Art can be described as a wide range of diverse human activities in different fields of visual creation, auditory, artworks performances, and imaginative or technical expressions by artists to promote and appreciate beauty and sensitive power. Art can be not been defined in a definition as there are different tastes and interpretations of art. Artistic expressions can be shown in a variety of ways like crafts, fine arts, and performing arts. However, a form of art is not always considered as art by the public as comic art was not part of fine arts earlier, many universities are offering Comic Art degrees nowadays. In general, art activities include the study of art history, production, and representation of art, criticism of and about art, art discussions, and artistic dispersal of art.
An art historian Ems Gombrich proposes that there are three fields of artwork that aren’t necessarily hostile; connoisseurs, critics, and academic art historians (Gombrich, 1996). In art history, there are serval cultural and critical art theories practiced in the 20th and 21st centuries. The historical trends may be helpful or get benefited from the written word but historians relied on methods of art; formal analysis, iconography, psychoanalysis, and semiotics. An art theory counts to be a natural phenomenon or form of cultural changes that visually represent or through artistic styles that do not only depict nature but also question the subject matter and search (Wilde, 2002).
Historians adopt various methods in their research of subject matter and their history. The study of semiotics and symbols focuses on the signification of objects and transmits them into the various visual and contextual clues and it is signified as the behavior of communication. Semiotics not only signified the symbols but also focuses on how they are implied and perceived in society. This allows the artists to observe the subject matter and related phenomena in the context in which they occurred. To examine the work through an analysis of form, artists and historians used lines, colors, shapes, and textures to examine the two or three-dimensional pictures, sculptures,s or architectural pieces. These elements can be presented as abstract or realistic with the representation and non-representation of the elements.
Cultural and Critical Art theories in 20th and 21st Century
By representational art theory, the object is imitating or displaying the historically persistent realistic aspects of work in the widest sense. This particular representational account portrays the visible forms of nature, drawings of animals, and elicitation of entire scenery in sun or storm. The representational theory is not limited to just the depiction of art rather it may turn the object from art into a form of metaphysics. The researchers claim that although art representation may seem straightforward in the detailed philosophical stage, it can be a problem of complexity as well (Wollheim, 1987). Therefore, critics say that representational theory must rebind the attention from the artwork and its idiosyncratic values.
The iconographical analysis focuses on the particular design of an object and careful reading makes it possible to trace the lineage and the meaning or conclusions that can be drawn regarding their origins of them. The roots of iconography that mean symbols of writing can be found in written sources of scripture and mythology rather it is a broader term that represents all symbols, and can be and cannot a context-specific text (Nelson and Shiff, 2010). However, semiotics is concerned with the creation of its own meaning as opposed to iconography. The interpretation of a work can be made on the identification of denoted meaning which is the recognition of cultural associations (Nelson and Shiff, 2010). As the main concern of semiotic art is to introduce and derive new ways to direct and interpret the connoted meaning of discussed objects (Nelson and Shiff, 2010).
Many art historians have employed critical theory for the inquiry of objects. This theory relates to the criticism of society and culture as a reflective judgment based on the knowledge of social sciences. This theory relates to the application of literary scholars discussing feminism, maxims, critical race, queer and postcolonial theories in this discipline. These theories are discussed in the critical theory literature as the main concern about nature and the environment but the direction of discussion is yet to be determined.
As an expression, art can be expressed in many forms. Music expresses the emotions, feelings, and moods of individuals, or some event of melancholy, poem, sculpture, drama scene or situation does the same. The art expression theory follows romanticism where it is not only about sensation but also attitudes, expectations, stress, disappointment, excitement, and relaxation. Art argues that what an admirer feels while experiencing art and what that art piece depicts or describes is the main concern that makes the human affective correspondents. Therefore, in the mid-twenties, the boom in theatre and music was experienced because artists and art historians believe that human emotions can be derived from the expression of art. However, the critics of expression theory argue that expression is important maybe but there are other factors that are essential to art creation and appreciation. Critics believe that if art expresses anything it can be expressed through emotion felt for the pure form of art (Bell, 1972) so that form is the primary concern.
Formalism theory relates to the comparisons of form and style as Nick Zangwill referred that in art there are properties that can be described by sensory or physical elements so that these properties in question have no relation with other things and surroundings (Zangwill, 2001). Historians believe that “every form of an object is either figure or play”. Therefore, temporal arts present brief melodies and bodies that partially focus on formal structuring. A formal analysis describes things carefully that may include subjective terminology, escorted by the illustrations so there is no doubt. In the 21st century, it is observed that artworks have formal and informal categories that have been delineated into three forms of formalism; extreme formalists, moderate formalism, and anti-formalist (Zangwill, 2001). Here, extreme forThmalists are those people who believe that all art is purely based on formal work, moderate formalism believes that artwork may have formal aesthetic properties for a selected class rather there are many artworks that are non-formal so none of them can be ignored, and anti-formalists are those people who think that no artwork has formal aesthetic properties (Zangwill, 2001).
The development of traditions has demanded that the created objects are required to be observed and looked at in an independent way. Therefore, an artwork needs to be embraced and appreciated in accordance with its functionality and traditional aspect. The historical art theories proposed that when something is conceived as art, it must be related to an existing art institution. The institutional theory of art focuses on the nature of art that makes the object able to be noticed in art contact and it should be part of the art institution which is the artworld (Kennick, 1964).
Contemporary Art Practices
Contemporary art is an art formed by the artists in late 20th or in the 21st century. Contemporary artists work in the culturally diverse, globally, and technically advanced world where contemporary art provided them with an opportunity to depict the art skills of society, culture, and relevant issues. Today’s art is very dynamic and uses certain fields and diverse working methods, concepts, traditional boundaries, national or international media ways, and subjects. Contemporary art is renowned for the lack of uniformity, ideology and principle subject matters because it is part of the global cultural dialogue and large contextual structures that represent human relations and identity concerns.
For modern art and contemporary art, there is a difference between these two terms although they are interchangeable. Modern art refers to the period between the 1880s and 1960s whereas, contemporary art was developed after the 1960s (Danto and Goehr, 1997). Modern art actually draws concentration on the subjective representation of the subject rather than realism that was focused on before the 1880s so modern art has torn apart the art from its conventional forms. On another hand, contemporary art is created by the artists who are alive and they created major social, political, and cultural impacts across the world. The recent under-discussion topics on the world forum lie global warming, cultural identity, environmental devastation, and human rights were echoed in the contemporary arts. Therefore, unlike modern art, contemporary art has made a mass social impact and artists have expressed their feelings, thoughts, and intentions for freedom and liberty movements through their arts.
Contemporary art practices are being carried out reflecting the diversity of world artistic themes as work it doesn’t have one point of view or single objective. It is rather more complex, multi-faceted, and complexes that reflects human life and the world’s patterns as we can relate to them. In today’s world, globalization, technology, politics, culture, society, businesses, institutional critiques, and human rights movements are the main themes of contemporary art (Robertson and McDaniel, 2013). However, contemporary art practice is being developed in important roles by Marxist theory, post-modernism, feminism, post-structuralism, and modernism disciplines.
Modernism is a movement that relates to the cultural trends and changes that were observed in the west during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is a philosophical movement that points to see the world in an up-to-date way and having modern and new thoughts, personalities, or actions with new standards. Among the factors that molded the modernism during industrial transformation and the enlightenment era (Moghaddam and Rahman, 2012). Modernism includes activities related to art, literate, religious faith, social organization, and architecture, generally. Modern artists employed new ways of experimenting with the materials and art functions that were seen in the traditional way before. Although it is very tough to describe modernism and post-modernism apart as they are closely linked, however, modernism is the period of modern art-enactment of traditional art.
The term of modernism and modern art are related and generally used to narrate the art succession movements that were identified by historians and critics in abstract art developments in the 1960s. The key movement of modernism related to art was Gustav Courbet’s realism (McConkey, 1989) which challenged the myths and historical trends being followed in art for centuries. Over the span of years, artists of this era had focused on the intrinsic qualities of their way of expressing art e.g. lines, shapes, and colors that changed the inherited notions of art.
Post-modernism is a philosophical movement that was observed in the contradiction of some facets of modernism. The progress in modernism introduced certain scientific developments which had their terminal effects along. This situation and the ethics of the west were also questioned by critics and the increase in criticism. Postmodernism relates to the trends that were prompted by the reaction and rejection of modernism events. The general observations of modernism were medium specificity, originality, and universality and postmodernism reacted to these events. Postmodern art rejects the concept of advancement and progress in regard to the myth of Avant-grade where people and works are medically related to culture (Picchione, 2004). Additionally, postmodern art is a blend of high and low socio-culture through industrial resources. In the essence of postmodernism, it blurs the differences between art and its fine or high forms (Felluga, 2003).
Postmodern art questioned and vetoed the established practices with regard to the artist’s roles in the artistic process. This term was coined and introduced was 1979 that is familiar with the images from pop and consumer culture and also mass media that question society. The artists of this era also included minorities and women who were ignored and neglected before. For instance, Claes Oldenburg malformed acquainted objects like apple cores and hamburgers into the huge sculpture in that period.
Performative art represents the world’s social patterns and functions through social movements and actions in diverse fields like law, gender, performance studies, linguistics, and philosophies. This art was described by John L. Austin who is a philosopher of language who defined performative art as the capacity of speech and communication that perfect an action. This concept has also been employed in the fields of science, economics, technology, and sociology. This performative art helps the artists to improve the function of “selling yourself” as the artists are the performer who creates and depicts arts of beauty and sensitive power. Performative art allows doing things in an artistic way e.g. music performances and theater.
The theories describing performative art have been extended to various disciplines. As video art relates to this phenomenon as José Esteban Muñoz has discussed performativity theories in a related video. Although video art is not facing to face or live performance that produces immediate effects rather it is mediated and raises concerns about performativity. From a contextual perspective, publications were made on illustration and graphic art that represent the artist’s skill to sell products, skills, and particular announcements through art.
Site-specific art is related to a location or place that artists used to illustrate for a specific purpose. This type of art is produced for commercial purposes or individual work also that can be seen in form of stencil graffiti. The work of art was introduced in a site so that art could depict the circumstances of a particular setting comprised of unique elections that include, length, weights, walls, floor, texture, or temperature (Kwon, 2004).
In the examples, environmental art linked with the specific setting (place) and the subject being magnified can be promoted. The outdoor site-specific can be dance performances on a site like cultural art festivals representing the folk dances to pay tributes. Therefore, site-specific art is designed on and for a specific location. The purpose can be commercial or any individual, as mentioned before, but if the location is removed, the art piece will lose a significant part of its creation and meaning.
Medium Specificity Art
The medium specificity is related to the capacity and quality of something to be specific in character or in operation. The term is associated with Greenberg who defined it as the ability of an artist to express a unique characteristic of an object showing the pure form it that also depicts the artist’s ability to manipulate the characteristics of particular objects. For instance, an artist promotes abstraction rather than illusionism in his/her object while practicing medium specificity (Schwartz and Przyblyski, 2004).
In recent times, artistic practices are key easy to investigating artworks, and media-specific analysis (Hayles, 2001). In the emergence of new mass media in recent times, it is very important to keenly analyze the role of medium specificity. This concept supports the notion that an artwork can only be successful if it contains the medium that was used to bring it into existence. In simple words, we can not say that a painting is figurative because paints, colors, and canvas, all are flat. All the artist needs is to critically engage the observer with his material.
The concept of public art is related to all forms of media which are planned and implemented with the purpose to be staged in a physical location, outdoors, and available to all. Public art is important for the practitioner of the arts and the art world that intends to involve the community, promote the working practice of some specific site, and execute the purpose with overall collaboration. As discussed, public art is accessible to the public and people enjoy it on an outside physical location that exhibits the art in public space, however, it is not always easy and simple to conduct such events. The main concern of the audience is to engage the audience and the content of what the art is being exhibited. It is equally more important that people would perceive what the artists intend to convey to them as the attraction of the physical location where art is being demonstrated (Krause, 2008).
The notion of public art experienced radical change while following the civil rights movements being practiced in public space in the 1970s, urban regeneration and artistic intervention programs joined hands to revise the concept of sculpture (Krauss, 1979). In recent times, public art has embraced an immensely positive response where its practice and application have broadened its scope. The monuments, civil statutory, and memorials are old forms of public art that used to be officially recognized. In recent times, public art has been performed to create awareness,
symbolize events and incidents, advertise products and services, and also for the well-being of society. Public art has been crucial for the representation of social areas and allows the audience to make direct contact with the public and also get their response at moment. The notions of environmental public art curated public art and digital public art are forms of public art.
Public and Private Art Museums
Art museums are art galleries having a permanent collection of art objects in a space or building for the exhibition. These art objects are painting, costumes, ornaments, sculptures, photographic, etc. Besides this installation of permanent visual art, the museums are used to perform artistic activities e.g. folk music, performing art or poetry readings. There are two types of museums; private and public galleries. Public art museums are non-profit displaying a limited outline of arts while private museums exhibit the art collections for commercial purposes or for selling art. The public art museum has to follow the legal rules and ethical standards as per government institutions, However, both types host temporary exhibitions including borrowing art objects to promote the work of art. The exhibition of art in museums can also be promoted through online intervention. For instance, the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Library of Congress are some names for online art museums.
Art museums are subject to various concepts as from the 1970s, many politicians and commentators have followed that art museum has a special relation to social and cultural aspects. The researcher explains that cultural capital has the main impact on social mobility because museums are focusing on people with high-status jobs. The argument also states that museums exclude the taste of social class with fewer opportunities (Gretton, 1985). This issue drives the attention of public museums are they are not for profit and the mission of such art galleries is to promote the traditional and historical trends displayed through art objects in ancient and recent times.
Audience Engagement: Role of Artists and Media
The concept of the audience in the art is related to the people in front of whom art is presented. The expression theory of art describes that art expresses emotions, and these emotions are elicited by the observers (audience) (Zangwill, 1999). The researchers believe that all art theories have been proposed to make a significant reference to the audience (Zangwill, 1999). The artist’s key concern is to involve the audience in his/her art by creating a sense of engagement. Over the years, the world has discussed the concept of engagement as it is a long-term approach that is designed to encourage the audience to promote their relationship with artists and art groups. The purpose of audience engagement is to increase the ‘sales traffic’ for the private art galleries whole focusing on art mainly.
The role of art producers, entertainers, and art agencies is very crucial for the promotion of art. The role of art agencies is to employ different ways that improve and strengthen certain societies by creating a considerable impact on social life through art. The artists and media undertake certain activities called community engagement, the involvement of organizations to design deep relationships between them and communities for mutual benefit by the articulation of art-friendly policies. Therefore, artists play an important role in the development of cultural identities as well as globalization because they are the ones who are driving the media and conveying images to the general public.
In the recent phase of globalization, artists and institutions are focusing on particular trends and promoting the tastes of particular social classes that are being disseminated to the following levels. For example, the same kind of western music is being promoted through social networking media channels in the world, and the art being promoted is positioned to attract the highly privileged class. This type of artistic representation is blurring the phenomenon of cultural identities and promotes ethnic concerns, which can caste determine the impact on society.
Every day, millions of people are engaging the audience through cultural and artistic interventions as art has been an important factor in social life survival. The art has been observed, presented, analyzed, criticized, and examined over the years through different magnifying glasses and socio-cultural phases. Every field of human life is influenced by art and its credentials. This paper has discussed the evolution of modern art and its following era which is the discussion on types, theories, aspects, public, private and commercial orientations. The role of artists, audiences, organizations, and institutions has been also been under concern while analyzing their impact through the lens of culture, society, and global perspectives.
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