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2010 art trends update…              `                                        






The broad spectrum of forms that were found in the late 20th century continue to dominate (as the expansion of form, content and material that culminated in the early twentieth century was expanded in mid-century to include all manner of form, content, and means of expression), not least in combination where the resulting art may serve a broad range of purposes… (often referred to as a ‘Globalised Post-Conceptualism’, but equally describable as a situation of ‘anything goes’, often taking the form of an installation, united by its existence in institutional space and a guiding idea, or ‘concept’).


Found Objects (or ‘ready-mades’) just get bigger, featuring, for example, planes, trains and automobiles on site… a form of installation often implying conceptual force (implying some manner of comment). Or collections of found objects are made to occupy ever more space, so obeying the trope of hyperbole; size matters (as also found in the word of the image, painting and photography, in recent decades, and echoing, often  with a hint of irony, the more traditional uses of this trope in religious or traditional State art).


Minimalism’, traces remain in the use of basic forms, but with a twist, evincing humour or comment (including anti-or broken form). And of course often combined with other material (so no longer representing pure forms).


Conceptualism/post-conceptualism (or more generally the continuing influence of the ‘neo-avant-gardes’ of the ‘sixties and ‘seventies): all uses, from relatively ‘deep’ forms of topical comment (political, ecological, sociological, anthropological) to brief bursts of contrast-based humour (post conceptualism as a form of pun). Usually to be found in the form of combines, or installations (so incorporating images, still or in motion, and found objects, or ready-mades, as well as specially made or site-specific objects…). Indeed the relationship to the message may be read as referring to a continuum all the way from the ‘representation’ of a life-world or a given community, so showing a piece of ‘their world’, to, at the other end of the spectrum, the art work as the manifestation of a simple disjunction of levels or a fore-grounded de-familiarised relation (often one thing made from an unlikely kind of material). The later experience is usually exhausted in the apprehension and so thin in meaning. (See also ‘Image’ below).


Conceptual concerns (as well post–conceptual humoresques) have also moved into photography and image-making generally (in an over-lap with anthropological or documentary recording and comment).


The Image. In the realm of painting as in other forms of pictorial representation, abstraction, realism, expressionism, surrealism etc., all continue to flourish. The biggest changes in influence of new technologies; however these have been generally disappointing in terms of content change (rather a source of parallel inclusion and distribution networks, often short-lived). Technology, so far, has lead to an increase of virtual material, but if (as with the Net) content has not been dramatically affected, then it has been the speed and amount of distribution that has changed (developments have been, in general, quantitative rather than qualitative). There has also been a move towards conceptual-influenced and post-conceptual styles (this development follows the post-conceptual dominance in art fashions in the last quarter century, which in turn followed on the arrival of Conceptualism (also Pop Art, ‘Combines’, etc.) in America and Arte Povera in Europe a good half century ago); that is, the role of ideas has, or appears to have, grown. The concept or idea has anyway always been a force in art; not least religious art, see the memento mori or Death’s Head in 17th century art, and more particularly all forms of political art, where it is the message is of prime importance (‘bad’ or ‘propaganda’ art is often defined as high in message but low in aesthetic value, or ‘posters with prettification’). On the other hand images (and film/video/mobile clips) are important in showing how others (and especially Others) live. And so a form of anthropology… It is worth noting that the original concept of ‘Conceptualism’ focused upon the relation between word and image as sign (Kosuth); but quickly migrated into a form of documentary with (or even featuring) text.


A ‘Little Anthropology’ may be said to represent the ‘deep end’ of recent art, heir to political conceptualism (whence the use of textual and cartographical evidence) and so the serious side of globalised post-conceptual art works (as well as research into ‘the Other’, ‘the Other within’ and documentary traditions). Such artworks combine a variety of means of expression to illustrate aspects of (often conflicted) lives which have not previously been through worthy of artistic reference (the inclusion of popular cultural material is to be seen in this light). Such material may amount at time to an installation, and include on occasion, although usually as a recording, forms of performance (or the rituals apposite to, or inspired by, those forms of life represented).


If the last category, Performance Art, is still a comparatively rare form due to its live nature, it is nevertheless often found existing as a recording of an event, as part of an installation, where it may carry conceptual or post-conceptual (as form of shock or joke) as well as anthropological overtones.


Historical overview. It may be useful to paint in broad strokes the most general movement in art (literary and musical) history over the last two hundred years (coincidental with the birth of the photograph, the beginning of the freeing to the image from compulsorily representation). Thus movement, in all the arts, may be represented as a double arch.

First Arch: (Ia) First there is the century long climb to abstraction; initially passing through Impressionism and Post-Impressionism (echoing beginnings made by Titan and Velasquez in their use of a less sharply defined brushstroke). This movement climaxes in the period around the First World War (Expressionism and Cubism, the fragmenting of space and time/narrative in literature, atonality and chromaticism in music). (Ib) A period of consolidation then sets in (the return to a variety of realisms in literature and painting, and neo-tonality or Serialism in music) which lasts from the interwar period until the ‘sixties.

Second Arch: (IIa) The arrival of a new generation in the post-war period gives rise to a second period of intense experimentation, the ‘neo-avante garde’ (Pop Art, Arte Povera, Minimalism, Conceptualism; in literature, the ‘big’ experimental novel; in music, total serialism, aleatory, process music). (IIb) This period is in turn followed by another period of consolidation or retrenchment (born in part by the arrival of a genuinely ‘mass culture’in the ‘sixties and ‘seventies) which finds the focus of experiment on the frame (possibility of enunciation, citation) rather than the content, and re-finds ‘history’ as style and ornament –a feature of all art before the late-nineteenth century. More generally there is a return to listenability, readability and comprehension as a prerequisite for cultural activity, so signaling a retreat from a narrow code-based avant-garde elitism to more easily assimilable culture (Neo-expressionism, the return to painting and representation in visual culture, Magic Realism and self-referentiality in literature, minimalism and neo-romanticism in music). Signaled by the terms, ‘Postmodernism’ as a movement across the arts and ‘Post-modernity’ as theorized in the social sciences and philosophy (giving rise the now familiar phenomenon of ‘post-ism’; Post-foundationalism, Post-structuralism, etc).

These two broad waves of experimentation and consolidation offer a ‘twin peaks’ structure which leaves the last thirty years (say the last quarter of the 20thc and the first part of the 21st) sitting on a plateau of experimental consolidation and international cross-fertilization. A situation where the ‘new’ no longer comes from a (white, male) European-American avant-garde, but from cultural influences world-wide including the problematisation of all forms of identity (regional, national, tribal, language group, religion, class, gender, sexual, generational) see especially international trends in drama and anthropology as well in art.


In general then, the prognosis of a plateau or Long Baroque in the (lack of) development in art, if not quite ‘The End of Art’ (History) predicted by some, nevertheless appears still to be in force, attenuated and inflected by the continuing inclusion of previously excluded voices and regional, identity-based, geo-cultural, and geo-political concerns (local languages and customs). With minor variations (perhaps the products of individual talent, of those capable of rising above the genre they inhabit) art around the world continues to look the same.




Copyright, Peter Nesteruk, 2010