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t h C e n t u r y A r t H i s t o r y
Futurism | Dada
| Surrealism | Abstract
Expressionism | Colour Field Painting
Minimalism | Op
Art | Pop Art | Photo-Realism
| Post-modern Art | Bibliography
After Cubism the new movement of Futurism emerged
in Italy. It was led by Italian poet, Filippo Marinetti (1876-1944). In
a 1909 manifesto, Marinetti angrily introduced this new movement. He wanted
to have new art that strived to represent "violence, energy and boldness,"
and to be free from the "tyranny of
harmony and good taste."
(Fichner: 429). They denounced institutions, and felt they were unimportant
to culture. This manifesto was published in French on the front page of
the Paris newspaper, Le Figaro on Feb. 20, 1909. In Italy copies were
made and sent to leaders throughout the country.
In theory, Futurist paintings and sculptures were made to glorify life
and the, "unceasingly and violently transformed by victorious science."
(Fichner: 429). In many Futurist works an influence of Cubism can be seen.
The most important term in Futurism is dynamism. It is the theory which
says that "force or energy is the basic principle of all phenomena."
Umberto Boccioni, a key figure in this movement said:
"Everything moves, everything runs
owing to the persistence
of images on the retina, objects in motion are multiplied, distorted,
following one another like waves though space." (Fichner: 429)
Characteristics of Futurism include irregular, agitated lines that communicate
the energy of movement. Futurists wanted to illustrate images in perpetual
motion, and many key Futurists were sculptors.
There was a period of Russian Futurism as well, which was lead by Kazimir
Malevich. This movement lasted from 1912-1915. Malevich referred to it
Key Artist : : Giacomo Balla
Giacomo Balla is a Futurist painter, and he felt that subjects were less
important than the "dynamic sensation" that they portrayed and
Street Lamp 1909 is a painting that expresses the excitement
and dynamism of light and movement. The light of the lamp penetrates through
the dark of the night. Balla uses V-shaped brushstrokes to show the perpetual
movement of light.
On March 11, 1915, Balla and Fortunato Depero issued
a manifesto called, "Furturist Reconstruction of the Universe".
In this piece they claimed that "gesture is no longer a fixed moment,
but shall be a dynamic sensation." (Baritt: 180) Futurists wanted
to depict the world not as it was, but how it was experienced.
Dynamism of energy:
In Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash 1912, the image is based on the study
of multiple exposure. With the advent of the camera people were able to
see the stages of movement that the normal eye does not notice. In Girl
Runing on a Balcony 1912, Balla uses a mosaic style, by breaking up the
image and repeating the representation of the subject. By doing so, we
see the girl in the blurred stages of her movement.
Energy was an important subject for these artists, and
they wanted to express the constant and transcendent energy that blurs
in an image that is representational of movement. Futurists never tried
to define motion, instead they showed the consequences of it. The sculptures
often avoided straight representation of their subjects. But, even though
Futurist work is very abstract, there is always an element of representation
Dadaism is a short-lived art movement that began in 1916 and ended in
1922. It was an international movement that declared itself against art.
Dadaism was responding to the absurdity of war, and was attacking the
established bourgeois rationality and morality that allowed it to happen.
Dadaism was manifested through frustration, and anger at the world. "The
bourgeois regarded the Dadaist as the dissolute monster, a revolutionary
(that) thought up tricks to rob the bourgeois of his sleep,"
says Hans Arp (Britt: 203) Dadaists created art that reflected the pathetic
state of the world. They regarded art as ridiculous and irrelevant, and
therefore must be destroyed. Dadaism turned to the absurd, primitive and
elementary. But in order to convey their ideas against art they created
art themselves. Dadaism lived in a state of constant irony. This contradiction
predicted it's ultimate downfall.
The meaning of Dadaism:
Dadaism had major centres in Zurich, Paris, Berlin, Cologne and New York
City. The word Dada is supposedly a randomly chosen word from a dictionary.
It is a nonsense term that best describes this movement, which strived
for meaningless, absurdity and unpredictability. The translation of Dada
in French is "hobbyhorse". There is debate about whether the
term is actually randomly chosen, but the element of chance is definitely
important in Dadaism. Dada poetry consisted of a nonsense combination
of random words. Also, Dada collages often were constructed with objects
found by chance. However meaningless that the artists wanted their works
to come across, they were not interpreted as meaningless at all. The early
twentieth century was dominated by theories in psychoanalysis, so if this
art was speaking of something at all it was definitely saying something
about the artist.
Dadaists of course were nihilistic is nature. They declared
that their purpose was to make clear to the public that all established
values have been made meaningless due to the horrors of the war. Obviously,
if the world was allowing war something was wrong with the morality and
rationality that it houses. And if this is the accepted rationality of
the world there would be no way for people to create new intellect and
forms of protest.
Due to debates, and increasing animosity between the different centres,
Dadaism collapsed in 1922. Though, Dadaism was not completely negative.
There was an encouragement of freeing the world of conventional views
in order to create new forms of rationality and morality that was different
from the established, and accepted bourgeois mentality. With the increasing
interest in psychoanalysis and experiments in juxtaposition, Dadaism provided
the basis for Surrealism in the early 1920s.
Key Artist : : Marcel Duchamp
Marcel Duchamp is the key figure of Dadaism. He was born in 1887 in France.
In Paris he studied at the Academie Julian until 1905. Dadaism explored
the ideas of the context of an object. And with this idea of context they
attempted to negate, insult and ridicule art. Dadaism preached nonsense
and anti-art. His Mona Lisa (L.H.O.O.Q.) 1919, was the most direct slander
at the nature of art. In this painting he appropriated Leonardo da Vinci's
masterpiece, and painted a moustache and goatee on it.
One main concept in Dadaism was to turn the utilitarian into the aesthetic.
Marcel Duchamp's ready-mades are a prime example of this. Duchamp would
take every-day objects, sign them, and place them in a gallery in order
to call it art. His trademark pieces include Fountain 1917, and Bicycle
Wheel 1913. By doing this he created some of the most debated issues in
Dadaism. Ready-mades often created two debates. The first was did this
gesture simple elevate the ordinary into a work of art, or did it just
reduce all objects, everyday and high art, to the same level.
Marcel Duchamp's work, which is often the basis of all Dada studies, raises
complex issues about the nature of art and anti-art. Today there is no
doubt that his ready-mades are regarded as high art. But at the time he
claims that his purpose was not to turn the everyday into art. In fact,
he found it difficult to find the right object for his work, because his
purpose of displaying objects in this manner was to create a reaction
of indifference in the viewer. But, he found that viewers couldn't resist
the look of the object, and it became an aesthetic emotion that viewers
had when regarding a piece. Duchamp wanted his pieces to have an absence
of good or bad taste, therefore reiterating the bad effects of an accepted
bourgeois morality by trying to create a new mentality. He died in 1968
At the end of World War I, a new art movement emerged from a literary
movement. Surrealism is based on writings and manifestos of the "non-rational".
It is natural that these new Surrealists were influenced by Dadaists.
Both these groups began with literature, and they focused on the practice
of automatic writing. This is a type of writing that allows the writer
to be free from any purposeful thought, and explores the subconscious
when it is free of associations. People would write down whatever came
into their heads and didn't consider the rational or relationship of the
different elements at the time. The words didn't denote meaning, but rather
they symbolized the activities of the unconscious mind.
The Surrealist manifesto:
Surrealist writers left Dadaism, because they felt it was too academic.
The leader of the Surrealist movement was Andre Breton. He wrote the Surrealist
Manifesto in 1924, which inspired many.
Breton outlines some of the basic principle of Surrealism
"Pure psychic automatism by which it is intended to express either
verbally or in writing, the true function of thought. Thought dictated
in the absence of all control, exerted by reason
Types of Surrealism:
There are two types of Surrealism.
1. Illusionistic Surrealism: These works of art are composed of irrational
content, absurd juxtapositions and metamorphoses of dreams into a higher
illusionary state. Salvador Dali, Yves Tanguy and Rene Magritte were Illusionists.
2. Automatist Surrealism: this is directly derived from automatic writing.
These pieces express the subconscious through abstraction. These works
are created free from conscious associations. Automatists include Joan
Miro and Andre Masson.
In the 1930s, Adolph Hitler rose to power and threatened war onto Europe
again. Many leading figures in art field fled to the United States, and
overnight New York became the new center of the art world..
Key Artist : : Salvador Dali
Salvador Dali (1904-1986) was the celebrity of
the Surrealist movement. He is originally from Spain, and led an unusual
and somewhat surreal life. His life sometimes preceded his art. He will
always be known for his trademark moustache, arrogant behaviour and illusionistic
Dali began his painting career adapting to the techniques of Impressionism,
Pointillism and Futurism. He studied at the Academy of Fine Art in Madrid,
where he began Illusionistic realism, and in his life he never stopped
exploring this subject.
He joined the Surealist movement in 1928. His paintings
provoke questions about the possible realism in dreams, so symbolic imagery
is very important in his pieces. Some of his work refers to a sexual symbolism,
as many other Surrealist work do as well. Dali's paintings focus great
importance on the ideas of association between objects, coincidences and,
of course, dreams.
The Persistence of Memory:
The Persistence of Memory 1931 is his signature piece. It is a painting
of a barren landscape, where everything including time has expired. The
main subjects are melting watches, which are covered with insects. There
is a strange figure in the middle of the piece, which looks like half
of a person's face. This face is said to resemble Dali. This piece conveys
the images of a strange dream, and Dali uses odd juxtapositions to create
a new meaning. But even though this piece looks like a dream there is
a haunting reality lurking in it.
The uncontrollable subconscious:
Surrealists borrowed many concepts from psychoanalysis. And they believed
that the unconscious held universal imagery. And through translating their
dreams and subconscious, and though the process of automatic writing they
would be able to unleash these images. But even though they tried to have
free thoughts and expressions, a certain amount of control is unavoidable.
Abstract Expression is the term used to describe the movement that prevailed
for a decade after World War II. This was the first major movement that
came out of New York, the new capital of the art world. This movement
and had a powerful impact on European art.
In the time of post-war America, artists wanted to find
a new way to express themselves that was free of representation. Characteristics
of Abstract Expressionism include the spontaneous execution of painting,
large gestural brush strokes, abstract imagery, and the idea of exploring
the physical qualities of paint itself.
Translation of subconscious:
Though Abstract Expressionism and Automatist Surrealism have no aesthetic
resemblance to each other, they both had in common the fact that they
wanted to translate the subconscious onto canvas. Often Abstract Expressionism
is seen as heroic and self-indulgent.
Artists of this movement believed that paint was not just a passive element
that can be manipulated, but that paint stored an intense energy that
needed to be released. Also, they felt that the dynamic of painting not
only depended on the type of paint that was being used but also the gestures
of the body, at what speed and impact the paint was being applied, and
its interaction with other paints on the canvas.
By exploring these methods the surfaces of these paintings
came alive, but the artist is of course the ultimate source of energy.
So, it was the act of painting that was important. Often these artists
would use huge canvases that would allow them to paint with their bodies,
not just their hands. Artists such as Jackson Pollock abandoned the idea
of the brush stroke. Artist William De Kooning never gave up the brush,
but he still had a passion for the process of painting.
Clement Greenberg, a critic from New York, preferred the term "painterly
abstraction" instead of Abstract Expressionism because of the movement's
lack of representation, and the loose use of the brush.
Key Artist : : Jackson Pollock
Jackson Pollock is one of the best-known Abstract Expressionists. He was
born in Cody, Wyoming, in 1912, but in 1930 moved to New York to study
under Thomas Hart Benton at the Art Students League. His focus was on
the gesture. Pollock's work can also be classified as "drip painting"
or "action painting". He worked in the late 1940s-50s and many
people are familiar with videos and photographs of him dripping paint
onto large canvases. He made many innovations in the movement that influenced
The term "action painting" was created by art critic Harold
Rosenberg in 1951. It is used to describe paintings whose surfaces imply
a sense of activity, and was created by brushing, dripping or splattering
paint quickly and impulsively.
Pollock would walk across the surface of a canvas, and he dripped paint
in accordance to his impulses and unconscious thoughts. The element of
accident is an important composition in his paintings. His work is non-representational,
as it doesn't have clear subject matter, just paint itself and the focus
on depth, texture, energy and process.
His work is barely contained in his massive canvases. The surfaces of
his pieces are unified and un-sectioned. His technique of overlapping
paint creates a dynamic "web" that creates infinite depth.
Pollock and Psychoanalysis:
Pollock was in psychoanalysis at the time of his paintings, and he believed
in the unconscious, accidents and spontaneity when creating art.
He had his first solo show at The Art of This Century
Gallery in New York, in 1943. Two years later he married Lee Krasner,
and lived in East Hampton, New York. Even though his work has been exhibited
around the world, Pollock never travelled outside the United States. He
died tragically in a car accident in 1956.
Colour field painting is the next dimension in Abstract Expressionism.
For some artists the focus on colour was more important than the act of
a gesture. Colour field painters used convases that were massive in order
to envelop the viewer with colour, and to emphasize the subtleties and
vivaciousness of them:
"To paint a small picture is to place yourself outside of your experience
paint the larger picture, you are in it. It isn't something you command.
(The painting) is no longer object in environment, it is environment itself."
Mark Rothko (Baritt: 269)
Within one artist's body of work the images were often very similar, especially
in the case of Mark Rothko. But, due to differences in the palette used,
each piece was its own entity and evokes a different emotion.
Many colour field painting is described as having a "contemplative"
stillness or intensity. These painters respected the integrity of the
canvas and field, so there is often no center of action or attention.
And, the shapes they use reaffirm and repeats the field and the colour
used. This type of painting creates a cloudy depth and unique atmosphere.
This movement of simple non-representation, and focus
on the perpetual presence that the piece appeared to have influenced Minimalism.
Key Artist : : Mark Rothko
Mark Rothko (1903-1970) was born Marcus Rothkowitz in Russia. He immigrated
to the United States at age ten. During 1921-23 he attended Yale University
on a scholarship. He left Yale without obtaining a degree to move to New
York. He then studied at the Art Students League under Max Weber.
Rothko had his first solo show in New York at the Contemporary
Art Gallery in 1933. In 1935 he founded the group "Ten". This
was a group of artists whose work was influenced by abstraction and Expressionism.
In 1947 and 1949 he taught at the California School of Fine Arts in San
Francisco. Rothko also founded the Subjects of the Artist School in New
York in 1948.
Developing a style:
He began painting figures in urban settings in the 1930s and experimented
with surrealistic imagery in the early 1940s. But it wasn't until he began
his colour field paintings that gave him his fame. He is renowned for
paintings that consist of, "large, floating, hazy edged colour fields"
In the 1950s his work constantly displayed rectangles floating above one
another. These rectangles interacted with the background colour. The large
scale of them absorbs the viewer in colour.
Colours dictate mood:
Early in his career he painted with pale rich colours, but in the 1960s
his work became more muted. Often his hues would be mixed with blacks
and greys. This may be caused by the turmoil he was having in his personal
Rothko suffered through depression during the last years of his life.
And in 1968 he was diagnosed with heart disease. His second marriage ended
a year after that. He eventually committed suicide in the winter of 1970.
Minimal art or Minimalism began in the 1960s. It was a movement that was
inspired by Abstract Expressionism, colour field painting, and mathematics.
It attempted to purify images and the painting process in order to reflect
intellectual theories and mathematical systems. Minimalists reduced objects
to their basic geometric shapes, and searched for the essence of an object.
They wanted to evoke an emotion and aesthetic pleasure from their work.
Characteristics of Minimalism:
Characteristics of Minimalism include, "precise, hard-edged, unitary
geometric forms; rigid planes of colour-usually cool hues or commercially
mixed colours, or sometimes just a single colour; non-hierarchical, mathematically
regular compositions, often based on a grid; the reduction to pure self-referential
form, emptied of all external references; and an anonymous surface appearance,
without any gestural inflection." (Guggenheim Collection Web Site)
Minimalism has also been referred to as, "ABC art,
cool art, imageless pop, literist art, object art, and primary structure
art." (Guggenheim Collection Web Site). It rejects the heroics of
Abstract Expressionism, and bases its success on the viewer's relationship
with the piece. Though the public often did not understand Minimal art.
And, due to the fact that it stressed simplicity of form, and clarity
of idea there was sometimes an emptiness that prevailed in the pieces.
Though some found Minimalist art extremely transcendent, because it is
so simple and free of subject matter.
Simplicity and precision:
Often these pieces consisted of large simple canvases, were painted with
one colour, and with minimal detail. There was a concentration on grids
and simplicity. There were also Minimalist sculptors who focused on the
precise construction of their simple pieces. Minimalism lasted longer
than expected, and the intellectual theories behind it strengthened as
Key Artist : : Donald Judd
Donald Judd was born in 1928 in Missouri. He attended
the Arts Student League in New York in 1948, but later transferred to
the College of William and Mary, Virginia. In 1949 he went back to New
York to study philosophy at Columbia University, and at the same time
he returned to the Arts Student League to take art courses.
Judd had his first solo exhibit
in 1957 at the Green Gallery, New York. During 1962-64 he taught at the
Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Science. In 1984 he began designing furniture.
In 1992 he was elected as a member of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts,
He is famous for his use of industrial materials that were in a readily
available form. He was concerned with the properties and characteristics
of his installations, and used materials such as plywood, iron, stainless
steel, aluminium and plexi-glass for his pieces. Judd disliked being called
a sculptor because, to him, it implied carving.
Minimalism rejected illusionism,
and wanted the viewer to focus on what work of art was presently in front
of them now, the characteristics of the object, and how they occupied
"I don't know what happened to the pragmatic, empirical attitude
of paying attention to what is here and now; it is basic to science, it
should be basic to art too." Donald Judd (Modern Art Web Site)
The importance in his work lay in the precise arrangement and construction
of them. The proportion and spacing of his pieces were very important,
as well as repetition. Though Judd often had to rely on assistants to
help him execute concepts for his huge installations. This act was as
impersonal as the materials he used.
Through his career he promoted
Minimal Art, and defended it when critics said it lacked intellectual
thought and had no meaning. Two volumes of his essays were pubished in
1975 and 1987. Judd died in 1994, in New York.
Optical Art or Op Art is a movement where artist would try to create an
optical illusion with their paintings. Op artists were concerned with
the process of how we see. They felt that we took for granted how we use
our eyes, and how we perceive the world. Op Artists felt that we should
be more aware of this important sense. They knew that our eyes often deceive
us, and concentrated on how to exercise this phenomenon.
How Op works:
Op Artists would manipulate our eyes by repeating and/or distorting patterns
with lines, colours, and shapes to produce visual illusions. By doing
this they were experimenting with three dimensionality on a two dimensional
space. This work was always non-representational.
Element of disorientation:
The effects that they created are meant to be disorienting. Sometimes
these pieces would give a sense of movement, because of their use of receding
shapes and lines, through colour. They had to understand how the foreground
interacted with the background to be successful in their effect. Due to
these techniques Op Art was a more scientific movement, and some critics
believe that it never lived up and developed to its full potential of
Op Art is concerned with the act of perception, and needed
an active response from the viewer. Op Art is sometimes seen as a branch
of Kinetic Art, as both are concerned with movement and the energy created
within a piece.
Key Artist : : Bridget Riley
Bridget Riley was one of the important figures in Op Art in the 1960s.
She was born in 1931, in London, England. During the war she lived in
a little cottage in Cornwall. In 1952 she went to the Royal College of
Art, where she was faced with confusion and frustration, due to an out-dated
faculty, and her own feeling of displacement in arts.
She didn't develop much in college, because she didn't
know what type of a painter she wanted to be, though she knew she wanted
to be one. Riley had a nervous breakdown in the late 1950s due to family
tragedies and her frustration with art, but later found a job working
at the advertising agency J. Walter Thompson in London.
She was about to give up painting entirely, but then attended a Jackson
Pollock exhibit in 1958 in London. Here she realized that modern art was
alive, and this influenced her to pursue painting again:
"I decided to paint one last painting, entirely black. But even then
there was a small voice still in me, which looked at the painting and
said: 'This doesn't express anything. What's wrong?' It had no contrast.
So I put in white
It seemed good. And I told myself, 'O.K., just
one more painting.' I was off."
Bridget Riley (New York Times Web Site)
The Black and white:
Riley's career began in 1961 with a series of slick black and white paintings.
Later she began to work with colour after she travelled to Egypt, and
was impressed with how Egyptian art only used a few colours, but was still
very powerful. Her paintings consist of mesmerizing patterns and colours.
Often she would use thick repetitive lines, but later worked with waves
Patterns and rhythms:
Riley relates her paintings to music, due to the patterns and rhythms
that are prominent in both. Most of her paintings are not entirely painted
by her. She has always had assistants paint them, based on her drawings.
She sometimes worked with coloured paper pasted on grids. She says that
she uses assistants not in order for her work to be mechanical, but so
it would be perfect. She wants the result of her pieces to be how she
originally envisions them.
In 1968, she was awarded the painting prize at the Venice
Biennale. She was the first woman to accomplish this. Riley's work gave
the English art scene a startle, because they had not seen this type of
bold abstraction before.
Pop Art is a movement that is described as one of the most, "enticing,
surprising, controversial and exasperating." (Ficher: 451) It was
a reaction against the seriousness of Abstract Expressionism. They felt
that non-objectivity had been exhausted, and began to work with familiar
icons of the everyday. It became both an art movement and a lifestyle
trend. The word "pop" was created by English critic Lawrence
Alloway in 1954, and it refers to the universal images that mass media
evokes, such as movie posters, advertisements, billboards, magazine photos,
Questioning the nature of art:
Pop Art uses subject matter that is commonplace and familiar, and it challenges
the conceptions about high art, commodity culture, and the upper class.
This movement is the first one that brought together high and popular
culture, by using icons of popular culture and putting it into the context
of the high culture of art. Work from this movement was often colourful
and bold. Pop Art questioned art by saying it can be mass-produced. Though,
now the "aura" of the work of art comes into questionable.
Pop Art consists of intertextual
"Intertextual references are emblematic of the hyperconscious of
postmodern popular culture: a hyperawareness on the part of the text itself
of its cultural status, function, history, as well as of the conditions
of its circulation and reception." (Marris: 380)
Depicting mass culture:
Therefore, in order to better understand the work you must understand
the how the icons or objects are normally viewed in everyday life. And
these references in art are good indication of how mass culture perceives
specific subjects and attitudes.
This movement depicts the mundane, the mass-produced
and the familiar. They used objects bluntly in order to create a representation
of middle America. These artists used commercial culture as their subject
matter, but they didn't necessarily believe that it was evil or should
be changed. Even though Pop Art was highly developed in America and used
American icons, this movement originated in England in the 1950s. Richard
Hamilton (b. 1922) is one of the originators of Pop Art. He was influenced
by Marcel Duchamp's idea that we should question the meaning and function
Mixture of mediums:
Pop Artists found different mediums to best express their views. Andy
Warhol found fame with the silk-screening process, Robert Rauschenberg
combined painting with found objects, Jasper Johns painted as well, but
played with the meaning of icons and familiar objects, and Roy Lichtenstein
painted comic strip images that were made up of dots and black outlines.
Key Artist : : Andy Warhol
Born Andrew Warhola in 1928, Pittsburgh, Andy Warhol's name is larger
than his art. He epitomizes Pop Art. His famous quote is, "Everybody
has their fifteen minutes of fame." Warhol's silk-screens of famous
figures made him a notified artist, but it was his persona and lifestyle
that made him a star. He was always seen around New York with his white
wig, and black glasses. His work both criticizes and celebrates commodity
culture, and corporate representations.
Warhol received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Carnegie
Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh. He moved to New York in 1949, the
same year as his graduation. He began his career in New York by drawing
I. Miller shoes for magazines.
The celebration of icons
He often chose banal subject matter for his work. One
of his trademark pieces is "Campbell Soup Cans". With the process
of silk-screening he printed row after row of Campbell soup cans, so the
viewer is faced with a multitude of this corporate logo. He did the same
thing with Coco-cola bottles. By repeating these icons he is giving a
statement about commercialization, and the melting pot of a commodity
culture that represents middle-class America.
His portrait silk-screens include images of Marilyn Monroe,
Jackie Kennedy, Mao Tse-Tung, Elizabeth Taylor and Liza Minelli. He never
shyed away from the controversial, and in the 1960s he reproduced multiple
photographs of disasters that he saw in newspapers. He also made underground
films that strived for repetition and boredom.
He created the first mass-produced art (that wasn't photography) that
was still considered fine art. He had many assistants that helped him
with his silk screens, and his "Brillo Boxes" in the infamous
"Factory" which was his studio in New York. And often he hardly
touched any of these pieces. Even though silk-screening can be seen as
detached and impersonal, due to his unique aesthetic his prints are undeniably
have his touch. Warhol died in 1987.
Key Artist : : Chuck Close
Chuck Close graduated from the University of Washington in 1962. He also
attended Yale University. Though he was diagnosed as dyslexic, and people
discouraged him from academics, now he is celebrity in the art world.
In ARTNews Magazine he is listed as one of the 50 most influential people
Close is best known for his massive portraits of heads
and extreme precision. These images are often imposing, and resemble something
that is beyond reality. Close often chooses friends and family for his
subjects. He has painted portraits of Cindy Sherman, Roy Lichtenstein
and Robert Rauschenberg with his technique.
Systematics of photorealism
Big Self-Portrait 1968 is one of Close's famous paintings.
This piece took four months to finish. His working methodology is that
he would take many photographs of himself, then choose one to project.
He then made two copies of this photograph. One was used as the projection
source, and the other he would draw a grid over it, and number the squares
accordingly. Photorealism is a very systematic process.
Close was interested in how a photograph precisely captures
detail, but also wanted to study the camera and how it captures some elements
as in focus and others out of focus. This was important in creating a
superreal image as well.
Tragedy and new beginnings:
In 1988, Close was faced by a tragedy. A blood clot was found in his spinal
cord and left him a quadriplegic (a paralysis of both arms and both legs).
But he did not let this downfall ruin his painting career. He created
a new way of painting by having assistants draw out grids on canvases,
and then he would use his mouth to hold the brush. He would paint within
the little grids to create a unified painting when viewed in its entirety.
Key Artist : : Cindy Sherman
Cindy Sherman was born in 1954 in New Jersey. She
came to the New York art scene in the early 1980s, and was a part of a
new group of artists that wanted to depict the representations of our
"media-saturated" world. Sherman graduated from the State University
College, Buffalo in 1976 where she received a Bachelor degree in Photography.
Untitled Film Stills:
Cindy Sherman caused an uproar in photography through her portraits. She
always uses herself as the subject, but her images are not "self-portraits"
by any means. She began her prominent career at age 23 by creating black
and white film stills of herself entitled Untitled Film Stills in 1977.
She photographed a blonde woman in different clichéd situations
indicative of B-movies to represent how women were depicted in film culture.
These images were subtle, successful and established her reputation in
the art world.
Moving towards the grotesque:
She was always labelled as an artist that always depicted the female representation.
Later in her career she began to explore the idea of the grotesque of
the body, mechanical images and material disintegratation. From her simple
stills she evolved to having elaborate fantasy set-ups complete with costume
and make-up artists. Her exhibits have become strongly controversial due
to their disturbing imagery. One of her recent exhibits was sponsored
by Madonna. Perhaps it is her commercial success that has caused her to
create work that was more "unsaleable".
Exploration of others using self:
Sherman never looks the same in two series of images, and her friends
claim that none of the portraits actually resemble her. Sherman has appropriated
images from film, magazines, fashion, portraiture and sex. She directed
her first feature horror film, Office Killer, which was released in 1997.
Sherman is one of the few woman fine art photographers that has risen
to celebrity and critical success.
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Benjamin, Walter. Illuminations. Harcourt, Brace, and World, Inc: New
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Hudson Ltd: London, 1989.
Fichner-Rathus, Lois. Understanding Art. Prentice-Hall Inc: New Jersey,
Jansen, H.W. History of Art. Harry N. Abrams Inc: New York, 1979.
Lyotard, Jean-Francois. The Post-Modern Condition: A Report on Knowledge.
University of Minnesota Press: Minneapolis, 1984.
Marris, Paul and Thornham, Sue. Media Studies: A Reader. New York University
Press: New York, 2000.
Wells, Liz. Photography: A Critical Introduction. Routledge: London, 1997.
Art Talk - http://loh.loswego.k12.or.us
Artsconnected - http://www.artsconnected.com
Guggenheim Collection - http://www.guggenheimcollection.org
Modern Art - http://www.modern-art.ch
Museum of Modern Art - http://www.moma.org
New York Times - http://www.nytimes.com
Salon.com - http://www.salon.com