Terry Smith Paragraphs

In Terry Smith’s chapter “What is Contemporary Art”, Smith attempts to define “Contemporary Art” by looking at various definitions given to it by art historians in the past. Smith views “contemporary art” as a global culture that is constantly changing and growing, and also uses it as a general term used for the art that is being created at the present time. Many critics however, see contemporary art as being created outside of time, as it is constantly shifting making it “periodless” Smith notes that people have always labeled era’s of art by their style (ex: the impressionist, cubists, surrealists etc.) and due to contemporary art’s many and constantly in-flux styles an “ism” has not been appropriated to contemporary works, causing art historians to question what exactly this body of work is. Smith then goes on to explain other critic’s definitions of contemporary art, and why these definitions are either to narrow or just not correct. It seems that no definition is truly able to encompass the very different artists that are currently creating art globally.

Smith does go on to set some parameters for what we do know about what contemporary art is. Contemporary art seems to have been born in the 1960’s out of late-high modernism, and has not consisted of a period style such as pop or minimalism like modern art did. Contemporary art is more diverse than any previous style in medium, content, location etc. and is created by younger artists, at a faster rate all over the world.  Art historians are eager to create a canon for contemporary art, however the only way for this to occur is time and patience and time as new art is constantly being created. Smith also argues that the necessity to canonize works is an exceedingly conservative approach that must be re-thought-out if it intends to survive in todays art world. Contemporary art is the result of what our world has become today with an ever growing population and access to seemingly unlimited technology. We are unable to define the works coming from this because there have never been resources like the ones present today. So many styles are present globally that it has made it impossible to classify contemporary art by one certain style as we have done with previous periods.

People will continue to attempt to classify exactly what contemporary art is, however I believe it will only truly be possible to classify this era of art-making decades from now when a new distinctive style has emerged. I look forward to seeing if we as a class are able to draw connections between the styles of different cultures creating contemporary art, and then possibly offer our own definition of what contemporary art may be. Looking at how our society has changed since “modern art” it may prove to be impossible to put contemporary art in a category as art historians once would, making it necessary to create a new system of classification in the art world.  Throughout the semester is will be interesting to see what we find contemporary art to be.

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