Monday, November 10, 2014

Contemporary Art (pt. 1)

It is a reality of the modern world that things move very fast, and consequently what is new already becomes old by the time people write about it.  This is especially true of art, which, as we have seen, is seldom given complete attention during the time of it production.  Art is constantly moving and changing; and so it's hard to keep up.  What I'm labeling as "Contemporary Art" here is in fact quite aged material, some of it from thirty or forty years ago.  I do not mean to sound anachronistic; this is simply how I was taught.  And, at any rate, I think you'll find that many of these dated works are still finding a level of cultural relevance today as if they were relatively new paintings (which, considering a time span of some four or five thousand years that we've looked at so far, I suppose this is pretty recent).  In a little bit, we shall examine some more contemporary pieces, and then I will feel more comfortable with the label (though, even those are now a thing of the past); for now, there are a few more key works to consider from the 1970s.
The label "contemporary art" is of course not an official designation but merely a temporary name for what hasn't been clearly defined yet.  In the same manner by which artists of, say, the Baroque Period only inherited their title in retrospect of the post-Reformation age, it is often the case that art and literature within the immediate present is largely unaware of itself.  Definitions and titles come after the fact.  Van Gogh was ahead of his time; during his artistic career, there was no one to explain to him, "Oh, that's Post-Impressionism stuff."  This is the way in which new things are frequently left unspecified until later generations.  And although several of these works we're about to examine have been given proper labels suitable to a growing genre of art, many of the later works have yet to be—for lack of a better word—defined.  For now we just call it "contemporary art" until scholars and theorists (and other artists) come along with a view of the larger picture of things and spot the movement of trends and fashions within the art world during this late-Postmodern Age.

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