Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Mo- Contemporary Art

Contemporary art refers to various forms of artwork (video art, installation, photography, paintings, sculptures, performances) that were produced from late 1960’s/ early 1970’s to today. Moreover, it “contemporary art” can be synonymous to the “art of today”, because it incorporates modern and evolving societal trends. This also means that there is no strict definition of “contemporary art”, because the trends of today are constantly changing.

Under the umbrella of. contemporary art, there are other forms of art that contribute to its history. The Pop Art movement was created as a reaction to modern art movements. Artists, such as Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol were major proponents of this portraying mass culture and commercial products within this movement. Jeff Koons revitalized it in the 1980’s with Neo-Pop Art. Photorealism, art that focuses on hyper- realistic drawings and paintings, is another form of contemporary art. Known artists in this field include Chuck Close and Gerhard Richter. Furthermore, other movements such as Conceptualism, Minimalism, Performance Art, Installation Art, Earth Art, and Street Art. I think that each movement relates to the current trends at the time. For instance, Street Art highlighted the popularity of graffiti, while installation artwork resonates with a desire to for viewers to interact with artwork.

Contemporary art tends to manipulate materials, concepts, methods, and subjects to challenge traditional art forms. Furthermore, it incorporates into audiences’ interpretation and reflection of an artist’s piece of work. Everything is experimental and anything can be defined as or expanded into the category of “art” for contemporary artists.

One contemporary artists I have decided to briefly focus on in this post is Yayoi Kusama.

Yayoi Kusama is a well- known Japanese contemporary artist who has worked with paint, sculpture, film, and installation mediums. Throughout her pieces, dots have been a constant theme (to the extent that she has been called “the princess of polka dots”). For Kusama, adding dots to her artwork is significant, because she feels as if she is incorporating them into the universe and that we are only of the millions of polka dots in the universe.

                                                Dots Obsession, 2011

In addition, her installations have factored the audiences’ experiences, so their feelings contribute to the significance of her pieces. In her installations “Infinity Mirror Rooms”, Kusama surrounds to room with hundreds of colored LED in order to create a feeling of endless space. The audience is supposed to feel engulfed and to feel lost within the room- which can be a reflection of our existence in universe and how humans are only one of a million dots in the cosmos.

                                               Infinity Mirror Room

At the age of 90, Kusama’s artwork has resounded with audiences from another contemporary social media platform- Instagram. Furthermore, people have utilized selfies to capture their experience (specifically the Kusama experience) to define who they are within her interactive art installations.


Defining Purpose - Rebecca Lee

 “Contemporary Art.” What does that entail?

According to Wikipedia, contemporary art is defined as:
“the art of today, produced in the second half of the 20th century or in the 21st century.”[1]

Still, that doesn’t best exemplify what contemporary art is. If I decide to draw an apple, is that considered as contemporary art? Defining contemporary art is, in my opinion, an important topic, which Kelly Richman-Abdou touches upon in her article. She brings awareness to the seemingly ironically (and relatively) long history of contemporary art [2]. Her article opens one’s mind to the prospect of what contemporary art really is. There are so many different movements, consisting of various different mediums. There really are no rules when it comes to art and that’s especially clear in contemporary art. These artists are able to freely express themselves. Because of this, I wanted to learn more about how these artists think. How did they know what they wanted to show to the world? Why did they want to show the world?

“Drawing is more than simply a skill, like playing football or the saxophone, or sewing or mathematics. It is a path to self-discovery, revealing a cast of mind, an imaginative capacity and a mode of perception. Drawings give access to the obsessions, sense of humour, emotions and fantasies of their creator.” – Robert Malbert [3]

Sometimes, this can be overlooked. I’ve found myself guilty of this as well. At times, I’ll find myself more drawn to the beautiful artwork rather than to the message. But thinking about it, artists add in certain details for a reason; otherwise why put in the extra work?

보는 것 To Be Visible - Jinju Lee
However, maybe I shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that art has no rules. In the words of Berger, “there are three distinct ways in which drawings can function: to question and study the visible, to lay down and communicate ideas, and to draw from memory” [3]. Tan Boon Hui also proposes that contemporary art must have a purpose for society and consist of a narrative [4].

Conversation of all those whose lips are sealed -
Jinju Lee
“One of art’s functions is to defamiliarize everyday reality rendered dull by habit, and to reawaken the mind to the strangeness, as well as the beauty and ugliness, of the visible world.” - Robert Malbert [3]

Jinju Lee’s artwork is a great example of this. Her work gives a sense of ugliness and chaos, which is what she aims for. She focuses on “unwanted recurrence of dark memories of early childhood,” and utilizes everyday objects to aid in her chaotic visuals [3]. She even goes to the extent of removing the hair to anonymize the women, possibly making the image even more disconcerting to look at [3]. Showing the ugly in the beautiful. Interestingly, instead of backing away from her traumatic memories, she uses them to illustrate what reality really is to her. She believes that, “art helps us to discover about our lives...We’re already experiencing life- art makes you realise what the experience really was” [5]. 
Artwork by Ian Hodgson
Artwork by Ian Hodgson

Ian Hodgson is stylistically very different from Lee. His thoughts seem almost as if not completely concrete and more mysterious. However, he too, draws the human figure, often the face. Something that piqued my interest was his use of sketchy lines, incorporation of fingerprints, and the occasional splash of color. He said, “In my figurative work, I’m usually trying to communicate a thought or an emotion, a psychological state whereas in my abstract/landscape works I am often attempting to find some light in the dark, a contemplative place” [6].              
Uneven Path - Ian Hodgson

Both of these artists are trying to get across their views or their emotions to their viewers through their choice of medium. Everyone has a different view on the world with their own opinions, and so no one person would be able to create the same drawings as another. That’s what I admire most in all of this. We’re all fundamentally different from each other and have something to offer to the world.

“Can a drawing shock? There is no drawing that can compete for transgression with the most banal pornographic image. Yet there are things that a drawing can convey that are beyond the reach of photography and digital media – just as there is no substitute for a handshake or a kiss.” – Robert Malbert [3]

Through my research, I’ve realized how little thought I’ve put into my previous art works. One great thing about contemporary art is how unafraid people are to be vulnerable.

In the end, this essay became more of a reflective piece, but I feel like it was necessary to get my thoughts down in words. Sometimes, I find myself aimlessly doing art just because. I never viewed this as a bad thing and I still don’t, but knowing that honing one’s drawing skill isn’t the main point, and that the message behind what you’re doing is what really matters is a completely new perspective I look forward to exploring.

So, I guess in the end, art is really what you make of it.


Works Cited
[3] Malbert, Roger. Drawing People: the Human Figure in Contemporary Art. Thames & Hudson, 2015.
[4] Open Sea. Silvana, 2015.

Contemporary Art - Annie Kornack

Art today is more about experience than ever before. Through the usage of space, and more specifically incorporating space into art, the experience an art viewer encounters today is debatably more elevated than of the traditional two-dimensional experiences of the past.

As coined a few years back, “immersive” exhibits – where the visitor is not only viewer but made to feel part of the work— swept the contemporary art world by storm. With these immersive exhibits came a lot of backlash around whether staring at a large projection while seated in a tree swing could be defined as art? (See image below from the Natura Obscura exhibit at the Museum of Outdoor Art in Englewood from January 2019).
Thundercloud-like portion of the Natura Obscura immersive art exhibit at the Museum of Outdoor Art in Englewood on Jan. 9, 2019

Although I do not have a scholarly answer to this debate, I do think that the idea of art spreading outwards and taking up space has greatly impacted the way art is experienced by the masses – and potentially has been successful in drawing folks into the world of contemporary art.

Through the usage of space, greater sensations can be evoked so that the viewer feels a sense of proximity to the artist’s intention. For example, while in Paris, I visited the Palais de Tokyo’s exhibition ON AIR live with…’: Arachnosophy. In this exhibition, music, science and nature came together to provide an overwhelmingly dramatic and spooky display of spiderwebs (yes, they were real, and yes, the spiders were still in the room spinning more webs). Through this literally sensational display, a character often viewed as banal and kill-worthy (the spider) is transformed into an artist capable of transforming space into beauty – this exhibition, through the usage of space, was able to shift perspectives and leave a permanent impact on viewers (spiders are beautiful).
ON AIR live with ... : Arachnosophy

On a different note, the Met Gala’s 2019 exhibition CAMP: Notes on Fashion stirred up a ton of buzz because of its usage of space to elevate the exhibition from a quick viewing to an experience. With electric colors and displays not only on the exterior walls but in the middle of the room or suspended from the ceiling, the visitors felt as though they had journeyed in time to the extravagance that is embodied within Susan Sontag’s 1964 essay “Notes on Camp.

Although these exhibitions are no longer on display, there is a certain ephemeral elegance to spaces that evoke sensation beyond viewing. Even today, I still can remember the way I felt walking through these two exhibitions because of the genius usage of contemporary art within a fixed space.

To bring this all home, the Nasher’s upcoming February 27-July 12, 2020 exhibition Ebony G. Patterson… while the dew is still on the roses… is a large installation taking over the usually perfectly painting and presented walls and ceilings. Evoking a night garden, previous viewers have stated that they “still remember the experience today, even as the details of the art has slowly faded away.”

Ebony G. Patterson ... while the dew is still on the roses ...

The ability to use art to evoke sensation is truly powerful. The reason why I think that the usage of space for contemporary art is so important (whether that be immersive art or simply placing pieces in the middle of the room) is because it demystifies contemporary art. Oftentimes those who don’t study art (and even myself included) can become rigid towards contemporary art because it’s too abstract and perceived to have one specific yet aloof underlying meaning. By bringing that art into the realm of the viewer (the viewer’s “space”), that rigidness is broken down and the viewer can become engulfed by their interpretation of what lays before them.


“CAMP Notes on Fashion.”, 2019,

“Ebony G. Patterson . . . While the Dew Is Still on the Roses . . .” Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, 20 Feb. 2020,
Hall, Charlie. “Xbox Series X Will Have Many of PC Gaming's Best Features.” Polygon, Polygon, 25 Feb. 2020,
Novet, Jordan. “Microsoft Windows Revenue Could See Coronavirus Slowdown as PC Makers Struggle to Meet Demand.” CNBC, CNBC, 25 Feb. 2020,
Ostrow, Joanne. “There's a Lot of Buzz around ‘Immersive’ Experiences in Art, Theater and Entertainment. But Is It Art?” The Colorado Sun, 18 Jan. 2019,
Rea, Naomi. “Art World As Museums Fall in Love With ‘Experiences,’ Their Core Missions Face Redefinition.” Art Net News, 14 Mar. 2019,

Schwab, Katharine. “Art for Instagram's Sake.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 14 Mar. 2016,
 “‘ON AIR Live with..." : Arachnosophy.” Palais De Tokyo EN, 14 Dec. 2018,

Digital art: the legitimacy of a contemporary art medium - Gloria Kim

A moment of truth: most of my art skills weren’t developed traditionally. I was just shy of eight years old and had been drawing only for a year when I received my first Wacom Bamboo drawing tablet. I remember being puzzled when my dad asked me if I wanted one, having never heard of such a thing, and asking him, “How many pages of paper does it have?” My brother laughed and said, “Infinite.”

Days later, I came from school to see it set up in front of my computer: a smooth, flat square pad with a control pad at the top, paired with a complementary pen. My dad had already installed Corel Painter 8, and he left me as I became fascinated with how the glide of pen against the tablet surface contrasted with the feel of pencil against paper I was familiar with. From then all the way up until freshman year of high school, my daily ritual after homework involved making a beeline for my computer, opening Paint Tool SAI, and drawing until my mom finished work.

“Digital art isn’t real art.”

This sentiment is one I’ve heard throughout my time doing digital art, and it’s still fervently debated in the artist community. Digital art, which involves using a computer and a drawing tablet, has emerged as a contemporary art medium, brought about with our world becoming increasingly computer-reliant within this century. Drawing programs such as Photoshop, Paint Tool SAI, and Krita and the Wacom tablets have become the household names as the medium revolutionized how we draw.

It’s understandable why people would have this perspective. You don’t have to physically mix colors, you just drag your cursor along the color picker. No need to clean brushes or buy different types and sizes, you have brush packs and shortcut keys. Your proportions look off? Use the transform tool. Made a mistake? Ctrl + Z. Many of the tedious frustrations we experience when making traditional art become trivial through the digital medium.

Some call it cheating - that the computer does the all the work. In reality, the computer and tablet are nothing more than a different medium; everything still lies in the skills of the hands. As artists who work in both traditional and digital can attest to, the two mediums aren’t the same. Digital is more of an indirect medium, compared to traditional where your tool directly touches the piece you're making; it’s common to become frustrated because your digital art turns out “worse” than as your traditional. It’s less intuitive since its simulated on the computer, and your colors work in CMYK/RGB rather than RYB. There’s a learning curve involved, just as there is if you were to start watercolor or oil paints.

Once having overcome the learning curve, the digital medium revolutionizes the distribution and execution of contemporary art. The art market, which used to be monopolized by auction house customers, has become more accessible and autonomous for any artist to gain traction with platforms such as Society6 and Redbubble. Making prints of an original work is simple, as the originals are all digital files. In execution, digital art greatly expanded our artist toolboxes by transcending past the traditional, physical materials into a realm where we can paint with light, sound, and pixels to push imaginative boundaries. It’s a contemporary medium not easier or less authentic than traditional art - only different. 

"Dream" by WLOP


Contemporary Wildlife Art - Charlie Livaudais

Art depicting wildlife dates back to the first known artwork by man, those in prehistoric caves. Since then, art depicting animals has come and gone as different styles and themes permeated the art world. Animals were seen in numerous dynasties in the Ancient world, including the Ming dynasty in China, yet began to disappear in the Medieval period as religion began to dominate the art scene. Animals in this time were used as symbols, rather than being displayed in a natural setting. By the time of the Renaissance, wildlife began to become more prevalent in art as people explored the world around them. Hundreds of years later with the development of photography, there was a huge boost in the amount of realistic wildlife that was depicted in art because of its ability to have a still shot of the animal.

Animal depiction in contemporary art has a wide range of styles and approaches. Artists tend to stray away from completely realistic representations of animals, rather trending in the direction that allows the artist to provide much more personal stylistic choice to the piece. Various examples of this are exploring different colors that are not seen in the animal in nature, manipulating the animal such that their body morphs into other objects, or creating an unfinished style to the drawings. These types of works provide much more variety to the wildlife art field and creates an opportunity for more artists to be inspired and take different approaches to the traditional view of drawing wildlife.

Coming into this course I had previously only created realistic drawings and paintings of animals in nature, never exploring contemporary art ideas above. The only real exposure I had to this style was seeing artists do more abstract and loose brush strokes of animals or reinvent the color scheme of animals. Yet after the first few classes hearing about the styles of contemporary art and exploring some artists who specialize in contemporary wildlife art, I decided that I wanted to venture more into this field and push myself to try different approaches to my traditional style. Adonna Khare and Douglas Miller were two artists that I particularly was drawn to after doing some exploring. Many of Khare’s pieces are focused on the juxtaposition of wildlife with other objects or life forms. For example, she created works that display butterflies carrying heavy rocks, merging a bear and a human body into one being, and snails with pears as their shell.

(Khare Art)

This work inspired me to explore the contrast of humans and wildlife in my art. Miller on the otherhand has work that is seemingly incomplete. He creates portraits with a unique style that is realistic but not traditional, as the subjects often blend into the background or transform into quick lines resembling sketches.

lizard, reptile, contemporary animal art, drawing, new drawing(Miller Art)

This idea of the incomplete animal is fascinating to me, even though it has not been present in my drawings to this point. Exploring the artwork of these contemporary wildlife artists and others has inspired me to think more broadly about how to create art with a more personal style.