Tumultuous, expansive, inspirational - the past 10 years have had their ups and downs. How have contemporary artists reacted to the news of the day?
Art's relationship to its time is inherently complex. No matter what the particular subject at hand - be it social upheaval, the environment, mass media, or identity - today's art is layered with influences, sources and ideas. Loathe to be pinned down, contemporary artists serve no master, religion or propaganda, as they most often did in past centuries. Positioning themselves on the very edge of expression, the artists presented here pose questions and create new forms that open up ways of thinking and viewing the world.
--Wesley Miller, Associate Curator, Art21
"At a certain point, children...realize their reflection is themselves...growing up, you're not really self-conscious that way that we are when we become adults." —Cindy Sherman
"[The sphere] is just floating out there without a clear identity...You use metaphor to extinguish the unknown...the problem is that the unknown is where I want to be." —Roni Horn
"When I do a portrait, mutual trust is so important...so the person you're working with trusts that the image is fluent with whom she or he is." —Roni Horn
"I really just recorded her in action...a girl becoming a woman...trying on identities. That was very much her energy. It wasn't orchestrated." —Roni Horn
"...to see two guys throwing some moves and then being careful that they didn't hurt each other...is a rich part of masculinity that...dissipates when guys get older..." —Collier Schorr
"...you start to wonder with the Wyeth portraits whether it is a feminine pose or an artist's pose. Is it Wyeth's pose, is it Helga's pose?" —Collier Schorr
"...he's copying [female] poses. So the audience sees him as a man, but he can only see himself as a woman, because that's the model he's looking at." —Collier Schorr
"...residential space...is a more polymorphous space that allows, historically, for more polymorphous identity...[It] becomes amplified...with ideological resonance." —Lari Pittman
"[We] conflate the managed state of beauty and aesthetics as a zone that allows safety...the manic articulation of our surroundings is…a form of creating a safe zone." —Lari Pittman
"The preoccupation with aesthetics is...ideological, political, and conceptual. Of course it's about pleasure, but it's not about divertissement." —Lari Pittman
"A female heroine actualizes through a process of self-discovery and historical discovery...but is a hero for herself. …nothing ever comes of that in [my] pieces..." —Kara Walker
"I always think about this work...in terms of the body...from the perspective of a person...presented with a pre-dissected body [of information] to work from." —Kara Walker
"[It's important to] use this body as a barometer of a certain kind of knowledge-to take the personal risk of exposing my own body in a certain kind of way." —Carrie Mae Weems
...for a moment [I] felt frayed and very vulnerable about revealing myself...I think about this question of desirability, of being looked at." —Carrie Mae Weems
"Putting yourself through certain kinds of paces has changed...This raises a very deep question about mature women and about how one looks at mature women." —Carrie Mae Weems
"If love is extolled by poets and teachers, then what can be wrong with it in any form that remains fine and real?" —Alfred Kinsey, American Experience: Kinsey (2005).
Masculinity, femininity, androgyny. Sexuality of all types. A remarkable characteristic of the past decade has been the range of opportunities for expressing attitudes about gender and sexuality in our culture. Artists have examined this terrain in all its facets, from youth to old age and from heterosexuality to homosexuality and everything in between.
Artists featured in this slideshow:
Cindy Sherman (Art in the Twenty-First Century Season 5, Episode: Transformation)
In self-reflexive photographs and films, Cindy Sherman invents myriad guises, fashioning ambiguous but memorable characters that suggest complex lives lived out of frame.
Roni Horn (Art in the Twenty-First Century Season 3, Episode: Structures)
In Roni Horn’s work, things are not always what they seem. Whether crafting objects that exist in an in-between state or taking photos that produce a sense of doubt, Horn’s work positions gender and sexuality beyond traditional labels. In This is Me, This is You, Roni Horn photographed her teenage niece over an extended period of time, capturing the transition from child to adolescent to young adult.
Collier Schorr (Art in the Twenty-First Century Season 2, Episode: Loss & Desire)
Collier Schorr’s images of young men range from documentary portraits of athletes to more complicated exchanges between model and photographer that complicate conventional definitions of masculinity.
Lari Pittman (Art in the Twenty-First Century Season 4, Episode: Romance)
Highly decorative and allegorical, Lari Pittman’s intricate paintings infuse everyday objects and locations with erotic connotations.
Kara Walker (Art in the Twenty-First Century Season 2, Episode: Stories)
For Kara Walker, discussing gender and sexuality is inseparable from an examination of racial stereotypes of African Americans.
Carrie Mae Weems (Art in the Twenty-First Century Season 5, Episode: Compassion)
Carrie Mae Weems often uses images of herself in work and, in recent projects, has questioned what it means to make pictures of older women.
Images (in order of appearance): Cindy Sherman; Untitled (#305), 1994; Color photograph, 49 3/4 x 73 1/2 inches (framed); Edition of 6; © Cindy Sherman; Courtesy Metro Pictures, New York. Roni Horn; Asphere, 1986-1993; Solid copper, 12 inches x variable diameter; Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery, New York. Roni Horn; This is Me, This is You, detail, 1997-2000; 96 C-prints (installed on two walls with 48 images on each wall), 13 x 10 3/4 inches each; One member of each of the 48 pairs is composed into one of two complementary panels of individually framed images; Each panel is placed on opposite walls or from room to room; Overall size of each panel is approximately 11 x 9 feet. Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery, New York. Roni Horn; This is Me, This is You, detail, 1997-2000; 96 C-prints (installed on two walls with 48 images on each wall), 13 x 10 3/4 inches each; One member of each of the 48 pairs is composed into one of two complementary panels of individually framed images; Each panel is placed on opposite walls or from room to room; Overall size of each panel is approximately 11 x 9 feet; Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery, New York. Collier Schorr; At Ernie Monaco's THE EDGE, 2003; C-print, 16 x 20 inches; Edition of 5; Courtesy 303 Gallery, New York. Collier Schorr; Jens F. (114, 115), 2002; Photo collage, 11 x 19 inches; Courtesy 303 Gallery, New York. Collier Schorr; Forest Bed Blanket (Black Velvet), 2001; C-print, 35 x 44 inches; Edition of 5; Courtesy 303 Gallery, New York. Lari Pittman; Untitled, 2002; Flat alkyd and spray paint on gessoed panel, 102 x 76 inches; Collection Barbara Gladstone, New York; Photo by Douglas M. Parker Studio; Courtesy the artist and Regen Projects, Los Angeles. Lari Pittman; Untitled #1 (The Living Room), 2005; Cel vinyl, acrylic, and alkyd on gessoed canvas over panel, 86 x 102 inches; Photo by Douglas M. Parker Studio; Courtesy the artist and Barbara Gladstone Gallery, New York. Lari Pittman; Untitled, 2003; Matte oil, aerosol lacquer and cel vinyl on gessoed canvas over wood panel, 76 x 102 inches; Photo by Douglas M. Parker Studio; Courtesy the artist and Regen Projects, Los Angeles. Kara Walker; Mistress Demanded a Swift and Dramatic Empathetic Reaction Which We Obliged Her, 2000; Projection, cut paper and adhesive on wall, 12 x 17 feet; Collection of Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Courtesy Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York. Kara Walker; Cut, 1998; Cut paper and adhesive on wall, 7 feet 4 inches x 4 feet 6 inches; Collection of Donna and Cargill MacMillan; Courtesy Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York. Carrie Mae Weems; The Edge of Time from Roaming, 2006; Digital chromogenic print, 73 x 61 inches; © Carrie Mae Weems; Courtesy Jack Shainman Gallery, New York. Carrie Mae Weems; Italian Dreams, 2006; Production stills, video installation, 10 min.; Edition of 8; © Carrie Mae Weems; Courtesy Jack Shainman Gallery, New York. Carrie Mae Weems; A Single’s Waltz in Time, 2003; Three panel Iris print, 20 3/4 x 20 3/4 inches each; © Carrie Mae Weems; Courtesy Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.