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ART 1010 University of Maryland College Park Modern Art Discussion

Watch the video above.

The video involves a young man candidly discussing his ignorance and frustration with modern art. He is totally baffled. Maybe it is a place that you started before taking this class; maybe it’s a position that you still hold.

Choose the artwork from Chapter 3.9 that you have the most trouble relating to visually or conceptually. Write a statement “justifying” this artwork to the best of your ability. Pretend you are taking the guy in the video back to the museum, and he asks you to explain what this work is about. Rather than simply saying, “I don’t get it, either,” come up with what you would say to help this person understand.

Give your answer by creating a new thread in the link for “Week 15 Discussion“. Write at least six sentences. In your post, clearly state the name of the artist and the title of the work so that we know which piece you are talking about.

Chapter 3.9 Late Modern and Early Contemporary Art in the Twentieth Century

Throughout most of the twentieth century, artists explored and expanded the possibilities of abstraction. Artists were challenging themselves to reach beyond what they already recognized and beyond the surface of the familiar world into spaces that were sometimes challenging and revolutionary. Many of these artists focused on the formal elements and believed that the form itself (what an artwork looked like), could be its content without depending on history or narrative. During this time, known as the Modernist period, artists were reacting to the art that went before in order to create new approaches.

The Revolution of Color and Form
The experimental approaches of two of the greatest artists of the twentieth century, Matisse and Picasso, are discussed. Matisse’s expressive style and liberating use of color are explored. Picasso’s radical handling of form, and his notorious Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, are presented. Students learn about the development of Cubism through the early abstractions of Picasso, Braque, and Gris.

We describe the origins of Dada around the time of World War I; its activist, revolutionary rejection of convention; and its ethos of individuality, irrationality, chance, and imagination. We consider the early Dada performance “Karawane” and the work of one of the New York Dada movement’s key figures, Marcel Duchamp, and his responsibility for three of the major artistic innovations of the twentieth century: readymades, kinetic sculptures, and conceptual art. The photomontages of John Heartfield represent the movement’s mass-produced imagery and political edge.

We examine how Surrealist works engage the imagination and explore regions of the mind that had been previously overlooked: the subconscious and unconscious. In addition to exploring the Surrealist imagery of paintings by Giorgio de Chirico (a precursor to and influence on Surrealism) and Max Ernst, we examine an example of the characteristic Surrealist technique of assemblage, a form of three-dimensional collage, by Joan Miró.

The Influence of Cubism
The influence of Cubism on subsequent art movements is discussed. We explore Futurism, with its celebration of dynamic progress and technology, and we describe the origins of Abstraction, with the first completely non-objective paintings (discussed at length in the Expressionism section in chapter 3.8), and the evolution of two early abstract styles, Suprematism (seen here in the work of Malevich) and De Stijl (represented by Mondrian). We analyse the elegant simplicity of Constantin Brancusi’s sculptural forms and Agnes Martin’s harmonious paintings.

Early Twentieth-Century Art in America
The work of American artists, and the effects of the Great Depression, Harlem Renaissance, and post-slavery/pre-Civil Rights movement are discussed.

Abstract Expressionism
We describe the development of Abstract Expressionism in the 1940s as the first Modern art movement to originate in the US. Students learn about the aims and methods of the pioneering Abstract Expressionist artists. We introduce the improvisational rhythms and processes of Jackson Pollock’s action paintings, the spiritually profound color fields of Mark Rothko’s canvases, and the evocative compositions Helen Frankenthaler made by pouring paint on unprimed canvas.

Pop Art
Pop art’s radical departure from fine art imagery and materials is introduced. We examine the movement’s relationship with consumer culture and mass production, and explore works by Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein.

Minimal art is presented as a conscious reaction to the emphasis placed on the artist’s personality in the work of the Abstract Expressionists. The commercial and industrial materials used by Minimalist artists Donald Judd and Dan Flavin are discussed.


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