Modern and Contemporary Art

Since the ancient times, art was one of the paths leading to the understanding of reality that existed in the culture. The modern world, which is now called global, informational, and virtual, as in the previous period, found its reflection in it. It is believed that contemporary art often frightens and shocks an unsophisticated spectator, because it interacts with the audience with the help of of strange and specific language. Contemporary art requires a special perception of the recipient distinct from the perception of classical art. In fact, the problem of the perceiver’s activity and his/her motivation is studied in such fields of science as psychology, pedagogy, and aesthetics. Therefore, the main purpose of this paper is to determine the components that make the understanding of modern and contemporary art tangled and difficult. In addition, the essay will explain this phenomenon through the works of several artists who are famous for their extraordinary approaches to depicting the reality.

Contemporary art is an open complex and constantly evolving and self-organizing system of methods and experiments in artistic and imaginative display that is continuously changing reality. Nowadays, the rate of social change is steadily growing, and the process of market globalization and information sufficiently contributes to it. In today's society that is heavily influenced by new digital technologies in the constant presence of IT-industry in everyday life, the art stops to function within the frames of pure creativity. It not only merges with scientific inventions but also engages new species of technological crafts in its sphere. A striking example of this is the art that occurs on the edge of the abstract and the real.

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The difficulty in the perception of contemporary art happens due to distinction in the outlook of people of different centuries and their way of recognizing reality. Unlike previous generations of art, where the main driving ideas of the spiritual component of a certain era or culture found the reflection in the society's life, the beginning of the great and tragic 20th century in the artistic life of the community was characterized by the disappearance of certainly united directionality of civilization and culture.

The obvious illiberality of traditional philosophical and religious doctrines to overcome the armed conflict, as well as environmental disaster and the crisis mood in the society, have led to disappointment in the ideology and to the abandonment of traditional values. All these phenomena of spiritual, political, and social spheres of culture have become prerequisites for the emergence of the new art. This art, reflecting the processes of contemporary society and proclaiming the aesthetics of contemporary culture, differs by the absence of any kind of canons and aesthetic standards. The art of the modern era of postmodernism has arisen on the ruins of the classical culture of Western civilization. Therefore, it is not always able to evoke positive emotions as it does not want to be a source of beauty and morality. The main issues that confront the comprehension of modern abstract art sometimes sound like an accusation of the absence of a semantic dominant. In addition, those issues often question the existence of the phenomenon of art itself.

From the beginning, art contributed to the axiological enrichment of culture and was its integral part that frequently acted as the face of the era. All the tendencies that are inherent in the classical art have not lost their meaning in the era of modern conceptual or actual creativity. Art, born in the bosom of a controversial, complex, and critical epoch, must speak its language, even though it seems confusing and senseless at times. That is why, the emergence and development of modern and contemporary art is a natural historical and cultural process. It not only displays all the morbid tendencies of the modern world but also looks for new ways of civilization and its existence.

In fact, the creation of art of all periods is specific due to its elaborate composition, which presupposes different ideas in accordance with a person's individual vision about this work. Thus, observing modern conceptual art as the art of the free act of creative search for an ideal, it is possible to determine that it not only proclaims the renunciation of all scientific theories and doctrines but also refuses already established traditions of artistic heritage. In addition, modern art is sometimes based on the sensual world of human passions and emotions, which may be inexpressible in the clear forms. Appeal to the sensual side of culture and to its subconscious parts and pictures not enshrined in sustainable shapes find their expression in asymmetric and abstract forms and images, which exerts a hidden emotional impact on the viewer.

Numerous techniques of creation of artworks served as the reason why the end results of art appeared to be difficult. Difficulties in understanding the contemporary art are also related to the search for new incarnations and forms of an abstract image. In the process of artistic creation, the master transforms the tangible realistic image of the object or phenomenon in a vague multi-dimensional symbol or a sign that contains the essence and the inner potential of the described element. Thus, the art does not give people ready-made prescriptions, indisputable estimates, and rigorous standards, but leads them to the conclusion, estimates, and rules, which are intertwined in the artwork. It literally simulates the effects that individuals experience in everyday life and makes them participate in various events and in different conflicts. In general, both form and image are considered important in the understanding of art as they complement each other and present a unique creation. Thereby, owing to the above-mentioned factors, the art  provides an effective educational influence on the individual, satisfies people’s basic necessities of life, and enriches their existence by making it more interesting and enthralling. Therefore, the difficulties of the art during the period under analysis are caused by the artists’ desire to adopt a new approach to art and set the innovative trends.

To get an insight into the current topic of discussion, it is necessary to explore this feature through the works of famous representatives of contemporary art. According to the information presented by Gaiger, Marcel Duchamp belongs to the artists whose creations are difficult for perception due to their uniqueness that manifested itsself in the complexity of the artworks and their meanings. Hence, the influence of creative experiment of Marcel Duchamp on the very concept of art in the 20th century is so large and varied that in the modern science, his artistic personality is often regarded as one of the most outstanding incarnations of the modernist spirit. Specifically, Duchamp presented the world art a genre of readymade things, namely his famous work “Bottlerack” thus, turning such creative dominant way of construction into the process of perception of art. At the same time, on a more detailed and historically limited level, the artist’s language experiments and humorous art objects became symbols of the surrealism, fully demonstrating the arbitrariness of language as a communication tool on the one hand, and realistic visual canon, on the other hand. Everything that prevails in the space is only a projection or reflection of invisible things that exist in a different world of a higher order. Therefore, it is possible to reach the upper world only through one’s imagination, which is sufficiently interesting but difficult at the same time.

Furthermore, to understand the difficulties of art perception, it is necessary to explore the works of Barnett Newman. He is one of the main figures of high modernism and a painter of the color field. According to Newman, any art that is worthy of its name must refer to a life, nature, death, and tragedy. He has always insisted on the rich emotional content of his works, which is visible in his creation called “Eve”. Additional literature explains that Newman sought to destroy the beauty and show the true essence of the reality in his works. For this reason, this painting is made in red colors which characterize the dark and corrupted soul able to succumb to any weaknesses. Nevertheless, Newman’s works often fuel confusion due to their complicated and deep meaning yet still charm the audience with his extraordinary approach. This extraordinarity was a result of his desire to produce the complicated artworks. The complexity of the artworks was determined by the versatility of the concepts and the ideas he strived to convey.

Another outstanding person of contemporary art is Ana Mendieta. She is known primarily for the artistic works from the series “Silueta”. By merging her own forms with the surrounding nature, Mendieta created a dialogue between the landscape and the female body. Female contours inscribed in the landscapes seem to be fragmented, unfocused, and dissected. Her works are mostly aggressive and provocative, since she inserts themes of life, death, rebirth, and spiritual transformation in them. Political non-freedom, violence against women, their subordinate position in traditional society – all this also finds reflection in her works. Therefore, Mendieta’s art is peculiar because of the specific manner of depicting the problems and challenges of the modern world. This manner was characterized as complicated and difficult due to the fact that it was a mainstream in art. It was intentional owing to the easiness of the art from the previous trends. Thus, the difficulty of perception was a specific characteristic of the 20th century, since authors wanted it to be special and different from any other approaches.  

In summary, the paper examined the concept of contemporary and modern art by explaining the difficulties of its perception and providing the examples of the famous artworks. Hence, the modern art makes the viewer exceed the limits of stereotypical thinking. Such art, which almost resorts to outrageous forces, easily convinces the person to think about the search for meaning. Rejecting the stereotypical view that envisages the cognition of the beautiful, an experienced recipient seeks to open all levels of the multidimensional conceptual art object, reveal the difficulty of the perception, and find the true designation of the masterpiece.

Mar 23, 2020 in Informative
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