Every artwork is a source of knowledge and aesthetic experiences that can oscillate between pleasure, attraction, disgust, or amazement, regardless of the time it belongs to. We are contemporary people and from this position we can take a journey through the history of art and see how the products of this cultural phenomenon change in style, form, and content from one era to another, since art, like other cultural manifestations, responds to its geographical, historical, and socio-cultural context.
Although the work of art can be understood by placing it in its sociocultural context, in the space and time in which it was created, it is not exempt from new interpretations with the passing of the history of humanity. The ideas, the thought, the vision of the world, the taste and even the feelings are changing, they are transformed over time.
Approaching art by linking it to its historical, sociocultural context allows us to understand, respect and enjoy artistic manifestations different from ours, alien to our taste; Similarly, it prepares us to understand the different components that act in artistic events and in the transformation of aesthetic values throughout history, according to changes in mentalities.
We know that understanding art is not an easy task at all, and even more so if it is contemporary. At present, many people tend not to accept certain currents or trends in contemporary art, reacting to them with distrust and irony, disapproving of them, questioning them, probably because they still base their taste and criteria based on the traditional parameters that have defined art considering to beauty as the only aesthetic category; they refuse to see beyond their comfort zone, to see in another way, to put their senses to the test in the face of new visual proposals, which is achieved by letting their minds open up, be more flexible and tolerant about new artistic manifestations.
If we resist to change, to the new ways of making art, we will never understand or enjoy contemporary art, whose main aesthetic characteristic, inherited from Dadaism, is transgression, through which the conventional artistic rules and the worn social and political order established before.
We insist that in order to understand and enjoy contemporary art, we must face it with an open mind, without prejudice, without letting ourselves be carried away by the first impression it produces on us, since an artwork in a first encounter can cause us a negative impression, disgust, for example, but for this reason we mustn’t reject it, but rather contemplate it carefully, question it, and also search within ourselves, to discover the reason for our reaction; if we do this exercise we can come to understand the work and even end up fond of it.
Other tools or strategies that contribute to our understanding and enjoyment of contemporary art are information, research, reading about the artist and their intention or aesthetic purpose; visit museums, galleries, fairs, auctions, see many works to educate the eye. It is also valid to consult the opinion of specialists: gallery owners, auction house experts, art consultants, curators, talk to artists, all this can guide those who are beginning to approach and be interested in contemporary art, both beginners, art lovers, as well as collectors.
Although the taste for art responds to a sensory act, in the first instance, we must also consider that this is a capacity that needs to be developed through practical and theoretical education, so that all our aesthetic experiences can take place in our mind, in our understanding.
Written by José Gregorio Noroño,