Modern & Contemporary Art
Modern art is most famous for its intentional thoughtful break with the past artistic traditions of Europe. The time period modern art runs approximately from the middle of the 19th century to 1970. Some early modern artists such as Cezanne began to subtly play with the image in space, mildly altering the perspective of the object within the same painting, thus building multiple viewpoints into the same image. This experiment was taken up by the cubists, who sought to bring this mild experiment into full blown fruition. Their sole goal was to represent these multiple perspectives, often using harsh geometric lines to do so. New subjects were explored and the long established rules of art and aesthetic were intentionally broken.
Experimentation of this type is typical of the development of modern art. Artists of the modern era expanded the materials they used to compose their pieces, resorting to tactics such as collage and even appropriating objects as art solely due to their being chosen by an artist. Much neglected ethnographic art was used as a new and exciting source of inspiration, further attacking the staunch boundaries of what fine art could be. Artists attempted to break down the public’s perception of art, examining theories of color and composition and often presenting these explorations on canvas. Artists attempted to represent the very depths of the human condition, connecting with very real but immeasurable human impulses. Symbolists, expressionists, and surrealists all probed the depths of the human psyche, often connecting their artwork to the philosophical and scientific breakthroughs of the time.
Ever in dialogue with the Great Masters of previous generations, modern artists alluded to these masterworks thus grounding themselves in their artistic heritage. This knowledge of the past did not mean reverence for it, as Marcel Duchamp’s mustached “Mona Lisa” blatantly shows. The modern art period covers just over a century, but the changes that took place during that time forever altered the art world. The later phases of modern art became more conceptual yet, further challenging both the artist and the viewer. Pop art, land art, and color field paintings typify the new expanses of modern art of the 1950’s and 60’s, paving the way for contemporary art.
Contemporary art literally describes any artwork being created during the present time period, but has come to represent the postmodern mindset and often incorporates new media driven by technological advances. Video, performance and lights are used by contemporary artists to get their point across, a point that is often a commentary on the contemporary condition of life or a familiar struggle with human experience portrayed in innovative media forms. Contemporary art has sparked much debate about the value of art, its authorship and its relevance.