|Mark Rothko, Untitled, 1962 (source)|
|Mark Rothko, Yellow and Gold, 1956, (source)|
|Mark Rothko, N0. 9, (source)|
I think that's where artists and non-artists lose each other when they're talking about abstract art. Artists love making art- they love the mediums, and they appreciate when other artists expose that passion. I had a painting prof who would love it whenever anyone in a crit said things like " I love that little blobby bit of paint"- he would Exclaim- Yes! that's how artists talk- they say things like " I love that blue, or that brushstroke is cool" it's so simple, it's not always about content- sometimes it's just about the paint (though a painting that is just about paint is a sort of comment- and partly why abstract expressionism is so important).
See here's the thing, the Renaissance paintings that are held up in such high esteem by non-artists are beautiful, and representational, and lifelike (in some cases)- but they're smooth as silk- there are no brushstrokes, no choppy areas, no 'painterly' mannerisms. When I've seen famous paintings up close, things like the Sistine chapel, Raphael's paintings, even the Mona Lisa- it's always a bit of a disappointment- because they look exactly like the images you've seen in books, there's nothing to discover by seeing in them in person- no insight into the artist- no lovely bits of blobby paint or subtle texture. On the other hand- Abstract Expressionist paintings take on a whole new quality in real life- they take up space- they shift back, they seem luminous, the colours jump against each other- you can see where one layer of paint was put on top of the other- they have life. A Pollock on the page is nothing- but in person it's an amazingly intricate web of paint, that seems to push back into the wall in some spots, and jump out at you in others.