May 27
Contemporary Art



Frank Gehry. Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles. 2003.

Postmodernism = name for many stylistic reactions to, and developments from, modernism. Postmodern style is often characterized by eclecticism, digression, collage, pastiche, and irony. Postmodern theorists see postmodern art as a reversal of well-established modernist systems, such as the roles of artist versus audience, seriousness versus play, or high culture versus kitsch.
Postmodernists believe
that no single truth exists
Embrace diversity
Encourage parody, irony and playfulness
Jouissance = enjoyment







Historic Context
Jean-Francois Lyotard's The Postmodern Condition published
John Lennon is murdered
1981 - 1989
"Reagan era"
AIDS first recognized as a disease, given the name "Gay Related Immune Deficiency"
MTV founded
Compact discs first marketed and quickly replace records and tapes
Rock Hudson dies of AIDS
Chernobyl nuclear accident
GRID renamed HIV/ AIDS
"Black Monday" stock market crash
Robert Mapplethorpe dies of AIDS
Student protestors massacred in China's Tieananmen Square







Cindy Sherman. Untitled Film Still #6. 1977.
Cruz, Amanda and Elizabeth A. T. Smith.  Cindy Sherman: Retrospective.  Chicago:  Thames & Hudson, 1998.







Cindy Sherman. Untitled Film Still #13. 1978.
Cruz, Amanda and Elizabeth A. T. Smith.  Cindy Sherman: Retrospective.  Chicago:  Thames & Hudson, 1998.







Cindy Sherman. Untitled Film Still #48. 1979.
Preble, Duane, Sarah Preble and Patrick Frank. Artforms. Seventh ed. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ, 2002.


1996 Museum of Modern Art purchased a complete set of Film Stills for $1 million
In 2006 a print of #32 (she made 10) sold for $140,000 at auction







Leonardo da Vinci . Madonna and Child. 1482.

Cindy Sherman. Untitled #216. 1990.
Grosenick, Uta ed. Women Artists in the 20th and 21st Century. Taschen, Koln. 2005.

Appropriation = the use of found or borrowed elements in the creation of a new artwork
Walter Benjamin's The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction
In an age when images can be reproduced endlessly, there is no original
"Aura" is the feeling of awe created by unique object from the past - Capitalism destroys the aura because of proliferation, mass production and endless reproduction







Barbara Kruger. Untitled (I Shop Therefore I Am). 1987.
Preble, Duane, Sarah Preble and Patrick Frank. Artforms. Seventh ed. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ, 2002.







Barbara Kruger. Untitled (Your gaze hits the side of my face). 1981.







Anselm Kiefer.  To the Unknown Painter.  1983.

Neo-Expressionism = style of modern painting that emerged in the late 1970s and dominated the art market until the mid-1980s. It developed as a reaction against the conceptual and minimalist art of the 1970s. Neo-expressionists returned to portraying recognizable objects, such as the body, in a rough and violently emotional way using vivid colours and banal colour harmonies.








Jean-Michel Basquiat. Untitled (Skull). 1981.
Emmerling, Leonhard.  Basquiat.  Koln: Taschen, 2003.







Charles the First

Jean-Michel Basquiat. Charles the First. 1982.







Charlie Parker







Richard Estes.  Telephone Booths.  1968.

Photo Realism = genre of painting that developed out of the Pop Art movement and involves the use of photographs and mechanical transfer of the photo image to canvase that results in a painting resembling that resembles a photo
the painting is a copy of a photograph
the photograph is a copy of the "original"
the "original" may have been set up to remind the viewer of something prior







Gerhard Richter. Betty. 1988.







Marilyn Minter.  Bottled Blonde.  2006.  Enamel on aluminum.







Duane Hanson.  Tourists.  1970. Polyester resin, fiberglass and human paraphernalia.


trompe l'oeil = French for "fool the eye."  A representation that is so naturalistic that it looks actual or real.







Ron Mueck.  Dead Dad.  1996 - 97.







Claudio Bravo.  Package.  1969.  Charcoal, pastel and sanguine.
Fichner-Rathus, Lois.  Understanding Art.  Seventh edition.  Australia: Thomson Wadsworth, 2004.







Historic Context
1990 Germany reunited
  Nelson Mandela released from prison
  Keith Haring, Freddie Mercury, Craig Owens and Halston die of AIDS
  Perfect Moment exhibition
1991 USSR desolved and Boris Yeltsin becomes Russian President
  Magic Johnson announces he is HIV positive
  Isaac Asimov dies of AIDS
1992 David Wojnarowicz dies of AIDS
1994 Advent of World Wide Web
  Official end of white rule in South Africa
  Elizabeth Glaser dies of AIDS
1997 Tony Blair becomes Labour prime minister of Britain, ending 18 years of Conservative rule
  "Dollie" the sheep cloned in UK (dies in 2003)
1996 Felix Gonzalez-Torres dies of AIDS
1997 - 99 Sensation show in London, Berlin and Brooklyn
1998 Clinton impeached, then acquited of charges
2001 Attacks on World Trade Center and Pentagon
  U.S. bombs Afghanistan
2003 U.S. and Britain launch war on Iraq
2004 Tsunami in South Asia
2005 Hurricane Katrina and flooding in New Orleans
2007 Al Gore'sseries of speeches on Global Warming inform Americans about the issue and earn the former Vice President a Noble Peace Award
2009 Barack Obama becomes the first U.S. president of African descent







Postmodern Themes:

Pee Body

Kiki Smith. Pee Body. 1992.
Pollack, Barbara. "Leaping Off the Pedastal." ARTnews. June 1998: 106 - 110.

Body Politics
Identity Politics
Jouissance - french for enjoyment







Cindy Sherman. Untitled #175. 1987.







Felix Gonzalez-Torres. Clockwise from top left: Untitled (Death By Gun) 1990, Untitled (Aparicion) 1991, Untitled 1991,
Untitled (Republican Years) 1992.







Viewer takes home Untitled (Apparition)







Felix Gonzalez torres.  Untitled (Lover Boys).  1991.

Felix Gonzalez-Torres. Untitled (Placebo). 1991.

"I'm giving you this sugary thing; you put it in your mouth and you suck on someone else's body. And in this way, my work becomes part of so many other people's bodies. It's very hot." - Gonzalez-Torres







Kara Walker. Slavery! Slavery! 1997.







Kara Walker. You Do .  1997.

Josephine Baker performing the Danse Sauvage in 1927

"Walker refuses to see racism as a clear question of 'us versus them.' Instead, she performs a complex excavation of both the psychological and the sociological dimensions of identification." - David Joselit







Chris Ofili. The Holy Virgin Mary. 1996.






Matthew Barney. Cremaster 4: The Loughton Candiddate. 1994.





Cremaster = the muscle that controls the contraction and relaxation of the testes in response to different physical or psychological stimuli like increased temperature or fear

cremaster muscle in red

"Biological, social and mythological foundations of selfhood intersect and reflect one another." - David Joselit

Cycle reflects on the period during early development of the fetus when gender has not been decided,
a moment of pure potential for Barney

In the first several weeks of life, the fetus has no anatomical or hormonal sex (sex can only be determined by genes)
About the 10th week, external genitalia begins to differentiate
About 15th week, first spermatognia and ovarian follicles form
28th week, testes descend out of the body cavity







Cremaster 1 (1996)

Setting - the blue Astroturf playing fiend at Bronco Stadium in Boise, Idaho
Synopsis - musical revue involving two Goodyear blimps
With the grapes, she directs the choreographic patterns created by a troupe of dancng girls on the field below.
Symbolism - the blimps, grapes and dancing ensemble refer to the female reproductive system and ovulation







Cremaster 2 (1999)

Setting - Utah and the Great Salt Lake
Synopsis - Barney plays Gary Gilmore, the Mormon serial killer who made legal history by refusing and resisting all efforts made to have his execution postponed or rescinded
Gilmore's mother claimed to have been related to Harry Houdini.  Scenes with Gilmore's descendents foretell his fate.  Movie ends with Gilmore's symbolic execution during a prison rodeo on a salt platform in the Great Salt Lake
Symbolism - corresponds to the phase of fetal development during which sexual division begins. In Barney's abstraction of this process, the system resists partition and tries to remain in the state of equilibrium.







Matthew Barney as Johnny Cash calling Gary Gilmore while he awaits execution in Cremaster 2.  1999.







Cremaster 3 (2002)

Setting - the Chrysler building in New York
Synopsis - narrates the building of the Chrysler building and the important Masonic myth of the struggle between the Entered Apprentice and the Architect.
The Apprentice kills the Architect who is purported to know the mysteries of the universe.  In Masonic ritual, the symbolic murder and resurrection of the Architect serve as initiation rites in which the candidate must accomplish certain understandings to attain membership and to progress through Masonic hierarchy.
Symbolism - a battle is enacted to decide sexual identity, which occurs in the exact center of the movie, and the series







Cremaster 4 (1994)

Setting - the Isles of Man
Synopsis - a motorcycle race between two teams who run in opposition to each other occurs as the Loughton Candidate begins to tap his way through a floor.
The Loughton Candidate eventually feels two sets of horns growing from the top and bottom of his skull that mimic the two sets of horns of the loughton ram (an animal native to the island).
Symbolism - once gender has been determined, genitals and reproductive organs begin to form.  From the same mass, either ovaries, clitoris and vagina or testes and penis are developed.







The Loughton Candidate in a tube of vaseline from Cremaster 4. 1994.







Cremaster 5 (1997)

Setting - late 19th century Badapest and its opera house

Synopsis - a tragic love story between Harry Houdini and the Queen of Chain. Houdini (who was born in Budapest) seeks transcendence by chaining himself and jumping from a bridge.  The Queen misunderstands this feat as a suicide attempt and eventually dies of a broken heart. 

Meanwhile, her Giant enters into thermal baths where fairies attach ribbons to his scrotum that are also attached to pigeons.  As the Queen dies, the pigeons fly through an oculus in the baths and the Giant's scrotum descends from his body cavity.
Symbolism - total descension and sexual identity is attained










Cremaster 2 dvd in exhibition case,%20Cremaster%202,%201999,%20vetrina,%20%20cm.%2097.5x101.6x118.4.jpg


Each film in The Cremaster Cycle was released in an edition of ten in lavish sculptural packaging that was individually signed and numbered by Barney. In 2007, a copy of Cremaster 2 sold for $571,000 at auction.







Liza Lou. Kitchen. 1991 - 94.
Ollman, Leah. "Liza Lou’s American Dream." Art in America. June 1998: 98-101 & 122.







Liza Lou.  Kitchen (detail).  1991 - 94.







Liza Lou.  Backyard.  2005.