I love the idea that abstract art is a kind of joke in the same way that a Zen koan is a joke: you project your expectations of the familiar onto a new object and it throws it all right back in your face. This is not a thing made to look at, especially, but a thing to make you ask, “what is actually happening when I look at things?” Confounded by the lack of a subject our habits direct us to find one anyway, so people might say, “it looks like a such-and-such.” Like finding faces in clouds.

Much of Buddhist mind training centers on destabilizing this habit of clinging always to the conceptual. When you understand this, the entire facade of Modernism comes home like a punchline and then you can have a good laugh. Or you could try to sound smart and cook up some interpretation of what you think the artist is trying to say.

Photo (CC BY-SA) 2021. Wood scraps staged temporarily for the photo, with further graphic effects.