Visual Arts Standards

Based on the National Standards for Arts Education for Grades 9–12, USA


Judy Pfaff. ".....all of the above," 2007. Grapes vines, Styrofoam, plaster, plywood; plastics: Polycarbonate and acrylic; steel: rod, wire and cable; lights: fluorescent light, black light, and EL light; dyes and pigment, 15 1/2 x 40 x 44 feet. Installation view: Rice University Art Gallery, Houston. Photo by Nash Baker, © Judy Pfaff.

Understanding and applying media, techniques, and processes
Among the artists featured in the Art in the Twenty-First Century series are painters, photographers, sculptors, performance, and video artists who use a variety of media, materials, tools, and processes to create their work. Featured artists discuss their unique working methods, creating work both independently in their studios as well as with the collaboration of specialists and assistants. Art21 lessons suggest the use of a wide variety of materials and encourage students to select media that are appropriate for the ideas they want to express.

SEE: Tim Hawkinson; Oliver Herring; Elizabeth Murray; Gabriel Orozco; Judy Pfaff; Mary Heilmann; Jeff Koons


Collier Schorr. "At Ernie Monaco's THE EDGE," 2003. C-print, 16 x 20 inches. Edition of 5. Courtesy 303 Gallery, New York.

Using knowledge of structures and functions
Artists in the series describe their sources of inspiration, their working processes, the work they create, and the context in which their work is presented. Students can review and critically compare these narratives, and explore different approaches and contexts for making and appreciating art.

SEE: An-My Lé; Sally Mann; Matthew Ritchie; Collier Schorr; Carrie Mae Weems; John Baldessari; Allan McCollum


Fred Wilson. "Untitled," detail, 2005. 1 table with 47 milk glass elements, 1 plaster bust, 1 plaster head, 1 standing woman and a ceramic cookie jar, 77 3/4 x 92 x 43 7/8 inches. Photo by Kerry Ryan McFate. Courtesy The Pace Gallery, New York.

Choosing and evaluating a range of subject matter, symbols, and ideas
Art21 films present a cross-section of the diversity of contemporary art—featuring artists who are inspired by such subjects as history, science, literature, and philosophy, and who work in unique visual styles. Art21 lessons present ideas for the classroom in a thematic format that encourages students to compare and contrast the ways artists address subject matter, both personal and universal.

SEE: Laylah Ali; Janine Antoni; Lari Pittman; Fred Wilson; Mark Dion; William Kentridge


Kara Walker. "Darkytown Rebellion," 2001. Installation view at Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York. Projection, cut paper and adhesive on wall, 14 x 37 1/2 feet. Collection of Foundation Musée d'Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean, Luxembourg. Courtesy Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York.

Understanding the visual arts in relation to history and cultures
Many of the artists in the Art21 films reflect on ideas related to larger themes such as spirituality, culture, identity, and history. Their perspectives provide a wide range of viewpoints to consider and analyze related ideas. Some artists are inspired by events and figures from the past, or integrate global references from family history and current travels. Art21 lessons are organized thematically to encourage students to compare, contrast, and juxtapose these influences, ideas, and questions.

SEE: Cai Guo Qiang; Josiah McElheny; Nancy Spero; Kara Walker; Carrie Mae Weems; Yinka Shonibare MBE


Ida Applebroog. "Noble Fields," 1987. Oil on canvas, 5 panels, 86 x 132 inches. Collection of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. Photo by Jennifer Kotter. Courtesy Hauser & Wirth.

Reflecting upon and assessing the characteristics and merits of their work and the work of others
As the artists in the series discuss their sources of inspiration and interests, students are able to trace the development of a work of art, including the range of decisions that are considered along the way. Art21 lessons offer the opportunity for students to present their own opinions and ideas about the work they see and the working processes of the artists featured in the series.

SEE: Shahzia Sikander; Jessica Stockholder; Hiroshi Sugimoto; Ursula von Rydingsvard; Doris Salcedo; Cindy Sherman


Mel Chin. "Revival Field," 1991. Pig's Eye Landfill, St. Paul, Minnesota. Plants, and industrial fencing on a hazardous waste landfill, approximately 60 x 60 x 9 feet. Courtesy the Artist.

Making connections between visual arts and other disciplines
The artists featured in Art21 films research, read, and struggle with ideas. Some engage the expertise of researchers, writers, historians, philosophers, mathematicians, and scientists. Art21 educational materials focus on the range of these approaches and explore these rich interdisciplinary connections. All lessons use observation and discussion as core activities to familiarize students with the work of contemporary artists, and how it connects to overarching themes or topics.

SEE: Mel Chin; Mark Dion; Walton Ford; James Turrell; Carrie Mae Weems; Julie Mehretu; Yinka Shonibare