Smith article (Jackson Ellis)

In an attempt to define contemporary art’s unifying style, Terry Smith discusses the the distinction between modern and contemporary art, bringing to light the ideological differences that make contemporary art such a unique phenomena in the history of world art. Terry Smith asserts in her article that art is international, and contemporary art is a result of the social and historical forces that were important at the time of making the work. Despite the wide spread of international artists, all share the common influence of modern day society in a globalized world. Modern and contemporary art is not a unified movement of aesthetics, but rather a conglomerate of shock tactics and new mediums. After the rise and fall of movements such as minimalism and conceptualism, the modern movement would be the first to bring about an era of periodlessness, where no defining “house style” would be prevalent. Smith attributes this shift to the changing face of society that has come to usher in an era of an abundance of visual stimulation, an era that emphasizes grandiose spectacles and celebrities, resulting in an art movement that is disorganized and obsessed with the idea of advancing ones own name through mainstream popularity.


Terry Smith asserts that modern art movements are more concerned with publicity and electing some type of public outcry than advancing the boundaries of the conceptual. In their effort to satisfy the demand for relevant and spectacular work, contemporary artists have attempted to court both the mainstream media/public as well as the more conservative art collector and critic, and in some ways have succeeded in creating work that is both informative to those in the know, and pleasurable to witness for general audiences. This fast-moving industry never seems to show any signs of decline and now more than ever, artists are showing more work faster and younger than ever before, in essence creating a new substratum of art, “art school art.” This jumbled assembly of up and coming artists only adds to the conglomerate that is contemporary art. Smith goes on to say that contemporary art is obsessed with its own ephemeralness as a result of the environmental and political situation of the modern world. One only needs to look at the shear amount of information about peer artists to realize that the bulk of work being produced will not have the same timelessness  that an ancient classical greek statue will have as there is no underlying definition to distinguish contemporary art from non-art and design. Maybe unity under the guise of a period style will only emerge well after we have designated the works of this era to the “past” and “history” and can objectively look at the artists who achieve the most popularity and whose work retains the timeless search for ideal beauty.
Smith’s article addresses my expectations for this contemporary art class in that it demonstrates contemporary art to be a medium that doesn’t readily offer its message to the viewer due to it’s varied medium base and conceptual aims. After taking this class I hope to better understand modern works of art and better my interpretive skills as an artist critiquing other’s work. While I have taken art history classes that have eventually gotten to contemporary art, never have I fully been able to discern the method upon which I can understand and critically think about the work presented. I feel that this will help me as an artist better understand the conditions influencing my own work as well as my peers and continue to make art that is not only relevant to me but to the rest of the contemporary art world as well.

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