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Season 1 of "Art in the Twenty-First Century"Trailer
Trailer for Season 1 of the Peabody Award-winning series, Art in the Twenty-First Century (premiered Fall 2001 on PBS).
Season 1 features artists Matthew Barney, Louise Bourgeois, Michael Ray Charles, Mel Chin, John Feodorov, Ann Hamilton, Margaret Kilgallen, Maya Lin, Sally Mann, Kerry James Marshall, Barry McGee, Bruce Nauman, Pepón Osorio, Richard Serra, Shahzia Sikander, James Turrell, and Andrea Zittel.
Each episode features introductions by Laurie Anderson, Beryl Korot with S. Epatha Merkerson, William Wegman with Steve Martin, and Barbara Kruger with John McEnroe.More information
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Andrea Zittel transforms everything necessary for life—such as eating, sleeping, bathing, and socializing—into artful experiments in living. Zittel’s A-Z West, a thirty-five acre residential and studio complex in the California high desert, is a testing ground for the artist’s innovative sculptures, installations, and design projects.
Ann Hamilton’s sensual installations often combine evocative soundtracks with cloth, filmed footage, organic material, and objects such as tables. She is as interested in verbal and written language as she is in the visual, and sees the two as related and interchangeable. In recent work, she has experimented with exchanging one sense organ for another: the mouth and fingers, for example, become like an eye, with the addition of miniature pinhole cameras.
Barbara Kruger layers found photographs from existing sources with pithy and aggressive text that involves the viewer in the struggle for power and control that her captions speak to. In their trademark black letters against a slash of red background, some of her instantly recognizable slogans read “I shop, therefore I am,” and “Your body is a battleground.” Much of her text questions the viewer about feminism, classicism, consumerism, and individual autonomy and desire, although her black-and-white images are culled from the mainstream magazines that sell the very ideas she is disputing.
Barry McGee’s drawings, paintings, and mixed-media installations take their inspiration from contemporary urban culture, incorporating elements such as empty liquor bottles and spray-paint cans, tagged signs, wrenches, and scrap wood or metal. McGee is also a graffiti artist, working on the streets of America’s cities since the 1980s, where he is known by the tag name “Twist.” He views graffiti as a vital method of communication, one that keeps him in touch with a larger, more diverse audience than can be reached through the traditional spaces of a gallery or museum.
An early video-art pioneer and an internationally exhibited artist, Beryl Korot’s multiple-channel (and multiple-monitor) video-installation works explored the relationship between programming tools as diverse as the technology of the loom and multiple-channel video. For most of the 1980s, Korot concentrated on a series of paintings that were based on a language she created that was an analogue to the Latin alphabet. Drawing on her earlier interest in weaving and video as related technologies, she made most of these paintings on handwoven and traditional linen canvas. More recently, she has collaborated with her husband, the composer Steve Reich, on Three Tales, a documentary digital-video opera in three Acts and a Prologue.
Bruce Nauman has been recognized since the early 1970s as one of the most innovative and provocative of America’s contemporary artists. Nauman finds inspiration in the activities, speech, and materials of everyday life. Working in the diverse mediums of sculpture, video, film, printmaking, performance, and installation, Nauman concentrates less on the development of a characteristic style and more on the way in which a process or activity can transform or become a work of art. A survey of his diverse output demonstrates the alternately political, prosaic, spiritual, and crass methods by which Nauman examines life in all its gory details, mapping the human arc between life and death.
James Turrell’s explorations in light and space impact the eye, body, and mind with the force of a spiritual awakening. Informed by his studies in perceptual psychology and optical illusions, Turrell’s work allows us to see ourselves “seeing.” Whether harnessing the light at sunset or transforming the glow of a television set into a fluctuating portal, Turrell’s art places viewers in a realm of pure experience. His fascination with the phenomena of light is ultimately connected to a very personal, inward search for mankind’s place in the universe. Influenced by his Quaker faith, Turrell’s art prompts greater self-awareness through a similar discipline of silent contemplation, patience, and meditation.
Brought up both in the suburbs of Los Angeles and on a Navajo reservation in New Mexico, John Feodorov experienced the cultural differences between his dual heritages early. He also observed the stereotypes present in American culture at large, where Native Americans were idealized as the living embodiment of spirituality by New Age consumerists. His work addresses this clichéd modern archetype through a humorous interjection of “sacred” items into recognizable consumer products.
The subject matter of Kerry James Marshall’s paintings, installations, and public projects is often drawn from African-American popular culture, and is rooted in the geography of his upbringing. Marshall’s work is based on a broad range of art-historical references, from Renaissance painting to black folk art, from El Greco to Charles White. A striking aspect of Marshall’s paintings is the emphatically black skin tone of his figures—a development the artist says emerged from an investigation into the invisibility of blacks in America and the unnecessarily negative connotations associated with darkness. The sheer beauty of his work speaks to an art that is simultaneously formally rigorous and socially engaged.
A recognized leader in twentieth-century sculpture, Louise Bourgeois was greatly influenced by the influx of European Surrealist artists who immigrated to the United States after World War II. Her early sculpture was composed of groupings of abstract and organic shapes, often carved from wood. By the 1960s, she began to execute her work in rubber, bronze, and stone, and the pieces themselves became larger and more referential to what has become the dominant theme of her work: her childhood. She has famously stated, “My childhood has never lost its magic, it has never lost its mystery, and it has never lost its drama.”
Early experiences as a librarian and bookbinder contributed to Margaret Kilgallen’s encyclopedic knowledge of signs, drawn from American folk tradition, printmaking, and letterpress. Painting directly on the wall, Kilgallen created room-size murals that recall a time when personal craft and handmade signs were the dominant aesthetic. Strong, independent women—walking, surfing, fighting, and biking—are featured prominently in the artist’s compositions. Kilgallen had a love of “things that show the evidence of the human hand.” She died in June 2001 in San Francisco, where she lived with her husband, Barry McGee.
Matthew Barney entered the art world after graduating from Yale in 1991 to almost instant controversy and success. He is best known as the producer and creator of the Cremaster films, a series of five visually extravagant works created out of sequence. The films generally feature Barney in myriad roles, including characters as diverse as a satyr, a magician, a ram, Harry Houdini, and even the infamous murderer Gary Gilmore. The films themselves are a grand mixture of history, autobiography, and mythology—an intensely private universe in which symbols and images are densely layered and interconnected. The resulting cosmology is both beautiful and complex.
Maya Lin catapulted into the public eye when, as a senior at Yale University, she submitted the winning design in a national competition for a Vietnam Veterans Memorial to be built in Washington, DC. She was trained as an artist and architect, and her sculptures, parks, monuments, and architectural projects are linked by her ideal of making a place for individuals within the landscape. She draws inspiration for her sculpture and architecture from culturally diverse sources, including Japanese gardens, Hopewell Indian earthen mounds, and works by American earthworks artists of the 1960s and 1970s.
Mel Chin’s art is both analytical and poetic and evades easy classification. Alchemy, botany, and ecology are but a few of the disciplines that intersect in his work. He insinuates art into unlikely places, including destroyed homes, toxic landfills, and even popular television, investigating how art can provoke greater social awareness and responsibility. Unconventional and politically engaged, his projects also challenge the idea of the artist as the exclusive creative force behind an artwork.
Michael Ray Charles’ graphically styled paintings investigate racial stereotypes drawn from a history of American advertising, product packaging, billboards, radio jingles, and television commercials. Caricatures of African-American experience, such as Aunt Jemima, are represented in Charles’s work as ordinary depictions of blackness, yet are stripped of the benign aura that lends them an often-unquestioned appearance of truth. In each of his paintings, notions of beauty, ugliness, nostalgia, and violence emerge and converge, reminding us that we cannot divorce ourselves from a past that has led us to where we are, who we have become, and how we are portrayed.
Pepón Osorio’s work is heavily influenced by his experience as a social worker in The Bronx, and his pieces usually evolve from an interaction with the neighborhoods and people among which he is working. A recent example is Tina’s House, a project created in collaboration with a family recovering from a devastating fire. The house—a tabletop-size art piece—tells the story of the night of the fire and those affected. The work traveled the country in a series of “home visits,” in which a new family lived with the art work for a period of at least one week, allowing the story of Tina’s House to be told in many homes and environments.
Richard Serra’s early work in the 1960s focused on the industrial materials that he had worked with as a youth in West Coast steel mills and shipyards: steel and lead. Since those Minimalist beginnings, Serra’s work has become famous for that same physicality—but one that is now compounded by the breathtaking size and weight that the pieces have acquired. His series of Torqued Ellipses (1996–99)—which comprise gigantic plates of towering steel, bent and curved, leaning in and out—carve very private spaces from the necessarily large public sites in which they have been erected.
Sally Mann’s early series of photographs of her three children and husband resulted in a series called Immediate Family. In her recent series of landscapes of Alabama, Mississippi, Virginia, and Georgia, Mann has stated that she “wanted to go right into the heart of the deep, dark South.” Shot with damaged lenses and a camera that requires the artist to use her hand as a shutter, these photographs are marked by the scratches, light leaks, and shifts in focus that were part of the photographic process as it developed during the nineteenth century.
Shahzia Sikander specializes in Indian and Persian miniature painting, a traditional, technique-driven style that Sikander imbued with a personal context and history, blending the Eastern focus on precision and methodology with a Western emphasis on creative, subjective expression. In doing so, Sikander transported miniature painting into the realm of contemporary art. Expanding the miniature painting to the wall, Sikander also creates murals and installations, using tissue-paper-like materials that allow for a more free-flowing style. Utilizing performance and various media and formats to investigate issues of border crossing, she seeks to subvert stereotypes of the East and, in particular, the Eastern Pakistani woman.
William Wegman’s interests in areas beyond painting led him to photography and the then-infant medium of video. A central figure in his photography and videos, Wegman’s dog Man Ray became known in the art world and beyond for his endearing, deadpan presence. In 1972, Wegman and Man Ray moved to New York. In 1986, a new dog, Fay Ray, came into Wegman’s life; and soon thereafter another famous collaboration began, marked by Wegman’s use of the Polaroid 20-by-24-inch camera. With the birth of Fay’s litter in 1989 and her daughter’s litter in 1995, Wegman’s cast of characters grew.