Abstract Art Isn’t So Inscrutable, Study Finds
Source:The New York Times Author:Melena Ryzik Date: 2011-03-10 Size:
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.

 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.”

 

 


[Editor] Lola Xu

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