How to look at art
I saw a lot of this at the Picasso exhibit at the AGO.
Edward Tufte has an interesting pamphlet called SEEING AROUND — in it he talks about how important it is to make the label and description the last thing you look at when you look at art in a museum:
Pre-installed narratives, categories, metaphors, points of view, and deformation professional all interfere with how and what we see. In looking at art, once story-telling starts, it’s hard to see anything else….
For a while… let the artwork stand on its own. Walk around, see intensely, view from up down sideways close afar above below, enjoy… Your only language is vision.
Joe Brainard said the same thing:
the first thing to do when looking at a work of art was to do just that—look. Let your eyes take in what is in front of them. Look at a picture from different distances. Look away and then look back, but, since each picture suggests a visual starting point in it, choose a different point each time you look. At this stage, try not to have any thoughts about the work, such as where it fits in the artist’s oeuvre or in art history or social history. You can do that later. If you allow such thoughts at this point, they will distance you from your seeing.
Something I try really hard to do now when I look at art — and as Goodfellas shows us, it’s so much more fun to make up your own stories about a painting…