Sunday, February 23, 2014

To Title or Not to Title

Liz Kettle on the blog today.
As some of my new work becomes more abstract I am re-thinking the need and use of titles. While most of my work is still narrative and based in story some of my newer pieces aren't. I am at a loss as to how to title them.

As usual, when I start wondering about something I started doing some research on titles and found some fun stuff like this Abstract Art Titlegenerator. Now, one could have a lot of fun and waste days here!

I also learned that naming art is a rather recent development. Renaissance painters did not title their work. Pieces were referred to under general categories such as the artist, the patron, or the subject. While mid 17th century artist may have started naming their paintings, it seems that art dealers and galleries may be the real instigators of the trend toward titles. They need to keep track of art and sell it after all. Names certainly help with that.

Obviously some work can simply be titled factually as with landscapes/urban-scapes, people, pets, and still life work. However in abstract work titles just don't usually leap out.

On one hand titles make it easier to identify a specific piece of work and to refer to it when writing. Titles can be practical when exhibiting your work, getting the right information with the right piece, ensuring catalog descriptions are accurate and may cause a second look from a viewer after they read the title as they try to understand the meaning of the piece. This is especially true if you use mysterious or sentimental and symbolic titles.

On the other hand, titles can imply specific meaning or suggest what the artist was thinking and attempting to communicate in their work. But, is that not simply telling the viewer what to see, feel and think? Does that leave enough room for the viewer to find their own meaning in the art?

One can identify a series and use numbers like  Thread #298 I suppose. Is that better than simply untitled? Or I suppose I could name it Untitled Thread #298. Each piece has a meaning for me but that meaning may not be something anyone else would ever care about.

What are your thoughts on titles?
Do you want to understand what the artist was thinking or exploring?
Would you prefer to just enter each piece of art with no title to influence your thinking?



Kathy said...

I like titles for work being sent out, to help identify it, but then I often forget what title I used! Very few titles are exceptionally meaningful to me and my abstracts. I agree with you that sometimes a title influences the viewer and you may not really want that.

Anonymous said...

Well I am really bad at creating titles, so I like the idea of some random titles (love that Abstract Title generator). I agree that an audience can be influenced based on title, but that is OK with me. We are making art, we ARE trying to influence the audience with what we are doing. I think the choice of title is just another component of the art, like the choice of medium, the choice of color, the choice of scale, etc.

Carol Sloan said...

I find that titling some pieces is extremely easy while others it is exceedingly difficult. And, like you, it's the abstract pieces that make it more challenging. I like the idea of "Blue #5" though. Then "Blue #6". I agree that the title sways my reaction to work though. I often look for a title when I can't figure it out. Could it be like Steven Tyler said about making videos for songs? He said that it left the listener with a vision regarding the song that may not be what it was really about. I feel that some titles do the same thing.

Vicki Miller said...

I agree that titles can sometimes get in the way of the viewer's interpretation, and I am often guilty of forgetting what the title of a piece was. I think the idea of simple series titles is a good one, but sometimes a good title can make the viewer look deeper. It is a difficult question

Cass Mullane said...

For me, putting a title on a piece is like putting in that last bit of paint or that last stitch... wouldn't be complete without it.

Natalya Aikens said...

I struggle with titles too, thus I was relieved when I started working in a series that explored one subject. I would up with St. Pete Window 1 and 2 and so on.. and then St. Pete Lace 1 and so on.

Kristin L said...

Like Carol, I find some are easy and some are hard. Often, when I am working in a series, I just number the pieces, like Rotted IV, Rooted IIX, etc. But sometimes a piece wants a title. Rooted VIII was always Aquifer to me, so it got that added to the title. My more conceptual pieces can even start with a title. I like a title when it deepens the viewer's understanding, but if it doesn't really add anything, then I'd rather just stick with some sort of numbering system. BTW, I'm sending a bunch of drawing off to be exhibited and just so i know which one the shop is talking about, they've got titles like Standing Male, and Seated Female. Obvious, but practical.

Lyric Montgomery Kinard said...

I HATE, HATE, HATE, naming my work. I think I might start going with Lyric I, Lyric IV etc.
Artist statements are just as bad when I'm working with abstract pieces. Honestly - they don't mean a thing. They are just some playing around with beautiful materials.

On the other hand, I know a few people that are really well versed in artspeak - and get museum shows. One of them had only ever made there epics in her life and got a museum show. I'm sure it was because of the verbiage.