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❶Similarly, sometimes I have a feeling many modern artists have no idea about the meaning of their own oeuvre. This is probably what Jackson Pollock had in mind when he made this claim for his own modernist art:.

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Other art historical periods do not have the same associated problems. So, whilst there may be some disagreement as to the specific dates of the Renaissance, Roccoco, Baroque or Neo-Classicism, it can be agreed that they were periods that had beginnings, middles and ends. Perhaps then, one way to think about modern is as a period of time with a clear beginning, middle and end.

This period is often regarded as ending with Pop Art in the mid s, when art became increasingly difficult to distinguish from everyday consumer objects and the output of the mass media.

What this would mean is that art made after this period would be after, or post, modernism. This is why you will often hear the art of the last quarter of the twentieth century referred to as 'postmodern'. However, such neat slicing up of the history of art is problematic. On the one hand, art seems to lag behind modernism in other fields.

For example modern history is generally seen to have begun around ; philosophy with Descartes who published his Meditations in or Kant who published his three Critiques between and and the technological boom of the Industrial Revolution in the nineteenth century is also seen as an origin of modernity.

As Charles Harrison observed: Before the '60s the term 'Modernism' was generally used in a vague way, to refer to what it was that made works of art seem 'contemporary' whatever that meant. Another way of thinking about what modern means in art is to think of it as an attitude to making.

It would also mean that examples from history could be identified as modern in their outlook, such as El Greco, the seventeenth century painter whom Picasso claimed was the originator of Cubism. Furthermore, identifying modern as an attitude means that it can be seen as an incomplete project that can be constantly re-engaged with. This is probably what Jackson Pollock had in mind when he made this claim for his own modernist art:. And the modern artists have found new means of making their statements.

It seems to me that the modern painter cannot express this age of the aeroplane, the atom bomb, the radio, in the old forms of the Renaissance or of any other past culture. Each age finds its own technique. Just as the times change, so too must art. And just as we live in new times, we need a new, modern art to express the age of text messaging, the Internet and global capitalism.

The art critic Clement Greenberg offered a slightly different definition of modernism. He claimed that modernist art was art that was about art. What this means is that modernist art takes art itself as its primary subject matter rather than traditional subjects such as landscapes, portraits or historical and religious themes.

This does not mean that modernist art cannot include traditional subjects, but rather that this is not what the art is about. Look, for example, at the William Scott painting Jug.

The subject matter is a jug and a bowl. Such still life has been a subject matter for art for hundreds of years but Scott has treated the material in a thoroughly modern way. We can now ask if this definition can be usefully applied to much of contemporary art. Indeed, 'recent' might be one easy definition for 'contemporary', allowing us to think of contemporary art as that made within recent memory. Another closely related and very straightforward meaning of 'contemporary', and one that is entirely true to the linguistic sources of the word, is 'with the times' from the Latin 'con', meaning 'with', plus 'temp' meaning 'time'.

As such, to be contemporary is to be alert to the conditions of a particular moment in time, to be moving with the tides of living history. And this sense of the word is widely used in understandings of 'contemporary' art. Back in the s, for instance, curators at the Tate Gallery in London decided that the "art of the past ten years, on a rolling basis", would provide a suitable set of parameters as they made plans to develop a new 'Museum of Contemporary Art'.

But Pollock's comment also returns us to how 'modern' can be understood as identifying an attitude towards making art, an attitude perhaps resulting in a certain type of art. Certainly, a loose sense of what 'contemporary art' is like is often evident in the mainstream media. Coverage of exhibitions such as the annual Turner Prize show, for instance, will often be based on hostile presumptions about the prevailing tendencies in art today, with artists regularly being characterised as pranksters or self-promoting provocateurs rather than masters of a recognisable medium.

However accurate such pictures are, it is of course essential to remember the vital role played not just by the media but also by the art market in manufacturing particular versions of a contemporary art 'world' as has always been the case throughout the history of art , with certain forms of art reaching prominence as a result of their marketability.

Such magazines will often introduce us to much that is overtly 'edgy': All seem to sit comfortably side-by-side in such publications. Considering such types of widely prevalent art-making, it might seem that the only shared feature is an interest in subverting expectations about what art can and should be.

Such tendencies would, of course, be true to a legacy of avant-gardism in the arts, and in our effort to capture something of what is 'contemporary' in art we could choose to prioritise the continuation of a kind of rule-breaking spirit. Yet, many celebrated contemporary art practices frustrate this view. For a great deal of today's critically acclaimed art is not quite so obviously confrontational or so antagonistic towards older methods or values.

If, for example, a great deal of recent art shows hostility towards principles of aesthetic refinement in art, there remains a significant strain of art, highly regarded by 'contemporary' critics, curators and collectors, that is concerned with retrieving, or positively re-imagining, seemingly outdated notions such as craft and beauty. The paintings of William McKeown for instance, make a sophisticated and unorthodox case for beauty in art today, hinting to us that this idea is essential as a way of freeing, and at the same time grounding, our imaginations.

Similarly for Isabel Nolan, 'beauty' is to be found in the vulnerabilities of both commonplace and more complex ways of representing or understanding the world around us: Much that is well-respected within contemporary art today, therefore, does not correspond to the prejudices of conservative critics.

Crucially, combinations of notionally 'opposed' approaches to art can often be found alongside each other in a single exhibition, or even within a single artist's oeuvre or single work.

For the philosopher and critic Arthur Danto, the innovations of art after the 'modernist' era have therefore brought about, in effect, an 'end' of art. This does not mean, he argues, an end of people making art, but rather an end of a particular way of understanding art that focused on the constraints of certain disciplines and mediums. Since pop art, Danto suggests, "There is no special way works of art have to be". Yet how we choose to position ourselves in relation to this plurality remains one of the most testing questions for those of us hoping to engage with this era's most challenging 'contemporary' art.

This is not only a way of generating works of art, but is also part of the work itself. Here are three examples: Untitled Free , a working kitchen in a New York gallery set up by artist Rirkrit Tiravanija; Tenantspin, , a TV channel for the elderly residents of a Liverpool housing estate set up by art collective Superflex; and Pimp my Irish Banger, , a collaborative art project in which artist Terry Blake worked with young people from Dublin to paint car doors and bonnets that were later displayed in an outdoor space at the National College of Art and Design, Dublin.

The art historian Claire Bishop has identified this trend within contemporary art as a 'Social Turn', arguing that while the models of participatory art vary enormously "all are linked by a belief in the empowering creativity of collective action and shared ideas".

Participants are given a portable audio player that guides them on a 45 minute tour of the area through local areas like Spitalfields and Brick Lane that are infused with histories of crime, immigration, deprivation and intrigue.

Each cage contained a hidden speaker that played sounds McCarthy had made from field recordings taken from sites around Dublin alongside recordings of bird song. But what I cannot understand, no matter how much I try, is a phenomenon called contemporary art. I have been attending contemporary art events rather often, and I have figured out three main categories of art presented at such exhibitions.

The first category focuses on shock. Shock art can insult or cause disgust, but it is not art in its original meaning; I think if a person wants to offend their audience, they might call them names, humiliate them, or manifest aggression towards them. The effect would be greater. The next category of contemporary art is what I call extra-conceptual art.

By this term, I mean that a piece of art bears such complex and implicit meaning that it is only the artists themselves who can understand their work not always, though. Martin Heidegger, one of the most influential and famous philosophers of the 20th century, was confused about certain points of his own philosophy.

Similarly, sometimes I have a feeling many modern artists have no idea about the meaning of their own oeuvre. Obviously, Hirst had put some meaning into it. But what was it?

The third category is art that aims to be completely meaningless. This kind of contemporary art does not carry any aesthetic value, it will not fit into your interior—it simply exists. Its only function is to fill empty spaces on the walls in art galleries.

A Monaco-based art dealer Mr. Looking at some pieces of contemporary art, I agree with this thesis. The brightest example of meaningless art for me is a video artwork by Tracey Emin, which depicts an average-looking woman riding a horse. No notable objects appearing, no culmination or introduction.

Perhaps, you should be a genius to notice any other meaning in this artwork, except a woman riding a horse. Despite my sincere and deep interest in art—from classic to avant-garde—I am not afraid to admit that I completely do not get contemporary art.

In my perspective, it looks either shocking, or ultra-complex, or meaningless. Though I may remember the most shocking or senseless artworks, I would rather forget about their existence.


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Introduction | Essay | What is Modern and Contemporary Art? By Francis Halsall & Declan Long 1 – In a Dark Room (i) In a dark room, on a large screen, three Indonesian kids in matching purple Adidas tracksuits, wrap-around sunglasses and sun-visors are singing a karaoke version of a song by the s pop group The Smiths. It is equally.

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