contemporary art

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contemporary art,

the art of the late 20th cent. and early 21st cent., both an outgrowth and a rejection of modern artmodern art,
art created from the 19th cent. to the mid-20th cent. by artists who veered away from the traditional concepts and techniques of painting, sculpture, and other fine arts that had been practiced since the Renaissance (see Renaissance art and architecture).
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. As the force and vigor of abstract expressionismabstract expressionism,
movement of abstract painting that emerged in New York City during the mid-1940s and attained singular prominence in American art in the following decade; also called action painting and the New York school.
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 diminished, new artistic movements and styles arose during the 1960s and 70s to challenge and displace modernism in painting, sculpture, and other media. Improvisational and DadaDada
or Dadaism
, international nihilistic movement among European artists and writers that lasted from 1916 to 1922. Born of the widespread disillusionment engendered by World War I, it originated in Zürich with a 1916 party at the Cabaret Voltaire and the
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-like styles employed in the early 1960s and thereafter by Robert RauschenbergRauschenberg, Robert
, 1925–2008, American painter, b. Port Arthur, Tex., as Milton Ernest Rauschenberg. He studied at the Kansas City Art Institute, with Josef Albers at Black Mountain College, and at New York's Art Students League.
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 and Jasper JohnsJohns, Jasper,
1930–, American artist, b. Augusta, Ga. Influenced by Marcel Duchamp in the mid-1950s, Johns attempted to transform common objects into art by placing them in an art context.
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 had widespread influence, as did the styles of many other artists. The most significant of the often loosely defined movements of early contemporary art included pop artpop art,
movement that restored realism to avant-garde art; it first emerged in Great Britain at the end of the 1950s as a reaction against the seriousness of abstract expressionism.
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, characterized by commonplace imagery placed in new aesthetic contexts, as in the work of such figures as Andy WarholWarhol, Andy,
1928–87, American artist and filmmaker, b. Pittsburgh as Andrew Warhola. The leading exponent of the pop art movement and one of the most influential artists of the late 20th cent.
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 and Roy LichtensteinLichtenstein, Roy
, 1923–97, American painter, b. New York City. A master of pop art, Lichtenstein derived his subject matter from popular sources such as comic strips, the imagery of which he used until the early 1970s.
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; the optical shimmerings of the international op artop art
, movement that became prominent in the United States and Europe in the mid-1960s. Deriving from abstract expressionism, op art includes paintings concerned with surface kinetics. Colors were used in creating visual effects, such as afterimages and trompe l'oeil.
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 movement in the paintings of Bridget RileyRiley, Bridget,
1931–, English painter. Associated with the pop art movement, Riley covers large canvases with interlocking bands, undulating curves, scattered discs, or repeated squares or triangles.
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, Richard Anusziewicz, and others; the cool abstract images of color-field paintingcolor-field painting,
abstract art movement that originated in the 1960s. Coming after the abstract expressionism of the 1950s, color-field painting represents a sharp change from the earlier movement.
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 in the work of artists such as Ellsworth KellyKelly, Ellsworth,
1923–2015, American painter, b. Newburgh, N.Y. He moved to New York City in 1941, studying at Pratt Institute, and later attended the Boston Museum Arts School.
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 and Frank StellaStella, Frank,
1936–, American artist, b. Malden, Mass. In his early "black paintings" Stella exhibits the precision and rationality that characterized minimalism, employing parallel angular stripes to emphasize the rectangular shape of his large canvases.
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 (with his shaped-canvas innovations); the lofty intellectual intentions and stark abstraction of conceptual art by Sol LeWittLeWitt, Sol
, 1928–2007, American artist, b. Hartford, Conn. LeWitt, who came into prominence in the 1960s, termed his work conceptual art, emphasizing that the idea or concept that animates each work is its most important aspect.
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 and others; the hard-edged hyperreality of photorealismphotorealism,
international art movement of the late 1960s and 70s that stressed the precise rendering of subject matter, often taken from actual photographs or painted with the aid of slides.
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 in works by Richard EstesEstes, Richard,
1936–, American painter, b. Evanston, Ill. One of the best-known American exponents of photorealism, Estes is noted for his street scenes.
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 and others; the spontaneity and multimedia components of happeningshappening,
an artistic event of a theatrical nature, but usually improvised spontaneously without the framework of a plot. The term originated with the creation and performance in 1959 of Allan Kaprow's "18 Happenings in 6 Parts.
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; and the monumentality and environmental consciousness of land artland art
or earthworks,
art form developed in the late 1960s and early 70s by Robert Smithson, Robert Morris, Michael Heizer, and others, in which the artist employs the elements of nature in situ or rearranges the landscape with earthmoving equipment.
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 by artists such as Robert SmithsonSmithson, Robert,
1938–73, American sculptor, b. Passaic, N.J. After first making modular, serial sculpture, Smithson began to design large-scale earthworks (see land art) in the 1960s.
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. One of the most long-lived of these movements was the abstract development known as minimalismminimalism,
schools of contemporary art and music, with their origins in the 1960s, that have emphasized simplicity and objectivity. Minimalism in the Visual Arts
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, which emphasized the least discernible variation of technique in painting, sculpture, and other media.

Taken together, these many approaches to art represented a wholesale rejection of the tenets of modernism—e.g., its optical formalism, high seriousness, utopianism, social detachment, invocation of the subconscious, and elitism—and marked the beginning of a new era in art. In their many manifestations, these movements and those styles that followed have come to be grouped under the umbrella term of postmodernismpostmodernism,
term used to designate a multitude of trends—in the arts, philosophy, religion, technology, and many other areas—that come after and deviate from the many 20th-cent. movements that constituted modernism.
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. For the most part, this art is one of pluralism and eclecticism. In fact, the very lack of a uniform organizing principle or ideology is one of the most important hallmarks of postmodern art. Nonetheless, within the enormous diversity certain tendencies, trends, and movements can be discerned.

One of the products of the almost universal dismissal of modernism by contemporary artists has been the development of a new historicism, ironic and detached, which has spawned a number of artistic "neoisms." These include the neoexpressionismneoexpressionism,
term given to an international art movement, mainly in painting, that began in the 1960s and 1970s, was a dominant mode in the 1980s, and has continued into the 1990s.
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 of such German artists as Georg BaselitzBaselitz, Georg
, 1938–, German artist, b. Deutschbaselitz, Germany, as Hans-Georg Dern. A leading figure in the neoexpressionist movement (see neoexpressionism), he studied painting (1956–57) in East Berlin and moved to West Berlin in 1957.
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 and Anselm Kiefer, of Italians including Francisco Clemente and Sandro Chia, and of the American Julian SchnabelSchnabel, Julian
, 1951–, American artist, b. Brooklyn, N.Y. He studied art at the Univ. of Houston and the Whitney Museum. A neoexpressionist, he became a superstar of the 1980s art world after his first one-man show in New York (1979).
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. Among other contemporary "neo" styles are the cool "neo-geo" abstractions of Peter Halley and others, the stark structures of neoconceptualism, the slick neopop of such artists as Jeff Koons, and the landscape revival represented by Diane Burko and April Gornik, among others.

Many new artists have simultaneously invoked and challenged art history, rejecting the heroic stature of the singular work of art and the single (usually white male) artist and invoking the ubiquity of mechanically produced reproductions by employing sophisticated "quotations" or "appropriations" from prior works. This can be found, for example, in Cindy Sherman's photographic recreations of paintings, in the multiple quotations of historic images of David SalleSalle, David,
1952–, American painter, b. Norman, Okla. One of the artists whose reputation reached its peak during the 1980s, he studied at the California Institute of the Arts (1970–75) and settled in New York City in 1975.
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's paintings, in the postmodern takes on Barnett NewmanNewman, Barnett,
1905–70, American artist, b. New York City. A member of the New York school, Newman was one of the first to reject conventional notions of spatial composition in art. Often using monumental scale, he took abstraction to its farther reaches.
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 by Philip Taaffe and on ManetManet, Édouard
, 1832–83, French painter, b. Paris. The son of a magistate, Manet went to sea rather than study law. On his return to Paris in 1850 he studied art with the French academic painter Thomas Couture.
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 by Yasumasa Morimura, and in the nearly identical representations of famous images such as PicassoPicasso, Pablo
(Pablo Ruiz y Picasso) , 1881–1973, Spanish painter, sculptor, graphic artist, and ceramist, who worked in France. He is generally considered in his technical virtuosity, enormous versatility, and incredible originality and prolificity to have been the
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's icon of modernism Les Demoiselles d'Avignon by Mike Bidlo.

Also widespread among contemporary artists has been a repudiation of the idea that underlies most works of pure abstraction—that the work of art is a self-sufficient entity. Rejecting the exclusively self-referential images of abstraction and the constricted commercialism of the art world (yet often embracing the wider commercialism of a consumer society), the new art has sometimes manifested a marked if somewhat detached social consciousness, often expressed in issue-driven minority, gay (frequently AIDSAIDS
or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome,
fatal disease caused by a rapidly mutating retrovirus that attacks the immune system and leaves the victim vulnerable to infections, malignancies, and neurological disorders. It was first recognized as a disease in 1981.
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-related), and feminist imagery. By and large, the inroads achieved by feminismfeminism,
movement for the political, social, and educational equality of women with men; the movement has occurred mainly in Europe and the United States. It has its roots in the humanism of the 18th cent. and in the Industrial Revolution.
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 in the 1970s have been reflected in later decades not so much by the insistently female, body-derived 1970s imagery of Judy ChicagoChicago, Judy
(Judy Gerowitz Chicago) , 1939–, American artist, b. Chicago as Judy Cohen. A feminist and founder of the Women's Art Education collective, she works in a variety of media, including such historically female crafts as needlework and china painting.
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 or Miriam Schapiro as by the full participation in the once mainly male-dominated art world of such varied artists as Jenny Holzer, Cindy Sherman, Barbara Kruger, Jennifer Bartlett, Elizabeth Murray, Judy Pfaff, Sherrie Levine, Barbara Bloom, Katharina Fritsch, and others.

Arising from the multimedia experiments of the 1970s, the widespread use of a variety of technology-based media has persisted into the art of the new century. Often included are elements of film, video, sound, performance (see performance artperformance art,
multimedia art form originating in the 1970s in which performance is the dominant mode of expression. Perfomance art may incorporate such elements as instrumental or electronic music, song, dance, television, film, sculpture, spoken dialogue, and storytelling.
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), and architecture (principally in installation art). Another trend that has widened the definition and scope of contemporary art has been the conceptually driven use of both photography and language as the substance of numerous works of art—in Kiefer's photographic collages, in Kruger's words and photographic images, in Bruce Nauman's neon phrases, in Lawrence Weiner's painted words, in Holzer's billboarded, carved, electronically reproduced, or otherwise created linguistic neotruisms, and in many other artists' works. Another contemporary art movement, digital artdigital art,
contemporary art in which computer technology is used in a wide variety of ways to make distinctive works. Digital art was pioneered in the 1970s but only came into its own as a viable art form with the widespread availability of computers, appropriate software,
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, was pioneered in the 1970s but did not become prevalent until the beginning of the 21st cent. Digital artists make use of sophisticated computers, software, and video equipment to create an extremely varied body of works.

Postmodern art has also blurred the distinctions between painting and sculpture (and sometimes architecture), with artists often including in their works a host of wildly nontraditional materials. Since the 1960s shaped paintings and painted sculpture have become commonplace, while the materials of art have ranged from Rauschenberg's stuffed goat to Joseph BeuysBeuys, Joseph
, 1921–86, German artist, b. Krefeld; one of the most influential of postmodern artists. Drafted into the Luftwaffe during World War II, he was wounded several times and in 1943 was shot down over Crimea.
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' globs of fat to the smeared body fluids of various contemporary artists. Moreover, a wide variety of spaces and places, both private and public, have become arenas for the frequently ephemeral work of many contemporary artists.

Later 20th-cent. and early 21st-cent. sculpture has assumed a central position in contemporary art and has followed the patterns of the various postmodern art movements, for example, the three-dimensional pop icons of Claes OldenburgOldenburg, Claes
, 1929–, Swedish-American artist, b. Stockholm. Usually considered part of the pop art movement, Oldenburg explores the ironic and humorous aspects of common objects by grossly distorting them in scale, shape, and material.
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, Koons's purposely banal, often erotic figures, and the minimalist constructions of such artists as Carl AndreAndre, Carl
, 1935–, American sculptor, b. Quincy, Mass. A student of Patrick Morgan and associate of Frank Stella, Andre produces sculptures of elemental form and abstract monumentality.
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, Donald JuddJudd, Donald Clarence,
1928–94, American artist, b. Excelsior Springs, Mo. His sculpture, allied with the minimalist school of the late 1960s (see minimalism; modern art), has the appearance of industrial fabrication.
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, and Robert MorrisMorris, Robert,
1931–, American artist, b. Kansas City, Mo. He settled in New York City in 1960 and was allied in his early work with the simple, impersonal forms of minimalism, e.g., an untitled 1965 work consisting of four blocks of gray fiberglass.
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. Other important trends in contemporary sculpture include an increasing use of mixed media and the creation of works that draw their meaning and impact from their architectural context and also emphasize the role of the spectator. This is as significant in the room-centered examples of installation art as it is in such large public works as Maya LinLin, Maya Ying
, 1959–, American architect and sculptor, b. Athens, Ohio. Lin is known for her visual poetry and sensitive mingling of highly abstract form with meaning.
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's Vietnam Veterans MemorialVietnam Veterans Memorial,
war memorial in Washington, D.C., built 1982. Designed by the American sculptor and architect Maya Ying Lin, it is a sloping, V-shaped, 493-ft (150-m) wall of highly polished black granite that descends 10 feet (3.
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.

Bibliography

See Papadakis, Farrow, and Hodges, ed., New Art: An International Survey (1991); E. Lucie-Smith, Art Today (1995); J. Cerrito, ed., Contemporary Artists (4th ed. 1996).

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