According to Jonathon Jones of the Guardian, the best artists do. In a recent column he suggests that too many times we are overly concerned with finding meaning in art. That we look for the message over form and style. Jones says, "The most deadening influence on art in our time is the belief that content matters more than style." Of course as a professor of art history I am (happily) guilty of searching for a work's message and contextualizing art. But this is not to say I ignore style over content. Both are equally important. Style is the language that expresses the content or its meaning.
This argument against the meaning of art emerges as if new and edgy every few months. And each time I am compelled to argue against it. Not only do I think art has a message, but I insist an art work must have something new to add to art's discourse for it to be good art.
Jones, like too many of my first-year college students believe, "Real art doesn't have a message, doesn't necessarily say anything. It is an arrangement of shapes, a pattern of words." Of course this is an argument students use so they don't have to think about art long enough to write a cohesive analysis.
Does Jonathon Jones really believe the work of Rothko, Kandinsky and Dylan is meaningless? Perhaps Jones should think longer about the meaning of his own work.