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Posts about history of contemporary art (old posts, page 1)

Anri Sala

Anri Sala (b. 1974) is an Albanian-born artist who uses video and sound to create complex works of art that emanate from the painful history of his home country and its Communist past. His work demonstrates careful attention to detail and a sophistication of thought and subtlety.

Sala studied painting at the Albanian National Academy of Arts from 1992 to 1996 and later studied video in Paris, France at the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs from 1996 to 1998. His pivotal work, Intervista—Finding the Words (1998), was made when he was still a film student in Paris. To produce this work he found 25-year old video footage featuring his own mother at a Communist rally in Albania. The found footage had no audio so neither he nor his mother had any idea what was being said. He then was able to get a deaf person skilled at lip reading to watch the video and recreate the transcript. Using the transcript he could tell his mother what she said. Her reaction to her own words was one of shock and disbelief. Anri said of his mother’s words, “if you hear it 25 years later you are surprised and saddened by the stiffness of the language.” The work confronts Albania’s painful history in a powerful way.

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Nick Mauss: Transmissions

Nick Mauss (b. 1980) is a multidisciplinary artist who makes performance art, drawings, and paintings. His career pursues a hybrid role of artist, curator, and scholar. His exhibition at The Whitney, Transmissions, demonstrates this as he explores the relationship between ballet and avant-garde visual artists from the 1930’s to the 1950’s.

Mauss graduated from Cooper Union in 2003 and now lives and works in New York and Berlin. He has taught art at Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Germany and Bard College in New York.

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Bill Viola: Moving Stillness

Bill Viola (b. 1951) is an NY-born video artist whose work addresses fundamental human experiences such as birth, death, and consciousness. His work frequently uses water to explore these themes.

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The pivotal moment in Viola’s life is when he was 6 years old and fell to the bottom of a lake. His uncle saved him from drowning, but while in the lake Viola experienced what he later described as “the most beautiful world he’s ever seen.” His work, which often involves water, is influenced by this experience. In his words, “I see it [the bottom of the lake] constantly almost in my mind in my mind's eye. It was a kind of paradise…”

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Minimalist Composers of the 1960s and 70s

The 60's and 70's brought about significant changes in the kind of music being written by composers. This was partly motivated by advances in technology. There was a growing influence of non-western cultures. Composers were also turning away from traditional institutions and schools of thought for leadership and artistic vision.

I worked with fellow student Ethan Helm to create a short presentation on Minimalist Composers of the 60's and 70's to share with the class. He is a saxophonist and composer and knows a lot more about music than I do. Collaborating with him on this was educational.

Lawrence Weiner

Lawrence Weiner (b: 1942) is an American artist and one of the founders of the conceptual art movement. His most notable works are short statements that describe things that could potentially be constructed but need not be actually built. The first time I saw Weiner’s work almost seven years ago I didn’t understand or appreciate it and was confused why it was on display in a museum. After learning more about conceptual art and researching Weiner’s life and work, I now understand his artistic intent and understand why he is an important artist.

Lawrence Weiner at the MoMA

My first exposure to Lawrence Weiner’s work was on November 5th, 2011. I was attending one of MoMA’s “Modern Member Nights” for contributing members shortly after I bought a membership to the museum. I was there on a date with someone I had met a few weeks prior. We walked through the museum’s galleries and came upon Weiner’s “language art.” We were perplexed by what we saw. He seemed to make up titles for works of art but not actually create anything, leaving the task of constructing a piece that matched the title to curators and other museum employees.

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Vito Acconci

Vito Acconci was a poet, performance artist, installation artist, designer, and literature editor. His work defies classification. In his words:

If I specialize in a medium, I would be fixing a ground for myself, a ground I would have to be digging myself out of, constantly, as one medium was substituted for another - so, then, instead of turning toward “ground” I would shift my attention and turn to “instrument,” I would focus on myself as the instrument that acted on whatever ground was, from time to time, available.

Vito Acconci - Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art

I created a short 10 minute presentation on Vito Acconci to share with the class.

Anthony McCall: Solid Light Works

Anthony McCall (b: 1946) is a British born artist based in New York City. He is well known for his solid light installations that challenge the traditional model of films by bringing attention to the light and projector by discarding any kind of story or plot shown on a projector screen.

McCall studied graphic design and photography at Ravensbourne College of Art and Design in England from 1964 to 1968. After graduation he was active in a London film-makers cooperative and made films documenting outdoor performances, often involving fire.

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The Woman's Building

The Woman's Building was a center for female education in the arts that operated from 1973 to 1991. The goal of the center was to develop new art practices and an artistic community that supported the needs of women.

“It was an opportunity to be empowered. We could learn skills that we never learned before, and more important, that we could just create our place in the world, which is really what the Women’s Building represented. It’s a public center for women’s culture. That we live in a world that is very male dominated, and the art world was certainly not serving us as women artists. We were very invisible and that we could carve out this little space that would be our space, and not just our space privately, but our space publicly. To say, ‘Here’s what we are making as women artists. Come see.’” - Cheri Gaulke

I created a short 10 minute presentation on the Woman's Building to share with the class.

Gordon Matta-Clark: Anarchitect

Gordon Matta-Clark was an artist who was famous for cutting holes into existing buildings to create art. Defining his artistic practice “Anarchitecture,” Matta-Clark directly addressed the social conditions of his day and presented them in a way that made people pay attention to something they would otherwise ignore.

Matta-Clark studied architecture at Cornell from 1962 to 1968 but did not practice architecture in a conventional manner. After college when he returned to his native New York (1969), he was disturbed by the conditions of his day and wanted to address the social problems. At the time there were a lot of decrepit and vacant apartments. There was a large homeless population and garbage littered the streets. In Matta-Clark’s words, “I have chosen not isolation from the social conditions, but to deal directly with social conditions whether by physical implication, as in most of my building works, or through more direct community involvement. [2]”

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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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