Smith Article

In simple terms, Terry Smith addresses the debate of defining contemporary art. He asserts that it is so difficult to define because it is current. Past periods of artistic production have been categorized by titles, themes, -isms; for example, Classical art, Renaissance art, Expressionism, or Modernism. Smith states “that the present cannot be grasped until it becomes, in some sense, a past” (page 253) and describes the difficulties of categorizing the wealth of contemporary art while we are still within this period. To my understanding, the most unifying idea amongst contemporary art is the idea of being in the present, our relationship with time, and how fleeting that is. Contemporary art is feared to be “periodlessness” and perhaps not categorizable like art movements of the past, but I agree with the notion that is seems premature and overwhelmingly difficult to look historically at something that isn’t history: the present.

Smith shares some characteristics of contemporary art, such as its abundance due to visual-art producing institutions, like schools, museums, and galleries. He also notes its diversity in many aspects, the fact that it is being produced on the global level, and that younger artists are exhibiting work more quickly than ever before. I was not surprised to read any of this, as technological advances have made artistic processes faster, easier, and more readily accessible. The flow of information worldwide due to the Internet makes sharing with much larger audiences possible as well. I think current technology is crucial to the tentative definition of contemporary art.

To be honest, after reading, I’m still very confused about what exactly contemporary art is, but I suppose that’s the point, isn’t it? I’m looking forward to examining more specific time periods and works, beginning in the 60s and working forward to more fully understand the development of contemporary art and formulate my own definition of the current movement.

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