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Posts about history of contemporary art (old posts, page 2)

Songs for Sabotage

The Songs for Sabotage exhibition at the New Museum presents the work of a collection of young artists from around the world. This exhibition attempts “a call for action, an active engagement, and an interference in political and social structures [1],” but only some of the work presented seemed to relate to that goal. Nevertheless, there are many talented artists included presenting a diverse collection of work.

Diamond Stingily’s E.L.G. (2018) addresses our social problems with a large metal swing set with a single swing. On the support beam directly above the swing is a single brick, positioned in such a way to threaten someone below if someone were to use the swing. Given that children most commonly use swing sets, it seems to reference the danger children face in the world today. The work also includes a metal ladder on the side of the swing set, leading to nowhere. I understood this to represent the lack of a clear future children face as they climb the metaphorical “ladder of success.” Stingily’s social and economic background from growing up in Chicago influences her work [2].

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Tania Bruguera: Untitled (Havanana, 2000)

Tania Bruguera is a Cuban-born performance artist and activist. Her work challenges the people who experience it to consider and understand the oppression of the Cuban people under the Cuban revolution and the resulting Castro regime.

Bruguera’s work, purposefully titled Untitled (Havanana, 2000), is set in a long dark tunnel with sugarcane lining the floors. This first took place in a military bunker previously used for prisoners and executions during the Cuban revolution but was quickly shut down by government authorities. The setting was recreated at MoMA using actual concrete walls and sugarcane lined floors. A television on the ceiling shows decaying video of Castro hugging his people and playing the role of a benevolent, powerful, and gracious leader. This contrasts with the lives of Cubans after the revolution.

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Cristina Iglesias: Entwined

Cristina Iglesias is a Spanish artist and sculptor who builds pieces that conflate interior and exterior spaces and materials. Her work is reminiscent of nature and encourages the viewer to experience the serenity and calmness of the natural world, reminding us of its constant presence.

Iglesias initially studied Chemical Sciences in 1976 only to switch paths to ceramics and drawing in 1978 [1]. Her father was a scientist and she was always fascinated by science, but in school she was also becoming interested in art. In her words, “I liked it but at the same time I was developing also reading and drawing and being interested in art and and then I realized that I wanted to dedicate myself to it.[2]” She then moved to London in 1980 to study Sculpture and begin her art career [1].

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Danh Vo: Take My Breath Away

Danh Vo (pronounced yon voh) is a Vietnamese born conceptual artist (1975). His work explores cultural and personal themes relating to national imperialism and his family’s forced migration. His artwork seems meaningless at first, but after further reflection one can see the meaning attached to that which Vo is presenting.

Vo’s family fled Vietnam in 1979 in a homemade boat. While at sea they were picked up by a Danish boat leading to their eventual relocation to Denmark [1]. Although he doesn’t remember this time of his life the events surrounding his family of origin’s migration deeply shape Vo’s artistic work.

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Laura Owens at the Whitney

Laura Owens is a contemporary American painter. Sometimes criticized for being overly cheerful[2], her large and colorful paintings combining multiple techniques do seem whimsical at first but upon closer reflection communicate a deeper thoughtfulness and emotion.

One of Owen’s works that struck me as particularly intriguing is her untitled piece derived from old newspaper plates she found under the shingle siding of her home[1,3]. The piece looks like a collage that started with the front page of a Sunday newspaper, and was actually made with Adobe Photoshop along with oil paint and screen printing. Owens made several similar pieces and one of them was on display at the Whitney.

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Carolee Schneemann: Kinetic Painting

Carolee Schneemann is a provocative and influential artist whose work challenged the art establishment and our society’s perception of art. Her career has spanned many decades and her artwork took on many forms, and throughout all of it she fought against sexism and bias against female artists.

Schneemann was the first woman from her family to attend college, getting a scholarship to study art at Bard College. At school she would pose nude for paintings by other students, but when she painted self-portraits the paintings would be stolen by male students. Eventually, she was expelled from the school for “moral turpitude.” This was not fully explained to her but she attributed it to the paintings she had been making of herself.

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History of Contemporary Art and New Media

History of Contemporary Art and New Media, taught by RoseLee Goldberg.

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