very act of watching.

In art it’s all flipped upside down. The viewer is changed by looking at the artwork. In a way the art is an observer and you are the subject of a change.

And, I guess, that’s the whole point. Artists create art so it can change other people.