Steve Martin on how to look at abstract art | MoMA BBC | THE WAY I SEE IT

Steve Martin on how to look at abstract art | MoMA BBC | THE WAY I SEE IT


Steve Martin: Low on the right. Framer: Is that any better? Steve: Exactly the same as it was. Steve: Perfect! I think. Paul Kobrak: To start, could you introduce
yourselves- Steve: Hi to a British audience? Steve: Okay, uh, let me think what would be
a way to introduce myself to a… Hi, it’s Steve Martin. Paul: All the guests were asked to choose
one work of art from the collection. You’ve chosen two. Steve: Yes. One painting is by Stanton Macdonald-Wright. They’re both American paintings, and this
was done in 1917, and the one over here is done by Morgan Russell, done in 1922. Essentially minor things compared to everything
else that hangs at MoMA. I thought, gee, those are, those are so, they’re
like, lonely. And so I picked them. And these two artists, I believe, were both
in Paris at the time. And they started working on this completely
abstract system of painting. They called it Synchromism… Ann: Yes. Steve: Which is, “with color,” it means. And they come up with a fancy name for it. Ann: Right. Steve: As we all should. I don’t generally care about theories. They kind of get in the way of looking at
the picture. But I think the result of working from a theory
can be fantastic, but it also could be done maybe without the
theory. but you don’t need to know the theory in
order to appreciate the painting. I really like to look at it. And I can look at it a long time, because
there’s a lot of different parts that succeed as a whole. I think of this as an intellectual painting,
like a Léger, Ann: It’s the construction of the picture
that he’s interested in, and that you’re interested in, right? Steve: I don’t know, but I think so. Sounds good! Ann: Sounds good. Ann: When I look at this picture, there’s
a real sense of- Steve: Do you want to sing? Ann: Luckily not, but lots of motion, lots
of rhythm. Steve: And there’s a lot of depth. I mean, the image goes way deep, it’s almost
like, in the top there, it feels a little bit like sky. I don’t think he intended that. I hate to say this, but now I’m starting
to see a landscape with mountains, sky, and water. I believe pictures reveal themselves over
time. You can’t really get it in one lengthy look. You know, it’s great to be able to live
with a painting or visit a painting in a museum, and go back and back and back. And the good ones really do keep on giving. It’s amazing. A picture is stationary, it’s immobile,
and yet, it changes for you. But I’m just going to step back on this,
because, my foot’s asleep. I just am now convinced, this is a landscape
painting. This is a stream, these are jutting rocks,
this is a mountaintop, that’s the sky, that’s sort of cloudy. Paul: Has it improved? Steve: Absolutely, for me. But now, I see almost like a narrative story. I mean, even the Morgan Russell is very voluminous,
it’s a floating object in a way. Ann: Yeah, but I think if you came back on
another day, you’d see something different too. Steve: Yeah, maybe. Ann: Right? That’s – Steve: No I’m convinced. This is a landscape painting. Nothing will ever change my mind. I had always assumed this picture was one thing, and then sat here for an hour and looked at
it, and it changed.

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