The State of Contemporary Art

James Muenzenmaier, A&E Editor

Contemporary art is a terminology that is used to describe the artistic works of today, specifically in the second half of the 20th century and in the 21st century. Contemporary art can sometimes seem at odds with a public that does not feel that art and its institutions share its values, and as a result, groups of people are often puzzled by the way certain artists combine different materials and mediums. Contemporary artists work in a world that is influenced daily by the diverse culture and evolving technology, and as a result, art is becoming more focused on the description of pieces rather than the pieces themselves.

While some view this change as a sign that art is becoming more personal and genuine, it can also be argued that this change is being brought about by the lack of inspiration and the purposefulness of art in today’s world. To explain how the appreciation for art has declined over the years, the decorated ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is a prime example. Painted by famed artist Michelangelo during the Italian Renaissance between the years of 1508 and 1512, this highly decorated and beautified ceiling is an iconic presence in western art with its featured work of “The Creation of Adam”.

When an Italian sculptor, painter, and accomplished poet can create astonishing visual representations of God and the miracles he performed, and sometimes be referred to as “the Divine One”, then the human conscience is sated by the art that is witnessed. Art will always be interpretive, but it should not so much so that observers are grappling for meaning and satisfaction. Art does not need to be quintessential, it only needs subject matter, which can come about through a conversation, an event, or a thought, as well as inspiration, and a medium that is able to convey that subject matter onto a canvas or otherwise. When art is mentioned in a conversation, people will subconsciously recollect timeless masterpieces such as Vincent van Gogh’s “Starry Night” and Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa”.

This tendency does not need to be ignored or changed. It simply occurs because art is best when it causes an observer to become awestruck and curious about the work they are witnessing. Comparing this to conceptual artists, the simplistic and straightforward approach they take, does not often create the same experience. When a canvas is given meaning, yet is only decorated with lines and scribbles, it is not particularly hard to notice that the artist in question is quite keen on appearing more sophisticated, when in reality, pompousness and pretentiousness are the qualities that an observer gathers.

There are great pieces of modern art, and therefore great modern artists. However, appreciating these artists is quite difficult considering the amount of other individuals who claim to be as virtuous and respectable, and their works that fill museums seem to outnumber those that are esteemed and qualified artists. “I don’t really care for art, and the concept of contemporary art doesn’t mean much to me” said Junior, Ethan Potvin. “I feel like modern art is great in the sense of expressing one’s imagination” said Junior, Brice Isenhath. Contemporary Art is not to be condemned or vilified according to this article, but each exhibit is to be taken with a grain of salt, and to be questioned thoroughly for inspiration and true meaning.