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Children Can Tell the Difference Between Abstract Art and Kids' Paintings

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Some might argue that a Jackson Pollock painting looks like something a preschool kid could do, given a canvas and some paint. But abstract art is definitely distinct from the random splatters of a child, a new study finds. In research published in the Journal of Cognition and Development, children as young as age 4 were able to distinguish between the paintings of abstract expressionists and paintings by other kids and animals with similar compositions. 

The study, conducted by a team of Boston College psychologists, involved about 130 kids between the ages of 4 and 12 years old. They were asked to evaluate 18 paintings by abstract expressionist artists paired with 18 similar paintings done by preschoolers or zoo animals (chimps, apes, monkeys, and gorillas, in this case). Some pairs were unlabeled, and some pairs were labeled with one painting marked “artist” and the other marked "monkey," "child," or "elephant." Some kids saw unlabeled paintings, some saw paintings that were correctly labeled, and others saw paintings that were incorrectly labeled (for example, a painting by a monkey labeled as being by a human artist). 

The researchers found that even the youngest kids were able to successfully discern the work of a professional artist and a painting by a kid or a chimp in the unlabeled experiment. However, they didn’t necessarily think that made the art more appealing. When looking at unlabeled paintings, the 4- to 7-year-old kids preferred the work of other kids or animals, judging them as more appealing than the artists’ paintings. 

Both age groups were more likely to choose the artists’ paintings when asked to judge quality than if they were asked to pick the painting they personally preferred. But when the paintings were correctly labeled, the 8- to 12-year-olds tended to say they preferred the work of the artists. This suggests that not only does professional abstract art have qualities that sets it apart from superficially similar work, but that even young children see a difference between what they prefer and what is considered high quality. 

[h/t BPS Research Digest]

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The Getty Center, Surrounded By Wildfires, Will Leave Its Art Where It Is
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The wildfires sweeping through California have left countless homeowners and businesses scrambling as the blazes continue to grow out of control in various locations throughout the state. While art lovers worried when they heard that Los Angeles's Getty Center would be closing its doors this week, as the fires closed part of the 405 Freeway, there was a bit of good news. According to museum officials, the priceless works housed inside the famed Getty Center are said to be perfectly secure and won't need to be evacuated from the facility.

“The safest place for the art is right here at the Getty,” Ron Hartwig, the Getty’s vice president of communications, told the Los Angeles Times. According to its website, the museum was closed on December 5 and December 6 “to protect the collections from smoke from fires in the region,” but as of now, the art inside is staying put.

Though every museum has its own way of protecting the priceless works inside it, the Los Angeles Times notes that the Getty Center was constructed in such a way as to protect its contents from the very kind of emergency it's currently facing. The air throughout the gallery is filtered by a system that forces it out, rather than a filtration method which would bring air in. This system will keep the smoke and air pollutants from getting into the facility, and by closing the museum this week, the Getty is preventing the harmful air from entering the building through any open doors.

There is also a water tank at the facility that holds 1 million gallons in reserve for just such an occasion, and any brush on the property is routinely cleared away to prevent the likelihood of a fire spreading. The Getty Villa, a separate campus located in the Pacific Palisades off the Pacific Coast Highway, was also closed out of concern for air quality this week.

The museum is currently working with the police and fire departments in the area to determine the need for future closures and the evacuation of any personnel. So far, the fires have claimed more than 83,000 acres of land, leading to the evacuation of thousands of people and the temporary closure of I-405, which runs right alongside the Getty near Los Angeles’s Bel-Air neighborhood.

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This 77-Year-Old Artist Saves Money on Art Supplies by 'Painting' in Microsoft Excel
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It takes a lot of creativity to turn a blank canvas into an inspired work of art. Japanese artist Tatsuo Horiuchi makes his pictures out of something that’s even more dull than a white page: an empty spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel.

When he retired, the 77-year-old Horiuchi, whose work was recently spotlighted by Great Big Story, decided he wanted to get into art. At the time, he was hesitant to spend money on painting supplies or even computer software, though, so he began experimenting with one of the programs that was already at his disposal.

Horiuchi's unique “painting” method shows that in the right hands, Excel’s graph-building features can be used to bring colorful landscapes to life. The tranquil ponds, dense forests, and blossoming flowers in his art are made by drawing shapes with the software's line tool, then adding shading with the bucket tool.

Since picking up the hobby in the 2000s, Horiuchi has been awarded multiple prizes for his creative work with Excel. Let that be inspiration for Microsoft loyalists who are still broken up about the death of Paint.

You can get a behind-the-scenes look at the artist's process in the video below.

[h/t Great Big Story]

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