Joe Wilks Terry Smith article

Terry Smith’s article “What is Contemporary Art?” provides a great dialogue about the state of art regarding the last thirty years. He explains from different perspectives how contemporary practices and works are perceived, allowing a well-rounded view to take from. Smith starts with an overall vision of the artists themselves as a global subculture with an “institutionalized network” to stay in the stream of a globalized community. He points out that they are important to themselves, to their local cultures, and to the international “high culture”, recycling old artistic practices in their own way, and catering to uneducated high-capitalist collectors. Utilizing those historical practices in a world saturated which imagery, these artists create art that both aims at selling while also mocking the system in which they sell. They do not fit into any movement and are as diverse in use of medium, which leads to the perception from the curators and critics.

Being that they do not fit into a mold of historical movements, the people that are closest to trying to understand the art presented find themselves at odds with that idea of a lack of cohesion in style regarding historic continuity. After minimalism and conceptualism there has come a period of what Smith calls “periodlessness”. He states that some anticipate the next one coming with changing tides of globalized culture while others fear the “crisis” that there will be none. Alienated from an art world that has no particular flow to it, that creates artwork that is often times impossible to interpret, the masses see it as elitist and self-serving and the critics dog it. But some including Julian Stallabrass see it as just what the culture deserves at this moment in history. He recognizes it as just what capitalist society deserves and possibly had to have at this moment.

I agree with Mr. Stallabrass. From a historical perspective artists have always reflected the societal shifts that deal with economy, war, culture, etc. that are unfolding around them. The turn to larger and larger economies that have pushed money driven culture in the west has had a profound effect on the artists that are produced. It seems like the turn to individuality versus community has also had an affect on artist’s ability to grasp and relay higher ideas that speak to a larger audience. The flow of information that has become accessible to us all confuses the ideas of what it means to culture in general. While contemporary artists do understand the history of art, they are caught in a century that moves so fast and is so big and so filled with imagery that they have a hard time grasping the moment and the medium to use, which can speak to an audience inundated with readied information. Contemporary artists do reflect the changing landscape of our globalized culture and the adaptation and in turn often time confusion that we have and do live in.

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