The Artist's Muse Art Blog
I recently curated a contemporary art exhibition. It is interesting to witness the different reactions people have to art which was created during this time period. I have over heard many conversations in the galleries as museum visitors grapple with what they are viewing. Some comments have included, "It's too abstract for me," "It is colorful," "It's weird," "It is certainly unconventional," "I don't understand it," "My four-year-old could do that!" (Often children feel freer to express themselves) and finally, "Why is this considered art?"
Contemporary art can be defined as art that has been recently created. It is sometimes more adventurous and "cutting edge" than work made by traditional artists. Most museums define Contemporary art as art that was produced after World War II, up to the present day. During the years following the war a generation of artists responded to the international crises by developing a language of abstract form and creating art filled with intense personal emotion. The following quote defines it well: contemporary art "mirrors the uncertainty of the age we live in, triggering reflective responses of the human experience," --E. Smith MCA Chicago. Contemporary art is almost indefinable, which can be considered its definition. It is a challenge to collect as museums generally collect art work that has stood the test of time. So when museums collect art from this time they are taking a risk, which can be both exciting and daunting at the same time.
If we look back through art history it is interesting see how the time period rose out of all the changes happening in society that deeply affected the art scene and vice versa. After the Impressionist movement, how could any artist paint in the same manner? Art styles changed significantly in the first half of the 20th century as artist were not restricted by what had been done before. It reflected the same freedom of expression seen elsewhere in society. With the advent of photography -- Artists were no longer driven to replicate what they saw and instead, went a step further to express thoughts, feelings opinions, and their inner or subconscious life. Many Americans moved to cities which gave them new subjects to paint. Modern inventions changed people's lives dramatically. People had the opportunity to do things that had never historically been possible such as: make a telephone call, go to the movies, drive a car, fly in an airplane, gaze up at a skyscraper and watch television.
When viewing contemporary art follow your instincts when you enter a museum gallery, allow yourself to be drawn to what excites you. Look at and experience the art work before reading the label. Emotions are an important to a person's ability to respond to a work of art. Then use your intellect to understand the work more deeply. Ask yourself, what surprises you about it? Art reflects the world it emerged from; it is a reflection of or comment on life. Its meaning shouldn't be limited to the artist intent, as an art work's meaning might be broader than even the artist realizes. Finally, recognize when you are saturated, we all have different saturation points. When you stop feeling excited, it is time to take a break or leave. You can always return at another time when you're feeling fresh!
Above: Untitled, Charmion von Wiegand American, 1896-1983 Springfield Museum of Fine Arts, Springfield,Massachusetts
Von Wiegand created paintings, drawings and collages during her long career. Collages, such as Melodic Tapestry, allowed von Wiegand to experiment with compositional structures, using rectangles of colored and printed paper to create her design.