These Contemporary Art examples have a power unmatched by Modern Art and forms before it.
Art is dead. It has been for a great deal of time now. There have been no more cavemen to paint bison since long before the common era. There have been no more pious sculptures painting the ceilings of cathedrals since the sixth century. There have been no more alcoholics painting liquid clocks and crawling ants since the 20th century. Artists are dead! Their works of art are dusty. But, that’s not to say that art is gone. Oddly enough to understand Contemporary Art examples and visual culture, it’s important to look back at this art. That’s why it’s vital to stay awake during Prehistoric Art 101. It’s helpful to study every last spec of dust in those dingy churches. It’s… well, it’s actually quite entertaining to study the lucid works of Dalí and the Modernists. But Modern Art is over. It had a wonderful run, but is never coming back. Contemporary Art examples and its audiences are all that remain.
Like Modern Art, Contemporary Art examples are a curious journey through space. Contemporary Art is your child’s science project or research paper. More Contemporary Art examples is a long lasting crusade to the Sphinx. It has taken on a challenge and is trying to solve a mystery. Modern Art was trying to solve the riddle of what painting was. Well, Contemporary Art examples have taken the challenge to the next level. It has become more important now to address what art is instead of just painting. Forms are no longer important, new mediums are constantly being invented, and the cultures of the world are more turbulent than ever. People, especially artists, of these rapidly changing times would probably all agree that no one cares what dreary old painting is anymore. The analysis of what painting is was incredible, but now there is something more valuable. Like Modern Art was the search for the essence of painting, Contemporary Art is the search for a definition of art in contemporary times.
Painting became known as simple patches of paint on canvas, but would become much more. Modern works were the first databases of the 19th and 20th centuries. “It is as if the painter had moved freely around his subject, gathering information from various angles and viewpoints” (Golding). A painter’s job was to collect information from the subject and put it down via paint on a canvas. This can be seen in the Cubist paintings by Picasso. These libraries of truth did not integrate with popular ideas of perspective at the time. “This dismissal of a system of perspective which had conditioned Western painting since the Renaissance marks […] the beginning of a new era in the history of art. (Golding). These methods were more true, but less common in earlier centuries of art. This simple and true approach to painting was the astounding avant garde, but Contemporary Art examples have shown the truths and meanings of art and not just painting.
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American Art from the 50’s and 60’s make it clear that art is simply things, far beyond painting. Like Pop artists, one could easily and appropriately put their child’s sippy cup of juice on a pedestal (Or perhaps they’d like to put their grandfather’s sippy cup of whiskey in a museum.) “By isolating things we normally overlook, Lichtenstein monumentalizes the everyday” (Joselit 79). It is not until these simple household objects are somehow glorified that their worth as art is realized. The garbage people find at Sears can often hold meaning, feeling, and even a sense of self too. Claes Oldenburg exhibit of 7-up cans and wedding dresses were “subjective portraits of commercial items in which the line between a thing and its symbolic associations was hard to discern” (Joselit 68). This investigation into what an art object is and who should participate with it is behind many Contemporary Art examples. Another simple object and example is a mirror. Andy Warhol demonstrates such effects. “One of the primary effects of the Disasters is the viewer’s recognition that the horror of the work lies less in the scene being viewed than in the scandal of his or her own indifference to the twisted and manned bodies represented” (Joselit 69-72). Viewers of Andy Warhol’s Disasters series are forced to participate with the objects similarly to viewers of a mirror. This was a time where objects, both public and private, were realized as art.
Minimalism is characterized by three-dimensional geometric forms so basic, and surfaces so ordinary and unadorned, that many critics of the time refused to accept them as art. -David Joselit
Now that it is understood that objects can be art, it’s important to discuss which objects make for great art. In contemporary times, it’s safe to say that the best block for putting into the triangle form is the impossible circle or square. The best art objects are those that have not yet been critiqued and categorized, giving the viewer a chance to have their own dialogue about why it is art. The misshaped blocks and all objects that don’t fit are perfect examples of Contemporary Art as they pry at the definitions of art. This invitation to the viewers into this strange new world is a metaphor itself. Artists who leave the decision of what art is up to the world “make their viewers acutely self-conscious of their own processes of perception” (Joselit 109). This inclusion of the viewer is part of the process of conveying and receiving artistic ideas. These blank canvases and unusual objects are the best Contemporary Art examples because they create a space for culture.
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It was during this time too that artists realized that art does not just lie in the object but in the space around and through it. A sugar cube is obviously sweet on the surface, but is also sweet inside and around it when swallowed. Sculptures like Sol LeWitt’s Structure (floor) are made for “dividing space into equal units rather than as a discrete object with its own volume and mass” (Joselit 113). These artists are bringing awareness to the sugar cube, as well as the spaces adjacent to it, and the relationship people have with the space. This additional space around art objects is just more space for peoples’ dialogues to flourish.
There’s a secret something happening simultaneously with the growth of Contemporary Art. As seen with the Modern Art examples, there was a strong investigation into painting. Seen too is that nobody cares about that anymore. As seen in these Contemporary Art examples, there is a stronger and broader investigation into art. This wider approach to artistic investigation offers artists and viewers a new space. Contemporary Art has created a venue for discussing. Sure there’s chit chat about what art is at the gallery opening. But, there is also a wonderful conversation about how art relates to contemporary culture. Though Modern Art was congruent with its time in history, Contemporary Art examples offer a more open forum for culture. With Modern Art there was painting. With Contemporary Art there is the openness of the artists, the truth of the art object, and a space for viewers’ dialogue about culture.
Golding, John. Cubism: A History and an Analysis 1907-1914. 3rd ed. The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1988.
Joselit, David. American Art Since 1945. Thames & Hudson, 2003.
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