Abstract Expressionism, the Mural Size Painting, and Art on the Internet

Alie Cline
Mar 21, 2013 5:56PM

I had a chance to visit the Museum of Modern Art in New York for the first time over this past weekend. Outside of being like a kid in a candy store, running from piece to piece with glee, I spent some time in front of various Abstract Expressionist pieces. As someone who spends an unhealthy amount of time looking at representations of art on the internet, I've often found it difficult to get a true sense of how an artwork conveys in person vs. being represented in pixels. Even the most gorgeous, high-resolution image can't hold a candle to standing in front of a physical work. This holds especially true with the Abstract Expressionists painters like Rothko, Pollock, and Newman; part of their MO was creating gargantuan, mural-size paintings, stretching the limits of canvas size and creating works that dwarf the viewer when standing in their presence. 

Should the internet strive to recreate this physical experience? Absolutely not. Traditional works of fine art (excluding the new aesthetic & internet art that artists are currently experimenting with) are meant to be seen in the flesh. How then do sites such as my art history blog and Artsy fit into (and challenge) the traditional viewing experience of standing in a gallery or museum and looking at a piece? Education and accessibility certainly come to mind. The internet provides people like me, who don't necessarily live in a large-scale art hub, to see and become familiar with a vast range of artworks and artists. In my case, seeing representations of art online only fuels my passion for wanting to get to a museum or gallery and see the work in person. 

It will be interesting to see 5, 10, 15 years down the road how this question plays out between an in person experience vs. online viewing. 

Alie Cline