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Ideas in Neo-Expressionism and Contemporary Art Essay


How contemporary art addresses identity?

All people are different, and even those who tend to have much in common, still reveal a range of characteristics that distinguish them. Their qualities, beliefs, and traits of character determine who they are and how they perceive themselves and want to be perceived by the general public. Identity can deal with cultural and ethnic peculiarities, sex, and individuality. Identity is rather critical for artists because they tend to be focused on the desire to share their views and considerations with the viewers. This public aspect of their self tends to change over time, but it still determines how individuals understand themselves.

The insights of identity can be seen in the artworks of many contemporary artists. The majority of them try to reveal their philosophical views and attract the public’s attention to those issues they consider to be the most critical for today’s world. Sally Mann, for example, appealed to the viewers with her collection “Immediate Family.” Her photograph “Damaged Child” shows a kid who looks sexless due to short hair and ordinary face with a swollen eye. However, people can understand that this is a girl, seeing that she wears a dress. In this way, the artist emphasizes the question of gender identity.

What is more significant, Mann resorts to her motherhood. She underlines that mothers are to take care of their children and be the first to assist them when they are hurt. She also tries to make other parents realize that children can sometimes be wounded, but it is a part of life (The ASX Team, 2009). The artist’s identity is also revealed in Julian Schnabel’s “The Homo Painting.” He is known for being gay, so it is not surprising that the pose of men depicted in the picture allows them to presuppose that they may also be in a non-traditional relationship (Kear, 2015). In his piece “Cabinetmaking,” Fred Wilson puts “blackamoors” that reveal his ethnic and racial identity. They represent black people in subservient poses, which reminds of slavery (Forster, 2014). Takashi Murakami’s work “The 500 Arhats” reveals his Japanese identity, as it is tightly connected with Buddhism and the lives of religious people (Kordic, 2016).

Thus, it can be concluded that contemporary artists pay much attention to the questions of identity. That is why the viewers need to be aware of the author’s background and his/her ideas to fully experience the piece. Of course, some general ideas can be perceived without any additional information or text, like those things, people, and events depicted in work reveal a particular story. However, a lot of significant information requires deep investigation and thorough analysis to be perceived as in the way the author wants.

What similarities and differences exist among the artists who are labeled Neo-Expressionists?

The movement of Neo-Expressionism turned out to be rather popular at the end of the 20th century. It dealt with portraying recognizable objects in a rather emotional way, roughly using instanced colors. In their works, artists would retell historical and mythological ideas, but their styles differed greatly.

Julian Schnabel painted human bodies in the majority of his works. He even depicted real people (“The Homo Painting”) so that his works obtained more context. Francesco Clemente, for example, also painted many people. But he also depicted himself rather often (“Self Portrait with and without the Mask”) so that the viewers could see how the painter treated himself (Gagosian, 2017). Unlike them, Jean-Michel Basquiat, who also portrayed human beings, made them look rather unreal. His works resemble children’s drawings and are more chaotic (“Philistines”) (Jeanette, 2013).

In this way, it can be concluded that even the representatives of the same style gathered in one group due to the similarities that can be seen in their works, tend to reveal a lot of oppositions that can hardly be seen in the pieces of other artists.

How the materials used by artists shape the content and meaning in the work of art?

To create their works, artists use various materials. Selecting them, they affect the overall result and determine the way their piece will affect the viewers.

Jeff Wall, in one of his most well-known works, “A Sudden Gust of Wind (After Hokusai)” used photographic material (Manchester, 2003). He collaged pieces of photos to create his work. In this way, he obtained an opportunity to blend different worlds and places in one piece. Jean-Michel Basquiat is often painted on those materials that can be found on the street or are partially damaged so that professional artists rarely use them. Mixing acryl and crayons, he made his “Philistines” look rather extensional and made them bear true to life characteristics, aligned with the sense of sloppiness. In “Cabinetmaking,” Fred Wilson united figures of “blackamoors” with acetylene torches and other objects so that they seemed to carry them. As a result, such a manner of using materials allowed the artist to make black figures resemble slaves dealing with everyday duties.

Thus, the way different materials are used by the artists shapes the work’s content and meaning.

References

Forster, I. (2014). Web.

Gagosian, (2017). Web.

Jeanette. (2013). Web.

Kear, J. (2015). Web.

Kordic, A. (2016). Web.

Manchester, E. (2003). Web.

The ASX Team. (2009). Web.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Ideas in Neo-Expressionism and Contemporary Art." November 15, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/ideas-in-neo-expressionism-and-contemporary-art/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Ideas in Neo-Expressionism and Contemporary Art'. 15 November.

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