Contemporary art is the art of today, produced in the second half of the 20th century or in the 21st century. Contemporary artists work in a globally influenced, culturally diverse, and technologically advancing world.
Have you read the pages on impressionism or surrealism? These are art movements or specific art styles, typically popular during certain periods. Artists in a particular movement created paintings and sculptures with similar characteristics, as they believed the role of art was to encourage people to look at the world in a certain way. For example, surrealistic art includes the use of everyday objects or events portrayed in a dreamlike way.
Since the early 1960s, few new art movements have fallen into neat categories like impressionism and surrealism. Today's art is called contemporary art. Contemporary artists are living and creating art now. contemporary'' means ''now'' or '' present day.''
Like our society, art has become more diverse. Instead of participating in art movements, contemporary artists create pieces that reflect their opinions, philosophies, and styles. They often try to get people to think about current events or ideas in new ways. This page looks at some examples of contemporary art.
Click the image above to read an article explaining the difference between modern art and contemporary
Contemporary Art movements
Minimalism emerged from the simplicity and purity of late modernism, which had stripped art back to its primary forms and resulted in a utopian form of pure abstraction. However, Minimalism took these ideas to new extremes, relying on grids, geometry, pared-back color schemes, and polished, pristine surfaces. It asked viewers to see art as an object rather than a representation. Minimalism was a popular style of contemporary art during the 1960s and 1970s, through artists including Donald Judd, Agnes Martin, and Dan Flavin, it has now been superseded by other styles. However, many of today's artists show Minimalism's influence in their art.
Conceptual art is a form of artistic expression that prioritizes ideas and concepts over traditional aesthetics. It challenges the notion that artwork should solely focus on visually pleasing elements, pushing boundaries by emphasizing the underlying concept or message behind the piece.
Unlike traditional art forms, conceptual art often strays from conventional mediums such as painting or Sculpture. Instead, it embraces various techniques and mediums to convey its ideas - including installations, performances, digital media, and everyday objects. This versatility allows artists to experiment freely with different materials and methods to express their concepts best.
At its core, conceptual art encourages viewers to engage intellectually with the artwork. Rather than providing an immediate visual impact or emotional response like other types of art might do, it invites individuals to think critically about what they are experiencing. It sparks conversations and debates surrounding the meaning and interpretation of the piece - challenging preconceived notions and expanding our understanding of artistic expression.
One fascinating aspect of conceptual art is how it nurtures imaginative thinking skills. Encouraging people to explore abstract concepts through their artwork allows them to develop problem-solving abilities while fostering creativity in unconventional ways. Conceptual art empowers minds to think outside the box, question established norms, and embrace unique perspectives.
In essence, conceptual art opens up endless possibilities for self-expression by breaking free from conventional artistic limitations. It invites us all - adults and children alike - to delve into a world where imagination reigns supreme, ideas take shape beyond mere brushstrokes or sculptural forms, and creativity knows no bounds!
Emerging during the 1970s, conceptualism is a significant characteristic of contemporary art that continues to this day. Some key examples include
"The Physical Impossibilities of Death in the Mind of Someone Living" installation by Damien Hirst (1991)
British artist Damien Hirst likes to create artworks about death, and The Physical Impossibilities of Death in the Mind of Someone Living mortally deals with death; it consists of a dead tiger shark preserved in a vitrine filled with formaldehyde. Funded by businessman Charles Saatchi, the shark cost Hirst £6,000 and £50,000 for displaying this “fish without chips,” as one journalist called it.
Unpainted Sculpture by Charles Ray (1997)
Charles Ray is a sculptor from L.A. who creates sculptures made of various materials—fiberglass, wood, aluminum, steel, Plexiglas, marble, or granite. Some of these works are small, while others are large and weigh tons. Unpainted Sculpture is a fiberglass, life-size replica of a crashed 1991 Pontiac Grand Am. Each part was cast and assembled over two years. The color of the Sculpture is similar to that of the plastic used in model car sets. One may wonder why Ray produced a wrecked car rather than a shiny new one. Is that what makes this piece a work of art?
Photorealism can be a jaw-dropping demonstration of technical skill, precision, and attention to detail with works of art that are so lifelike that they almost appear as photographs.
Photorealistic works are often almost hyperreal, with colors, textures, and forms reproduced in exacting detail. Artists use advanced techniques like airbrushing and layering, photorealists create images that capture the minutest details of the subject.
Often using photographs as source material, artists will spend hours studying and analyzing these images to capture even the most minor details and depict them in their artwork.
Some most celebrated photorealist artists include Chuck Close, Richard Estes, and Audrey Flack. American painter Close’s works often consist of large, grid-like compositions in which individual cells are filled with intricate details and vivid colors.
American artist Estes’s works often depict cityscapes and urban scenes, such as storefronts, street corners, and parks. Audrey Flack's work shows her ability to capture the essence of common objects in a highly realistic manner
Audrey Flack, Crayola painting, 1973
Chuck Close and his paintings
Land Art/Earth Art
This is where nature and art collide! Land art, also known as earth art, is a fascinating form of artistic expression that uses the Earth's natural elements as the canvas. It incorporates the landscape into the artwork beyond traditional painting or sculpture. Imagine giant sculptures made from rocks, intricate patterns created with leaves and twigs, or even entire fields transformed into mesmerizing installations.
Land art is an innovative and thought-provoking form of artistic expression. It emerged in the late 1960s and early 1970s as a response to traditional gallery spaces and sought to create a deeper connection between art and nature.
Unlike more conventional art forms, land art takes place outside the confines of museums or studios. Instead, it utilizes natural landscapes as both inspiration and canvas. Artists create their works using raw materials- rocks, soil, plants, and water. These pieces often blend seamlessly with their surroundings, blurring the boundaries between manufactured creations and the environment.
One key aspect of land art is its impermanence. Many artworks are designed to withstand the elements over time, while others are intentionally temporary installations that will eventually return to nature. This transience adds another layer of depth by highlighting the fleeting beauty of our natural world.
The purpose behind creating land artworks varies from artist to artist. Some seek to raise awareness about environmental issues such as deforestation or pollution through their work. Others aim to provoke contemplation about our relationship with nature or challenge societal norms surrounding traditional forms of artistic expression.
Land artists have pushed boundaries by creating monumental sculptures integrated into vast landscapes or intricate patterns formed using leaves and branches on forest floors. By utilizing these unconventional canvases, they invite viewers to appreciate their aesthetic beauty and reflect upon humanity's impact on the Earth.
Heard Shaped Medow, UK
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Video art is a medium of art that uses video technology to create works of art, allowing artists to explore and demonstrate time and movement. Artists leverage video to capture and manipulate time, slowing it down, speeding it up, or even stopping it entirely – allowing them to experiment with different forms of storytelling and narratives.
Some of the best-known video artists include Nam June Paik, Bill Viola, and Joan Jonas. Their works are often immersive and thought-provoking, and they challenge viewers to think about the relationship between technology, media, and contemporary society.
In text art, artists use characters such as letters, and numbers to create images. Text art can range from simple designs and patterns to highly intricate and detailed images. Some artists use specialized software to produce their text art, while others use more basic tools such as text editors or online generators.
Some best-known text artists include Jenny Holzer, Barbara Kruger, and Lawrence Weiner. American installation artist Holzer’s works often involve LED displays, projections, and installations that feature scrolling text, slogans, and aphorisms. One of Holzer’s most famous works is the Truisms series (1978-87), which often feature contradictory or ambiguous texts meant to engage the audience and lead them to consider the complexities of contemporary society.
American artist Kruger‘s works often feature black and white photographs overlaid with bold, capitalized text in red or white that deliver potent messages or questions.