After Modernism: Galleries and installations

The connotations and conceptions of a gallery being made by the people, for the people are only a modern innovation. Galleries in Britain during the Stuart period mainly consisted of aristocratic and noblemen who’s main priority in displaying their work was to highlight their wealth and financial status. Work would often be displayed in Tapestry Hangs; showing the work with limited to no space between paintings in order to fit as many paintings onto a wall, whilst emphasising their wealth. Many paintings would often be stripped of their composition and cut down in order to fit onto the walls.

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Archduke Leopold William in his Gallery – David Teniers II

This painting highlights the lack of appreciation for the art itself, with paintings being placed on the floor, amongs dogs running and playing amongst it.

In the 19th century, Galleries and Installations started to be run and owned by the State, which allowed for the common person to access the galleries. This made for some dramatic changes in the way people percieved galleries, with works being hung with more space and in themed spaces, or chronological order.

Modern galleries have gradually formed into white, neutral spaces with plenty of room between paintings, allowing the viewer to get the most they can from a painting. Modern Galleries have become an art form in themselves such as the Guugenheim in Bilbao. This change in the perspective of how art should be hung has also had effect on the art itself, with ‘mega art’ emerging since the turn of the century in order to accomodate the vast spaces available in the gallery.

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Anish Kapoor – Yellow

After Modernism: Pop Art

Pop Art emerged during the 1960s as a response to what society was being subjected to in everyday life through advertisement of products, and as interpretations of what society considered the norm, looking at the value of the artwork produced on a finacial and social level. Artists such as Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg, who were pioneers in the Pop Art movement, critiqued art as any other form of commodity we see in everyday life. For example, in Andy Warhol’s print “One Dollar Bills” Warhol uses reprinted one dollar bills in order to give a notion of mass production,  and plays with the economical connotations of art when considering that the artwork displayed has more monetary value than the face value shown.

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Andy Warhol – One Dollar Bills

The main idea that Pop Art focuses on is how every object has its own value (whether sentimental, financially, or benefitial value) and how these values are disproportionate in mainstream society. I think Claes Oldenberg played with this idea his work, which can be present in his works such as “The Pastry Case”, where his creations of food have no use as a source of nutrients and nourishment, but the monetary value is the case is obscenely large.

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Claes Oldenberg – The Pastry Case

After Modernism: Minimalism

 

Minimalism was an art movement which emerged in small groups in the 1960’s, aiming to strip art down to its bare bones, pushing away from the complexities seen in Abstract Expressionism which flourished in the cold war period of the 1950’s. This was the main philosophy of the Minimalist artist, showing how the concepts and ideas of the artist blurred the value of the art as piece of work.

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Robert Morris – L-Beams

Minimalists such as Donald Judd (considered one of the founders of the minimalist movement) scrutinises the concept of painting as a whole, arguing that the rectangular shape of the canvas limits the work’s possibilities, and that there is only a limited amount of pictorial space to compromise the painting. He also had a dislike for the work of oil on canvas due to its illusionistic concept and masking of real objects (i.e, the canvas), also stating that it is more of a collaboration due to the objects being manufactured by other people.

As a painter, I strongly disagree with these statements, although I do respect his argument and the points being raised. Minimalistic pieces such as Judd’s do in themselves have materials which must be manufactured by other people, and that some of his own artwork contains artificial colouring, which in itself can be seen as painting and ‘masking’ the work. I think it can be said that even structures have their own limits, with works that become impossible to create and maintain due to the forces of gravity capping a limit to what we can create. All sculptures and paintings must compromise this, yet this doesn’t take away from the fact it is a piece of art.

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Donald Judd – Untitled (1968-69)

After Modernism: Conceptualism

Is art primarily concerned with objects or ideas?

 

Conceptualism is a way of thinking in art that due to me being more primarily focused on painting, and what paint can do on a canvas with respect to composition I haven’t had much grasp of in recet years. I personally enjoyed the lecture even though it was out of my comfort zone, yet I couldn’t really relate much of it to my own work.

To open the lecture, Jon discussed about arguably the beginning ‘sculpture’ of Modern Art and what we know as modern art today; Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain (1917), the pinnacle of conceptualism.

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Marcel Duchamp – Fountain

He put forward 4 major cases against Duchamp’s Fountain:

1. Duchamp didn’t make this object, therefore it is not art.

2. It wasn’t intended to be a work of art.

3. Anyone can do this, therefore it is not art.

4. If this is art, everything is art, therefore nothing is art.

Here are some of the points arguing against those claims;

  • When arguing against the first point, it is important to remember that sculptural artists of the 19th Century, such as Rodin never actually cast any of their marble masterpieces into bronze, and that there are 319 bronze casts of Rodin’s Kiss alone, with one being situated in both the Tate and Cardiff National Museum, and different varying aspects in each one.
  • Secondly, Museums and galleries were not intended to be “for the people”, but almost as large cabinets of curiosities, allowing wealthy Kings and Noblemen to exhibit their lavish art and make a statement to the world of their wealth and power. In fact, many paintings were cut down and stripped of their composition in order to fit onto the wal in is what known as a Tapestry hang, utilising the upmost space on the wall; emphasising that feeling of power.

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Early painting of the National Gallery

  • Enso paintings, which are common in Zen Buddhism, consist of one solid circular brushstroke and are often accompanied by poetry or words. Their symbolism will vary, depending on the words with it, but often are symbolic of grace, enlightenment or even the sun and the universe. One must never change the circle when the first brushstroke is made, due to the fact the innacuracies are what make this piece of art what it is, and in Buddhism is reflectant of the personality of the person who created it 

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  • Art is what is stripped from its context and then put into its surrounding (in this case, a gallery or a museum), and then it is actually given the concept of a piece of art. It is the idea and putting together of the objects which give it the concept.