Social Studies Standards

National Standards from the National Council for the Social Studies for Grades 9–12, USA


Lari Pittman. "This Wholesomeness, beloved and despised, continues regardless," 1990. Acrylic and enamel on wood panel, 128 x 96 inches. Collection Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Photo by Douglas M. Parker Studio. Courtesy the artist and Regen Projects, Los Angeles.

Art21 films and accompanying educational materials reflect the diversity of contemporary visual artists working today, and showcase the variety of cultural expression in the United States. Art21 resources emphasize the diversity of contemporary culture as a means of exploring unique perspectives on individual, social, and community life.

SEE: Lari Pittman; Kerry James Marshall; Barry McGee; Margaret Kilgallen; Pepón Osorio; Cao Fei; Carrie Mae Weems


An-My Lê. "Untitled, Lao Bao," 1998. Gelatin silver print, 20 x 24 inches. Edition of 10. © An-My Lê, courtesy Murray Guy, New York.

Time, continuity, and change
Contemporary art is part of the continuum of art history. Artists have always responded to the world around them. Artists featured in the Art21 films suggest a broad range of approaches to considering contemporary life in relation to historic events, individuals, and themes. The theme of time is featured in Season Two of the Art in the Twenty-First Century broadcast series.

SEE: Vija Celmins; An-My Lê; Martin Puryear; James Turrell; Julie Mehretu; Mary Heilmann


Maya Lin. "Avalanche," 1997. Tempered glass, 10 x 19 x 21 feet. Installation at the South Eastern Center for Contemporary Art, Winston-Salem, North Carlina. Photo by Jackson Smith. Courtesy the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art and Gagosian Gallery, New York.

Individual development and identity
Art provides an intimate reflection of identity—personal, cultural, and universal. Artists in the Art21 films reflect a range of creative role models, suggesting different means of expression and communication. Art21 educational materials encourage personal reflection as a way to consider larger cultural issues and ideas introduced by featured artists. The theme of identity is featured in Season One of the Art in the Twenty-First Century broadcast series.

SEE: Janine Antoni; Maya Lin; Susan Rothenberg; Catherine Sullivan; Cindy Sherman; Kimsooja


Allora & Calzadilla. "Under Discussion," video still, 2005. Single channel video with sound, 6 minutes 14 seconds. Courtesy the artists.

Individuals, groups, and institutions
Making art is not necessarily a solitary act; it can be a social gesture that encompasses how an individual's ideas relate to a larger public. Art21 artists create work as community members and cultural participants who explore ideas—often with the assistance of individual and institutional support. Art21 educational materials encourage students to draw connections to personal experience and social knowledge.

SEE: Allora & Calzadilla; John Feodorov; Trenton Doyle Hancock; Oliver Herring; Jeff Koons; Doris Salcedo


Nancy Spero. "A Cycle in Time," 1995. Handprinting on silk, 2 1/2 x 168 feet. Installation view: Residenzgalerie Salzburg, Austria. Photo by David Reynolds. © Nancy Spero, courtesy the artist and Barbara Gross Galerie, Munich.

Power, authority, and governance
Inspired by the world around them, many Art21 featured artists address contemporary themes such as power, control, authority, and hierarchical structures in their work. Often taking an anti-establishment position, many artists address and critique traditions and systems that have historically been taken for granted. The theme of power is featured in Season Three of the Art in the Twenty-First Century broadcast series.

SEE: Laylah Ali; Ida Applebroog; Nancy Spero; Krzysztof Wodiczko; Paul McCarthy; Yinka Shonibare MBE


Andrea Zittel. "A-Z Living Unit II," front view, 1994. Steel, wood, metal, mattress, glass, mirror, lighting fixture, oven, range, velvet upholstery, utensils, sauce pans, bowls, towel, hair brush, pillow, and clock; open: 57 x 84 x 82 inches, closed: 36 3/4 x 84 x 38 inches. Courtesy Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York.

Production, distribution, and consumption
Issues related to contemporary capitalism are present in the work of many Art21 artists. These artists suggest new ways to consider issues about the production, distribution, and consumption of creative capital in society. Art21 educational materials support student inquiry through the work of relevant artists. The theme of consumption is featured in Season One of the Art in the Twenty-First Century broadcast series.

SEE: Mark Bradford; Gabriel Orozco; Paul Pfeiffer; Andrea Zittel; Florian Maier-Aichen


Matthew Ritchie. "The Lytic Circus," 2004. Mixed media installation, dimensions vary with installation. Installation view: "São Paolo Biennial XXVI", São Paolo, Brazil. Photo © Matthew Ritchie. Courtesy Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York.

Science, technology, and society
Many Art21 artists incorporate interdisciplinary approaches to their work, including the study and practice of science. The series features artists using new technologies, materials, and methods to make their work. The theme of structures is featured in Season Three of the Art in the Twenty-First Century broadcast series.

SEE: Mel Chin; Mark Dion; Tim Hawkinson; Matthew Ritchie; Allan McCollum


Do-Ho Suh. "Blue Green Bridge," detail, 2000. Plastic figures, steel structure, polycarbonate sheets, 24 x 51 x 448 inches. Edition of 2. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin Gallery, New York.

Global connections
Diverse backgrounds and the ease of international travel strongly influence many of the artists featured in the Art21 films. These artists are inspired by the richness of their cultural heritage and the global communities in which they work. Their art reflects the diversity of these influences and offers students the opportunity to consider how ideas and traditions connect and diverge across cultures.

SEE: Cai Guo-Qiang; Alfredo Jaar; Gabriel Orozco; Shahzia Sikander; Do-Ho Suh; Doris Salcedo; Yinka Shonibare MBE; Carrie Mae Weems


Pierre Huyghe. "A Journey That Wasn't," 2005. Super 16mm film transferred to HD video, 21 minutes 41 seconds, color, sound. Photo by Pierre Huyghe. © Pierre Huyghe, courtesy Marian Goodman Gallery, Paris/New York.

Civic ideals and practices
Many of the artists featured in the Art21 films consider art a social practice and a means of participating in society. Educational materials encourage interactive and participatory learning. Using personal knowledge, students reflect on the art and ideas of featured artists, as a way to consider larger social, civic, and community-based issues.

SEE: Pierre Huyghe; Josiah McElheny; Gabriel Orozco; Fred Wilson; Allan McCollum; Kimsooja