Art History: Contemporary Issues

Art History: Contemporary Issues

            Contemporary art is considered to be any art that has been produced since World War II to the present.  This art has invited criticism since its beginning because it is radically different from the art in the past.  In fact, there are many people who still do not consider contemporary art as to be art.  In the future, people will look at contemporary art as true art.  I feel that it is art because over the centuries and throughout history, each generation has felt that the present one’s art to not meet the standards of the previous generation. 

            The issues and themes of contemporary art are what make it relevant in today’s world.  One of the major issues is that of the mediums used.  It is difficult to analyze the art because practically anything can be used as a medium.  In contemporary art painting, it is no longer oil and canvas, but acrylics, ink, crayon, charcoal, lead, pastel, markers, spray paint, and colored pencils are being applied to almost every type of surface.  The surfaces vary from paper, ceramics, furniture, glass, concrete, sides of trains and vehicles, burlap, linen, and metals just to name a few.  Because each of these mediums are so uniquely different they cannot be compared to another.

            The next issue is that of photography.  Since its introduction to the art world in eighteen thirty-nine, it has been considered by some to be a form of art, but it was not until after World War II that it was labeled art.  Many felt that since the work was not actually created by the artist that it could not be considered as an art form.  However, it is a talent to know just what to capture and how to capture it. Photographers like Becky Cohen, Jan Dibbets, Flor Garduño, and Barbara Kruger helped bring photography to the forefront of contemporary art. It is necessary for some photographs to contain color for their artistic value to be present, while there are others that it detracts and a black and white image is best.  The photographer must instinctively be able to recognize this.   The photographers who are the best artist depict the life of the real world and the issues that real people face.  As with the twenty-eight year old photographer Philippine Hoegen

Her photos speak of the oppression of a lonely, listless, middle-aged housewife, herded to and fro by the meaningless domestic tasks demanded by her ugly appliances and furnishings. (Hamm)

 The latest form of artistic photography is the infrared photography that has been used over the last few decades.  This type of photography uses infrared light and color to enhance the subject of the picture.  I feel that within a short period of time, it will be as readily accepted as other types of photography since it takes a while for the public to accept something as mainstream.

            Many of the themes of contemporary art are tied to the concerns of today’s society.  Racial problems and identity are themes that many artist tackle in their works in contemporary art.  Graffiti artist in particular, cover the art of the people and what is on their minds.  It is a way for those who want to identify with a race or a group to display their frustrations about society to the world.  Those frustrations ranged from the problems with race to the lack of understanding from the older generations.  That is why many saw it as vandalism instead of art.

Graffiti art is an art form. The reasons, including aesthetic criteria, as to why it is an art form far outweigh the criticism of illegality, incoherence, and nonstandard presentation. The objective of this paper is to explain how graffiti art overcomes these concerns and thereby can be considered as an art form. (Stowers)

Cultural identity is also a predominate theme in contemporary art. The Appalachian and rural areas can identify with the folk art produced during the contemporary art movement.  Artist like Grandma Moses opened an avenue for those in rural areas to see those who lived life like they do represented.  Works like Still by Yang Xiao, introduced the world inside the world into the everyday life in China.  The simplicity of the lives of those in Japan is displayed in the contemporary art from the artist from the country.  Artist Tomoko Inagaki, who produced the work April, uses this simplicity in her stark white statues.

Most contemporary art is displayed in art museums that are just for that genre.  While the art is so varied that it is almost impossible to contain it all in an area.  During modern times, people have recognized that almost anything can be considered art and almost anything can be manipulated by an artist into a type of art.  There are those who fear that artist of today are merely interested in the fame and fortune than creating art that last, but it is impossible to determine motive.  So the major question in contemporary art is “what is art’?  Of course during this time, the answer is almost anything that opens the eyes of others to the world in which we live.

Works Cited

“Absolute” Mediums. 20, October 2008

ArtLex. 20, October 2008

Hamm, Christine. Civilizations and Its Discontents. June 5, 2001. Suite 101. 20, October 2008


Stowers, George. Graffiti As Art. 20, October 2008

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