Modernism andPostmodernism inEurope and America,1945-presentModernism andPostmodernism inEurope and America,1945-present
Postwar Expressionismin Europe• The end of WWII in 1945 left devastated cities, brokeneconomies, and governments in chaos throughout Europe.• The world had seen massive loss of life in the bombing ofHiroshima and Nagasaki, and the Holocaust in which six millionJews died at the hands of the Nazis.• The writings of Kierkegaard and Sartre popularized the ideas ofExistentialist philosophy, which asserted the absurdity of humanexistence and the impossibility of achieving certainty regardingthe existence of God or the purpose of humanity.• The result was a sense of despair, disillusionment, andskepticism that manifested itself artistically in a brutality androughness seen in artworks by Giacometti and Bacon.
Giacometti• Alberto Giacometti was a Swiss-born artist. His family weredescendants of Italian refugees escaping the Italian Inquisition.• Although he did not intentionally pursue existentialist ideas inhis art, Giacometti’s works capture the feelings of alienation andsolitude associated with the philosophy.• Giacometti’s sculptures are typically tall, thin, and featureless,with a rough, agitated surface.• Rather than conveying the solidity and mass of conventionalbronze sculpture, these severely attenuated figures seemswallowed up by the space surrounding them, imparting a senseof isolation and fragility.Man Pointing No. 5Alberto Giacometti1947.Bronze, 5’10” high.
Bacon• Francis Bacon was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1910, but was theson of an Englishman. He lived in London.• He experienced first-hand the destruction of lives and propertythe Nazi bombing wrought on London during WWII.• Painting serves as a criticism of humanity and a reflection of war’sbutchery, which he said was “an attempt to remake the violence ofreality itself.”• His painting depicts a stocky man with a gaping mouth and hiddeneyes sits surrounded by bloody carcasses, a tell-tale red stain on hisupper lip.• Bacon may have based his depiction of this figure on newsphotographs of similarly dressed European and American officials,particularly Neville Chamberlain, the wartime British prime ministerwho frequently appeared in photographs with an umbrella.• The flayed figure behind the main character resembles a crucifix.• Bacon also produced a series of “screaming popes,” based onDiego Velazquez’s painting of Pope Innocent X. The motif of agaping or screaming mouth recurred throughout Bacon’s career.• Although he preferred to paint portraits of friends, Bacon wasforced to paint more self-portraits in his later years, as many of hisfriends died young.PaintingFrancis Bacon, 1946.Oil and pastel on linen, 6’6” x 4’4”Pope Innocent X(based on Velazquez)Self-Portrait
Abstract Expressionism• Championed by the art critic Clement Greenberg, whoencouraged artistic “purity,” the renunciation of explicit subjectmatter, and the acceptance of the limitations of each givenmedium (for instance, 2D paintings should appear flat).• Abstract Expressionist artists were seen as intellectuals andindividualists, and were glamorized as such in print publications.• The U.S. government also promoted the “rugged individualist”persona of Abstract Expressionists (such as Jackson Pollock) as acounter to Russian Communist painting.• Goal of abstract expressionism was to express the universalemotions of mankind through nonobjective painting.• Gestural abstraction (de Kooning, Pollock, “action” painters)• Chromatic abstraction (Newman, Rothko)• “At a certain moment the canvas began to appear to oneAmerican painter after another as an arena in which to act –rather than as a space in which to reproduce, re-design,analyze, or ‘express’ an object, actual or imagined. What wasto go on the canvas was not a picture but an event. The painterno longer approached his easel with an image in his mind; hewent up to it with material in his hand to do something to thatother piece of material in front of him. The image would be theresult of this encounter.”– Art critic Harold Rosenberg in his 1952 article “The AmericanAction Painters”
Pollock• American painter Jackson Pollock divorced art from anydepiction of reality by unrolling large-scale (unstretched) canvaseson the floor of his studio, then dripping, flinging, and pouringpaint (as well as enamel, and sometimes other elements such assand) onto it, creating a lacy, spider-web like design.• Pollock preferred to work on the floor because he couldapproach the painting from all angles, and be “in” it.• Responding to the image as it developed, he created art thatwas spontaneous yet choreographed, highlighting the emphasison the process of creation, rather than end product.• The automatic, improvisational nature of Pollock’s work relieson the subconscious to create the composition.• A large article on Pollock in Time Magazine catapulted him tocelebrity status, but the pressures of fame were too much. Afterstruggling with depression and alcoholism, he died in a car crashat age 44.Number 1, 1950 (Lavender Mist)Jackson Pollock, 1950.Oil, enamel, and aluminum paint on canvas, 7’3” x 9’10”
De Kooning• Dutch-born Willem de Kooning moved to New York City, wherehe created vigorously painted works of art (sometimes evenpoking holes in his canvases).• Although his artworks are still rooted in figuration, they displaythe sweeping gestural brushstrokes and energetic application ofpaint typical of gestural abstraction.• Process was important to de Kooning. He worked on Woman Ifor almost two years, daily painting an image, then scraping it offthe next day to start again, over 200 times before finally settlingon the finished image.• Out of the jumbled array of slashing lines and agitated patchesof color appears a ferocious-looking woman, with staring eyesand a toothy smile, inspired by an ad for Camel cigarettes, whichseems to devolve into a grimace.• Female models on advertising billboards partly inspiredWoman I, one of a series of images of women, but de Kooning’sfemale forms also suggest fertility figures and a satiric inversionof the traditional image of Venus.Woman IWillem de Kooning1950-52.Oil on canvas,6’4” x 4’10”
Newman• In contrast to the aggressively energetic gestural brushstrokesof the action painters, the chromatic abstractionists exudes aquieter aesthetic, focused on use of color.• Newman’s early work focused on organic abstractions inspiredby biological studies, but he soon simplified his style.• He is most known for his large-scale canvases of slightlymodulated color, accented by thin vertical lines called “zips” thatrun from the top to the bottom of the canvas.• The zips were not meant to represent specific entities, butrather accents energizing the field and giving it scale.• By simplifying his compositions, Newman increased color’scapacity to communicate and to express his feelings about thetragic condition of modern life and the human struggle tosurvive.• Vir Heroicus Sublimis translates as Sublime Heroic Man.Vir Heroicus SublimisBarnett Newman, 1950.Oil on canvas, 7’11” x 17’9”
Rothko• Russian-born Mark Rothko moved with his family to the U.S. at 10.• His early paintings were figural, but he soon came to believe thatreferences to anything specific in the physical world conflicted withthe sublime idea of the universal, supernatural “spirit of myth,”which he saw as the purpose of art.• His paintings were large and compositionally simple, relying oncolor to convey meaning.• He typically made compositions of two or three large rectangleswith hazy edges, which seem to hover in front of the background,and shimmer with intense luminosity.• He saw color as a doorway to another reality, and insisted colorcould express “basic human emotions – tragedy, ecstasy, doom…The people who weep before my pictures are having the samereligious experience I had when I painted them. And if you, as yousay, are moved only by their color relationships, then you miss thepoint.”No. 14Mark Rothko,1960.Oil on canvas,9’ 6” x 8’ 9”
Post-PainterlyAbstraction• Another post-war American art movement.• Evolved out of abstract expressionism.• Name coined by critic Clement Greenberg because of the lackof visible “hand” of the artist (no brushstrokes).• Instead of passionate, gestural art (abstract expressionism),Post-Painterly Abstraction conveys a cool, detached rationalityemphasizing tighter pictorial control.• Praised by Greenberg because it embodied his idea of purity inart.
Kelly• New York-born Ellsworth Kelly distilled painting down to itsessential elements, producing spare, elemental images, knownas hard-edge painting.• In Red Blue Green, three flat shapes of bright colors break up arectangular canvas.• The edges of the shapes are painted with exact precision, sothat it almost seems machine-made.• His works usually feature at least one bright color.• Some of his works are on irregularly shaped canvases (picturedbelow).• The paintings are completely nonobjective, simple, and containno suggestions of the illusion of depth.Red Blue GreenEllsworth Kelly, 1963.6’11” x 11’4”.
Stella• Another hard-edge painter of the 1960s was Massachusettsborn Frank Stella.• Stella lived in New York but did not favor the rough expressivebrushwork of the abstract expressionists.• Stella eliminated many of the variables associated withpainting. His simplified images of thin, evenly spaced pinstripeson colored grounds have no central focus, no painterly orexpressive elements, and no tactile quality.• He focused on pure, systematic painting. “What you see iswhat you see.”• Forces the viewer to acknowledge the painting is simplypigment on a flat surface.Mas o MenosFrank Stella, 1964.Metallic powder in acrylicemulsion on canvas,9’10” x 13’8”
Frankenthaler & Louis• Color-field painting, another variant of Post-PainterlyAbstraction, but instead of emphasizing harsh, geometric edges,they focused on soft, hazy colors made by pouring thinned paintonto unprimed canvas, letting the paint soak in and bleed.• Helen Frankenthaler began paintings by selecting severalcolors, and began pouring them onto the canvas. Her focus wasnot on emotional expression (as Rothko’s was), but rather onseeing how the colors interacted with each other.• Clement Greenberg, a fan of Frankenthaler, brought MorrisLouis to her studio, where she introduced Louis to her stainingtechniques.• Louis began experimenting with staining canvases, oftenholding the canvases upright or in a funnel shape while pouringthe thinned-down paint across the surface.• Louis referred to his series of paintings as Veils, in reference tothe billowy, fluid, transparent shapes running across the canvas.• Frankenthaler and Louis reduced painting to the concrete factof the paint-impregnated material.SarabandMorris Louis, 1959. Acrylic resin on canvas. 8’5” x 12’5”The BayHelen Frankenthaler, 1963.
Judd• Sculptors were also influenced by Greenberg’s formalist ideas.As painters were emphasizing the flatness of the canvas,sculptors focused on the three-dimensionality of their work.• Missouri-born Donald Judd embraced a spare, straightforwardaesthetic.• He believed that the three-dimensionality of sculpture wasinherently more powerful than flat painting.• He experimented with new industrial materials, believing thateach material had its own qualities that affected the finishedproduct, and to use the same traditional materials withoutthought to form was pointless.• His sculptures are not meant to be metaphorical or symbolic.They are straightforward declarations of sculpture’s objecthood.• Judd used Plexiglas because its translucency enables theviewer access to the interior, thereby rendering the sculptureboth open and enclosed.• Judd’s work is often considered Minimalist, but he criticizedMinimalist art as being too idea-oriented.UntitledDonald Judd, 1969.Brass & colored fluorescentPlexiglas on steel brackets.10 units, 6” x 2’ x 2’3” eachwith 6’ intervals.
Bourgeois• In contrast to Judd’s crisp box structures, French-AmericanLouise Bourgeois created abstractions with organic qualities.• Like Judd, Bourgeois experimented with a variety of materials,including wood, plaster, latex, plastics, marble, alabaster, andbronze. She utilized each material’s qualities to suit theexpressiveness of the piece.• In Cumul I, she carved a grouping of round-topped figureshuddling under a shared garment. Although the forms remainabstract, they strongly refer to human figures, each with adifferent personality.• She accentuated the difference between the figures and thecloth by polishing the figures to a shine, and leaving the clothwith a matte finish.• “My figures are anthropomorphic and they are landscape also,since our body could be considered from a topographical point ofview, as a land with mounds and valleys and caves and holes.”• In the 1990s, she created several spider sculptures titledMaman, which referenced the cleverness and protection of hermother, a weaver.Cumul ILouise Bourgeois, 1969.Marble, 1’10” x 4’2” x 4’.
Riley• In the 1960s, a major artistic movement was Op Art (short forOptical Art), in which painters sought to produce optical illusions ofmotion and depth using only geometric forms on two-dimensionalsurfaces.• Influenced by the work of Josef Albers, whose series of paintingstitled Homage to the Square explored the optical effects of placingdifferent colors next to each other.• Bridget Riley’s Fission was featured in the December 1964 issueof Life magazine, which unleashed a craze for Op Art designs inclothing.• In Fission, Riley filled the canvas with black dots o varied sizes andshapes, creating the illusion of a pulsating surface that caves in thecenter.• Op Art paintings are disorienting and sometimes disturbing andcan even induce motion sickness.• Op Art, while modernist in its nonobjective depictions of shapes,nonetheless embraced the Renaissance notion that the painter cancreate the illusion of depth.FissionBridget Riley, 1963. Tempera oncomposition board, 2’11” x 2’10”Homage to theSquareJosef Albers
Pop-Art• In the years following WWII, art was primarily abstract ornonobjective, but in the late 50s and early 60s, artists (first inEngland, then America) began appropriating popular/consumerculture in their art.• Pop artists used products of consumer culture (such asadvertisements, comic books, and gossip magazines) to critiquethe very culture that made those items.• Although Pop art began in England, it blossomed to its greatestprominence in the United States, where economic prosperityfueled widespread advertising on televisions (now in mostpeople’s houses), radios, print media, and billboards, thatencouraged endless consumption.
Hamilton• The earliest Pop artists were a group of British artists,architects, and writers, who formed the Independent Group atthe Institute of Contemporary Art in London in the early 1950s.• They took a fresh approach to art by incorporating imageryfrom popular culture, such as advertising, comic books, andmovies.• The Independent Group member Richard Hamilton was trainedas an engineering draftsman, exhibition designer, and painter,and had studied the way advertising shapes public attitudes.• Hamilton was influenced by Duchamp’s ideas of combiningmass-produced objects in a new way to create new meaning.• He created the small collage Just What Is It That Make’sToday’s Homes So Different, So Appealing? out of clippings fromnewspapers, magazines, and comic books.• It features a bodybuilder (Charles Atlas), a Hoover vacuumcleaner advertisement, a girl cut from a “girlie magazine,” as wellas various products, and arranges them to make a fantasy home.• The work raises questions about consumer culture, theadvertising that creates it, and the way people are defined bytheir possessions.Just What Is It That Makes Today’s HomesSo Different, So Appealing?Richard Hamilton, 1956.Collage, 10” x 9”.
Johns• Jasper Johns was a pivotal artist in the transition fromabstraction to Pop art in America.• He painted ordinary, common objects - what he called things“seen but not looked at,” such as flags, targets, and maps.• In Three Flags (painted at the height of the Cold War), Johnspainted a trio of overlapping American flags of decreasing size.• Johns bent traditional perspective rules by making the closestflag the smallest.• The flags are painted on three canvases using encaustic mixedwith newsprint, which has a thick, impasto-like quality.• By using the textural encaustic and repeating the image of theflag like a pattern, Johns called attention to the fact that theywere actually paintings, not real cloth flags.• When the then-unknown Johns moved to New York City fromSouth Carolina, he met and fell in love with the artist RobertRauschenberg. The two had a closeted eight-year relationshipduring the deeply homophobic 1950s. The balance betweenrejecting the macho abstract expressionism of Jackson Pollockwhile resisting giving away personal feelings lead to Johns’ focuson familiar images that seem to have an obscured deeper truth.Three FlagsJasper Johns, 1958.Encaustic on canvas,2’7” x 3’9”.Target with Plaster Casts
Rauschenberg• Robert Rauschenberg made works that had specific meaning tohimself, but were open to interpretation by the viewer.• He made what he called combines, which were assemblages ofvarious objects (like a collage of a wide variety of objects).• He often incorporated three-dimensional objects, clippingsfrom newspapers/magazines, and roughly painted sections.• In the 1960s, he adopted the use of silk screen painting,enabling him to reproduce appropriated news images andphotographs onto his canvases.• In Canyon, tilted pieces of printed paper and photographscover parts of the canvas, painted over in parts with paint. Astuffed eagle spreads its wings as if lifting off into flight. A billowdangles from a string attached to a wooden stick below.• Although the viewer may recognize aspects, the overallmeaning may seem ambiguous.• Canyon was a reference to a Rembrandt painting that depictedJupiter, in the form of an eagle, carrying the boy Ganymede intothe sky. What does the pillow represent?CanyonRobert Rauschenberg,1959. Oil, pencil, paper,fabric, metal, cardboard,printed paper, printedreproductions,photograph, wood, painttube, and mirror oncanvas, with oil on baldeagle, string, and pillow.6’9” x 5’10” x 2’.Monogram
Lichtenstein• Roy Lichtenstein was famous for appropriating images fromromance comics, a form of entertainment meant to be read anddiscarded, and immortalizing/glorifying them on large canvases.• His works are typically melodramatic, and often include“thought bubble” words.• He utilized the print production techniques of comics, includingblack outlines, flat areas of color, and benday dots (named aftertheir inventor, Benjamin Day), which, as in Pointillism, createdmodulations of color by varying the color and size of dots andtheir background color.• The underlying meaning of his work is the industrialization ofAmerica (and the world). He created emotionally chargedartworks using the cool, detached style of comics.• Lichtenstein felt that, although Pop art was consideredAmerican, it was really just industrial art, and that as the worldbecame more industrialized, Pop art would become aninternational style of art.HopelessRoy Lichtenstein,1963.Oil and syntheticpolymer paint oncanvas,3’8” x 3’8”.
Warhol• Started as a commercial artist illustrating shoes for catalogues• Warhol used his experience in the advertising industry tocreate artworks that commented on celebrity, mass production,and consumer culture.• He utilized screen printing to “mass produce” images,repeating the same image again and again.• His “Crash” series focused on repeating images of horrific caraccidents, exploring the desensitization that results from beingexposed to images of horrible events.• As he became a successful Pop artist, he named his art studioThe Factory. Although he created the ideas for artworks, hisworkers did the physical act of screen printing.• Blurred the line between art and advertising/commerce.• “Whats great about this country is America started thetradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the samethings as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola,and you can know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylordrinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is aCoke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke thanthe one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are thesame and all the Cokes are good.”Green Coca-Cola BottlesAndy Warhol, 1962.Oil on canvas. 6’1” x 4’9”
Oldenburg• Claes Oldenburg is known for his Pop art sculptures.• His first major outdoor work was Lipstick onCaterpillar Tracks, a work made in secret and installed(uninvited) on the campus of Yale University (his almamater).• The work was intended to be a platform for anti-warprotesters.• The original work featured plywood treads and avinyl balloon for the red part of the lipstick, which hadto be inflated by the speaker (underscoring the ironicsexual innuendo).• Due to vandalism and deterioration, the sculpturewas reconstructed using metal and fiberglass. Yaleformally accepted the controversial gift in 1974.• Oldenburg’s sculptures feature large-scale everydayobjects, and often have a sense of humor to them.• He is well known for his “soft sculptures”, in whichhe depicted everyday objects recreated (in large scale)out of soft fabrics, such as slices of cake, electric fans,and toilets.Lipstick on Caterpillar TracksClaes Oldenburg, 1969.Painted steel, aluminum, andfiberglass. 21’ high
Superrealism• Sometimes also known as Photorealism• Like Pop artists, the Superrealists sought a form ofartistic communication more accessible to the public thanthe remote, unfamiliar visual language of the AbstractExpressionists, Post-Painterly Abstractionists, andMinimalists.• Worked primarily in the 1960s-70s• Used scrupulous faithfulness to optical fact.MarilynAudrey Flack, 1977.Oil over acrylic airbrushed oncanvas, 8’ sq.
Close• Seattle-born Chuck Close is a Superrealist artist who focuses oncreating large-scale portraits of himself and friends (non-famous)• Working from photographs, Close aimed to translatephotographic information into paintings.• By enlarging a work, yet maintaining the varying levels of focusachieved by photography, Close brought the viewers attention toareas they might not otherwise notice. “In my work, the blurredareas don’t come into focus, but they are too large to beignored.”• He utilized various techniques to achieve his desired look,including airbrush, razor blades, and drills. His process to enlargeimages involved making matching grids.• At age 48, he suffered a seizure due to the collapse of a spinalnerve, which left him mostly paralyzed from the neck down. Heis still able to make some minor movements with his arms, andwalk for a few steps at a time.• Because of his new physical impairment, Close was forced tomodify his style. Although he still used his grid system, he nowused larger squares, filled with round circles of color. Althoughfrom up close, his work appears to be random ovals of color,from a distance the colors blend to create a pixelatedphotograph like image.Big Self-PortraitChuck Close, 1968.Acrylic on canvas, 9’ x 7’.
Hanson• Duane Hanson was a Superrealist sculptor.• He perfected a technique of creating life-like human sculptures.• First, he created plaster molds from real people. He thenassembled the molds, and filled them with polyester resin. Afterremoving the molds to expose the resin, he painted the resin withairbrush, and added clothing and accessories.• His sculptures are easily mistaken for real people at first.• His sculptures depict stereotypical average Americans, strikingchords with the public because of their familiarity.• “The subject matter that I like best deals with the familiar lower-and middle-class American types of today. To me, the resignation,emptiness and loneliness of their existence captures the true realityof life for these people… I want to achieve a certain tough realismwhich speaks of the fascinating idiosyncrasies of our time.”Supermarket ShopperDuane Hanson, 1970.Polyester resin and fiberglasspolychromed in oil, with clothing,steel cart, and groceries, life-size.
Feminist Art• In the 1960s and 70s, with the rising Feminist and Civil Rightsmovements, art began to embrace the persuasive power tocommunicate with a wide audience.• In the 70s, many artists began to investigate the socialdynamics of power and privilege, especially in relation to gender(although racial and sexual orientation issues have also figuredprominently in the art of recent decades).• Feminist artists sought equal rights for women incontemporary society, and focused attention on the subservientplace of women in societies throughout history.
Judy Chicago• A major goal of Judy Cohen, who took the name Judy Chicago,was to educate the public about women’s role in history and thefine arts, and to establish a respect for women and their art.• Inspired by O’Keeffe, in the early 1970s, Chicago beganplanning a large scale work, the Dinner Party, using crafttechniques (like china painting and needlework), traditionally“women’s work” (the “dinner party” theme also references awoman’s traditional role as homemaker).• The original idea was to have a new version of the Last Supper,where the 13 honored guests were all female (13 alsocorresponding to the number in a coven, as Chicago originallyintended her work to reference worship of the Mother Goddess)• In her research, she discovered many worth women, andtripled her original amount to 39, making a triangle (female andGoddess symbol) with 13 women per side. An additional 999women’s names are written on the white tile floor.• The guests included Emily Dickinson, Hatshepsut, O’Keeffe,Sacagawea, Susan B. Anthony (suffragist), and Virginia Woolfe.• Each woman had a unique table runner and plate, designed(using variations on butterfly, symbol of liberation, and vulvar,symbol of female sexuality, motifs) to represent their specificcontributions.The Dinner PartyJudy Chicago, 1979. Multimedia (ceramics andstitchery), 48’ per side.
Sherman• New York-born Cindy Sherman was trained as a painter, butturned to photography as her primary art mode.• She is most famous for her series of images imitating Americanfilm noir movies, called Untitled Film Stills. By avoiding titlingeach work, she left the context of each image ambiguous.• She addresses in her work the way much of Western artpresents female beauty for the enjoyment of the “male gaze,” aprimary focus of contemporary feminist theory, which considersgender a social construct.• She noticed recurring stereotypes in the way women aredepicted in movies, and the Untitled Film Stills seeks to highlightthose stereotypes.• However, Sherman produced, designed, acted in (usuallywearing wigs an theatrical make-up), directed, andphotographed (the cord for the shutter release is visible in #35)her own works, thereby taking control over the way she wasdepicted.• More recently, Sherman has begun taking color photographs,doing a series on clowns, as well as a series titled HistoryPortraits, referencing works by Raphael, Gentileschi, andCaravaggio.Untitled Film Still #35Cindy Sherman, 1979.Gelatin silverprint, 10” x 8”.
Kruger• Barbara Kruger began her career as a commercial graphicdesigner, and rose to be the art director of Mademoisellemagazine in the late 1960s.• Fascinated by the strategies and techniques of contemporarymass media, she incorporated the layout techniques magazinesand billboards used to sell consumer goods.• However, Kruger’s goal was to subvert the typical use ofadvertising imagery. She aimed to expose the deceptiveness ofthe media messages the viewer absorbs.• Kruger wanted to undermine the myths – particularly thoseabout women – the media constantly reinforces. Her large work-and-photograph collages challenge the cultural attitudesembedded in commercial advertising.• In Untitled (Your Gaze…), Kruger overlaid the words on aclassically beautiful sculpted female face.• The words are spread apart, creating a jolted, staccato feelingwhich delays comprehension of the message while increasing itsdramatic intensity.Untitled (Your Gaze Hits theSide of My Face)Barbara Kruger, 1981.Photograph, red paintedframe, 4’7” x 3’5”.
Guerrilla Girls• A group of anonymous feminist artists banded together in 1985to form the Guerrilla Girls, a guerrilla art group that wore gorillamasks in public (to force critics to focus on their messages ratherthan their personal lives/personalities).• The Guerrilla Girls used a graphic design-based style (with aheavy emphasis on text), combining humor with statisticsregarding sexism in the art world.• Their messages have taken many avenues, including posters,billboards, and paid advertising in major art publications likeArtForum.• Although members have changed over the years, the GuerrillaGirls group is still actively making work.The Advantages of Being a Woman ArtistGuerrilla Girls, 1988. Offset lithograph, 17” x 22”.
Ringgold & Saar• Faith Ringgold is an African American woman from Harlem,New York. Her artworks address both gender and race.• Born in 1930, she studied painting at the City College of NY andtaught art in NY public schools.• In the 70s, she began creating works that incorporated fabric,such as the story quilt Who’s Afraid of Aunt Jemima?, as itreferenced traditional women’s crafts and her mother’s work asa fashion designer. After her mother’s death, Ringgold beganwork on Who’s Afraid…?• Incorporates painted characters, traditional triangular quilting,and sections of text retelling the story of Aunt Jemima, atraditional “mammy” character used to sell baking products byreminding white buyers of an idealized version of the pre-CivilWar era, redefined by Ringgold as a successful business woman.• “Jemima could do anything she set her mind to. When Ma Tillie andPa Blakey, Jemima’s Ma and Pa, forbid her to marry Big Rufus Cook onaccount a they wanted her to marry a preacher, Jemima up and marryBig Rufus anyway, and they run off to Tampa, Florida to work for OleMan and Ole Lady Prophet cookin, cleanin and takin care a theychirun, somethin Jemima never had to do livin in her Ma and Pa’scomfortable home in New Orleans.”• Betye Saar also explored theme in her assemblage in a windowbox called the Liberation of Aunt Jemima.Who’s Afraid of Aunt Jemima?Faith Ringgold, 1983. 7’6” x 6’8”.Acrylic on canvas with fabric borers, quilted.Liberation of Aunt JemimaBetye Saar, 1972.
Earth Art• Also sometimes called earthworks, land art, or environmental art.• Most are site-specific (intended for a specific location).• Became popular in the 1960s & 70s during a time of increasingawareness of environmental/ecological issues, such as pollutionand the depletion of natural resources.• Environmental artists used their art to call attention to thelandscape, often using organic or natural materials.• The challenge of earthworks is the removal of the art from thesphere of museums and galleries.• Although most environmental artists encourage spectatorinteraction with their works, the remote locations of manyearthworks ironically have limited public access.
Smithson• Spiral Jetty is considered the primary work of Robert Smithson,an artist who was inspired to create the work when he stumbledupon abandoned oil drilling machinery on the side of the GreatSalt Lake in Utah. He saw it as a sign of nature’s inconquerability.• He made a jetty 1500 feet long and 15 feet wide of mud, basaltrocks, and earth. He was inspired to create the shape based onthe roundness of the environment and the spiral shape of saltcrystals contained in the lake.• As the water level of the lake rises and falls, the jetty at times isdry and at other time is submerged. Although the basalt rockswere originally black against the red, algae-filled water, they arenow white against pink due to the salt.• Smithson died in a plane crash at 35, and a debate hascontinued since whether to let weather and time take its naturaleffects on the piece, or to preserve it (Smithson was interested inentropy, and expressed his desire to let it erode).• Another earthwork is Walter de Maria’s Lightning Field, a gridof steel poles designed to attract lightning during New Mexico’ssummer monsoons.• Visitors can stay in a remote log cabin overnight during thesummer months. Only six may stay at a time, encouragingvisitors to experience the work in solitude.Spiral JettyRobert Smithson, 1970.Great Salt Lake, Utah.Lightning FieldWalter de Maria,1977.Western NewMexico.400 polishedstainless steelpoles (~20.5’ tall)arranged in a1 mile x 1km grid.
Christo & Jeanne-Claude• Christo (Bulgarian) and his wife Jeanne-Claude (French,although born in Morocco where her father was stationed)created large-scale environmental artworks.• Each of their works were totally paid for by selling sketches andcollages of future works to art collectors (no tax-dollars).• Moved to New York in the 1970s, and became Americancitizens• Proclaimed that there was no underlying “message” to theirwork. It was simply meant to be aesthetically interesting andbeautiful.• Their works are temporary, usually lasting only a few weeks.• Environmentally aware/conservationism: during the two weeksthat Surrounded Islands was on display, they hired marinebiologists and other environmentalists to monitor theenvironmental impact of the work, ensuring it was doing nodamage. They also removed large amounts of trash from theislands that were surrounded. During The Gates, the materialsused were recycled after the artwork was taken down. All profitsleftover after paying the workers who erected the Gates weredonated to Nurture New York’s Nature, Inc.Surrounded Islands, Biscayne Bay,Miami, Florida.Christo & Jeanne-Claude, 1980-83.11 small islands surrounded with 6.5million square feet of pink fabric.The Gates (NYC, 2005)Wrapped Reichstag(Germany, 1995)The Umbrellas (CA, 1991)
Performance Art• Emerged in the 1960s-70s.• Artists questioned “what is art?” by replacing the traditional artobject (painting, sculpture, etc.) with movements, gestures, andsounds performed before an audience, whose memberssometimes participate in the performance.• Pushed art outside of the mainstream museum/gallery.• Incorporated the integral element of time.• Antidote to the pretentiousness of most traditional art objects.• Challenged (at least initially) art’s function as a commodity(since performances could not be bought and sold by amuseum). However, museums eventually began commissioningperformances.
Cage• John Cage was a composer who felt that the closed structuresmarking traditional music separated it from the unpredictableand multilayered qualities of daily existence.• He brought to music composition some of the ideas ofDuchamp and of Eastern philosophy, using methods such aschance.• He developed the concept of “indeterminacy,” wherein thecomposer leaves much of the interpretation of a musicalcomposition up to the performer.• Cage also experimented with using varied sounds made bynon-traditional instruments (considered all sounds to be of equalvalue), and is considered one of the early precursors toelectronic music.• His most famous piece is 4’33” (pronounced “four minutes,thirty three seconds”), a piece containing only rests (silence) forthe instrumentalist. The musician sits still with their instrumentfor four minutes and thirty three seconds, bowing to signal theend of the piece. The “music” is the unplanned sounds andnoises (such as coughs and whispers) emanating from theaudience during the performance.4’33”John Cage, 1952.
Schneemann• One of Cage’s students was Allan Kaprow, who sought toexplore the intersection of art and life by creating Happenings,which were “an assemblage of events performed or perceived inmore than one time and place… A Happening, unlike a stageplay, may occur at a supermarket, driving along a highway,under a pile of rags, and in a friend’s kitchen, either at once orsequentially… The Happening is performed according to plan butwithout rehearsal, audience, or repetition.”• Carolee Schneemann was an artist who designed happeningswith a feminist edge to them.• Schneemann’s self-described “kinetic theater” radicallytransformed the nature of performance art by using her body(often nude) to challenge “the psychic territorial power lines bywhich women were admitted to the Art Stud Club.”• During her early career as a painter in the 1950s, she found theart world misogynistic.• In the 1960s, inspired by her friend Kaprow, Schneemannbegan making performance artworks that focused on gender,sexuality, and the awareness of the body.• Meat Joy involved 8 people experimenting with wet paint,sausage, raw fish and chicken, and paper scraps, as a Dionysiancelebration of the flesh.Meat JoyCarolee Schneemann, 1964.Performance at Judson Church, NYC.
Beuys• Joseph Beuys (sounds like “boys”) was a German artist who wasinfluenced by the ideas of American performance art.• During WWII, he was a German fighter pilot. Shot down over theCrimea (near the Black Sea) by Russians, he maintained that he wasrescued by nomadic Tartars, who wrapped him in felt and animal fat toinsulate him from the cold (materials he used in his later art).• He believed the role of the artist was to be like shaman, an individualwith special spiritual powers.• In “How to…” he coated his face with honey and gold leaf(representing nature and thought). His shoe was tied to a magnet,attracted to the iron slab on the floor (earthly strength).• “…everyone consciously or unconsciously recognizes the problem ofexplaining things, particularly where art and creative work areconcerned, or anything that involves a certain mystery or question. Theidea of explaining to an animal conveys a sense of the secrecy of theworld and of existence that appeals to the imagination. Then, as I said,even a dead animal preserves more powers of intuition than somehuman beings with their stubborn rationality. “• “…my technique has been to try and seek out the energy points in thehuman power field, rather than demanding specific knowledge orreactions on then part of the public. I try to bring to light thecomplexity of creative areas.”How to Explain Pictures to a Dead HareJoseph Beuys, 1965.Performance at Schmela Gallery, Dusseldorf.
Burden• Chris Burden’s early works from the 1970s involve endurance,physical pain, and danger. They questioned the violence andbrutality of the Vietnam War.• In 1971, he had an assistant shoot him through the arm fromabout five meters away in the performance Shoot.• In his 1974 performance Trans-Fixed, he was nailed throughthe palms (like a crucifix) to a Volkswagen beetle, while the carrevved to mimic a howl of pain.• Through the Night Softly (1973) – wriggled on his stomach overtwenty feet of broken glass, shirtless, with hands tied behind hisback.• 220 (1971) – Burden and three friends filled a gallery atmidnight with 1 foot of water. In the gallery were four woodenladders. Each person climbed a ladder, then Burden dropped a220 volt electrical cord into the water, trapping everyone ontheir ladder. Although his goal was to create a “life-raft likesituation,” the participants eventually were able to sleep on theirladders. The experiment ended at 6am when Burden’s wifeswitched off the electricity.• Burden’s more recent work focuses on installations, such asUrban Light (a collection of antique Los Angeles street lampsinstalled in front of LACMA) and Metropolis II.ShootChris Burden• Chris Burden’s early works from the 1970s involve endurance,physical pain, and danger. They questioned the violence andbrutality of the Vietnam War.• In 1971, he had an assistant shoot him through the arm fromabout five meters away in the performance Shoot.• In his 1974 performance Trans-Fixed, he was nailed throughthe palms (like a crucifix) to a Volkswagen beetle, while the carrevved to mimic a howl of pain.• Through the Night Softly (1973) – wriggled on his stomach overtwenty feet of broken glass, shirtless, with hands tied behind hisback.• 220 (1971) – Burden and three friends filled a gallery atmidnight with 1 foot of water. In the gallery were four woodenladders. Each person climbed a ladder, then Burden dropped a220 volt electrical cord into the water, trapping everyone ontheir ladder. Although his goal was to create a “life-raft likesituation,” the participants eventually were able to sleep on theirladders. The experiment ended at 6am when Burden’s wifeswitched off the electricity.• Burden’s more recent work focuses on installations, such asUrban Light (a collection of antique Los Angeles street lampsinstalled in front of LACMA) and Metropolis II.
Contemporary Art• The term “contemporary art” can be applied to any recentlymade art; it is not defined by any particular style or belief.• Post-modern art, by contrast, is art which rejects some or all ofthe tenets of modernism. While all post-modern art iscontemporary, some contemporary art is not post-modern.• There is no one particular style of post-modern art. It is aplurality of various styles and themes.• Most commonly, post-modern art deals with social issues (suchas race, gender, and sexual orientation) as well as political issues.
Jeff Koons• Jeff Koons’ sculptures focus on kitsch (cheesy, sentimental,superficial, like lawn gnomes, or salt and pepper shakers shapedlike Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus) and the banal (even titling oneexhibition The Banality Show).• Like Andy Warhol, Koons styles himself as intentionallysuperficial, acting as a mirror reflecting the cultural emphasis onconsumerism and luxury.• He maintains that there is no deeper meaning to his works.• Also like Warhol, his works are fabricated by a workshop ofartists.• Critics are divided. Some see him as a challenger of modernculture who forces the viewer to consider their consumerism,some see his works as visually impressive, and others find hiswork trivial and lacking in originality.Michael Jackson and Bubbles (1 of 3)Jeff Koons, 1988. Life-size. Gold plated porcelain.
I. M. Pei• Ieoh Ming Pei designed the Grand Pyramids in the LouvreMuseum’s central courtyard (which was originally a palace) in1988. Initially criticized the design as jarring next to thecenturies-old buildings around it, but eventually became iconicof the museum, which spans the history of art from ancient topost-modern.• Includes four pyramids (one large central plus three smaller)and triangular fountains, echoing the glass of the pyramids.• Serves as the entrance to the museum as well as a skylight forthe lobby, ticket booths, and gift shops below.• Materials evoke sense of modernity, but shape (pyramid)evokes ancient Egypt (the museum houses an extensive ancientEgyptian collection).• Clear glass material allows view of the buildings behind toremain unobstructed to viewers on the ground.Grand Louvre PyramideIeoh Ming Pei, 1988.Louvre Museum, Paris.
Maya Ying Lin• V-shaped, polished black granite. Ground level at ends, ascendsto ten feet tall in center.• Selected by a jury of architects & sculptors, in part becausethey thought its simplicity would be the least likely to provokecontroversy (as it was a controversial war).• Drew criticism because black could be associated with shameand sorrow, and because its sunken nature, compared to nearbyWashington Monument, seems to minimize the war that somany died fighting.• “The… Memorial is not an object inserted into the earth but awork formed from the act of cutting open the earth and polishingthe earth’s surface… creating an interface between the world ofthe light, and the quieter world beyond the names.”• The memorial’s reflective surface encourages viewers to reflecton the war, and come to their own personal conclusions.• “A memorial should be honest about the reality of war… I didn’twant a static object that people would just look at, butsomething they could relate to as on a journey… I wanted to workwith the land and not dominate it. I had an impulse to cut openthe earth… an initial violence that in time would heal.”• The memorial serves, like a scar, as a reminder.Vietnam War MemorialMaya Lin, 1981-83.Washington, DC.
Frank Gehry• Canadian Frank Gehry’s style exemplifies the Deconstructivistarchitecture movement that began in the 1970s.• Deconstructivism attempted to disrupt conventional elementsof architecture (such as harmony, order, symmetry, and balance)with disorder, imbalance, asymmetry, and irregularity.• Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, appears to be acollapsed or collapsing collection of units, which lookdramatically different depending upon angle of view.• The exterior is clad with limestone and titanium, lending aspace-age character, topped with a group of organic forms Gehryrefers to as a “metallic flower.”• In the center of the museum is an enormous glass-walledatrium which soars 165 feet high and sheds light into three levelsof galleries.• The seemingly weightless screens, vaults, and volumes of theinterior float and flow into one another, guided only by light anddark cues.Guggenheim Bilbao MuseoFrank Gehry, 1997. Bilbao, Spain.Experience Music ProjectSeattle, Washington.Disney Concert HallLos Angeles, California.
Keith Haring• Keith Haring began his art career making chalk drawings in theNYC subway system, where he drew energetic linear figures on theblack advertising spaces that didn’t presently have ads.• Although he was initially arrested whenever police saw him, hisstyle gained popularity, and he began selling to collectors.• Eventually, he opened a gallery where he sold a variety ofproducts (such as hats, shirts, buttons, and bags) displaying hisfigures, especially his crawling baby and barking dog figures.• In the 1980s New York City, AIDS was a quickly spreadingepidemic, which hit the homosexual population especially hard.Haring, who was gay, lent his drawings to ACT UP (an organizationdedicated to AIDS awareness and research) and PlannedParenthood (an organization that offers low-cost STD testing). Hedied of the virus in 1990.• Tuttomondo (“everyone”) was Haring’s last commission before hisdeath. He painted the side of a building in Pisa, Italy, with hisbrightly-colored characteristic energetic characters. It is a hymn tothe joy of life.TuttomondoKeith Haring, 1989.Sant’Antonio, Pisa, Italy.
Robert Mapplethorpe• Born in Queens, NY, and studied drawing and painting at PrattInstitute in Brooklyn, he eventually turned to photography.• Mapplethorpe’s black and white photographs have a silverysurface rich in a wide range of values and minute details.• His photographs depicted people, many nude, somehomoerotic and/or sadomasochistic in nature.• His traveling exhibition, The Perfect Moment, became thefocus of protests. It was cancelled in some cities, and when itwas displayed in Cincinnati, the museum and curator wereindicted by the state government on charges of obscenity (ofwhich they were acquitted by a jury six months later).• As an artist who received a grant from the NationalEndowment of the Arts (NEA), the controversial nature ofMapplethorpe’s photographs lead to a national debate overwhat type of art should be publicly funded.• Discuss the three self-portraits in the upper left.Self-Portrait1980Self-Portrait1980Self-Portrait1988
Jean-Michel Basquiat• Basquiat was born into a comfortable, middle class lifestyle inBrooklyn. His mother was an accountant from Haiti and hismother was black Puerto Rican.• Basquiat rebelled against middle class values, dropped out ofhigh school at 17, and took to the streets.• He began as a witty graffiti artists who signed his works SAMO(a dual reference to the derogatory name Sambo for AfricanAmericans and to “same old ****”).• Basquiat drew upon the styles of Pablo Picasso and AbstractExpressionism.• His artworks celebrate black heroes. In Horn Players, hememorialized the legendary jazz musicians Charlie “Bird” Parkerand Dizzy Gillespie.• The fractured figures, the bold colors against a blackbackground, and the scrawling graffiti create a dynamiccomposition suggesting the rhythms of jazz music and theexcitement of the streets of New York.Horn PlayersJean-Michel Basquiat, 1983.Acrylic and oil paintstick on threecanvas panels. 8’ x 6’3”.