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Season 3 of "Art in the Twenty-First Century"Trailer
Trailer for Season 3 of the Peabody Award-winning series, Art in the Twenty-First Century (premiered Fall 2005 on PBS).
Season 3 features artists Laylah Ali, Ida Applebroog, Cai Guo-Qiang, Ellen Gallagher, Arturo Herrera, Oliver Herring, Roni Horn, Mike Kelley, Josiah McElheny, Matthew Ritchie, Susan Rothenberg, Jessica Stockholder, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Richard Tuttle, Fred Wilson, and Krzysztof Wodiczko.
Each of the Season 3 episodes is introduced by a celebrity host who is passionate and knowledgeable about contemporary art. For Season 3, David Alan Grier, Isabella Rossellini, Sam Waterston, and Grant Hill introduce the theme at the beginning of each hour.
Each of the Season 3 episodes then closes with an original video artwork by artists Teresa Hubbard/Alexander Birchler.More information
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Arturo Herrera’s work includes collage, works on paper, sculpture, relief, wall painting, photography, and felt wall hangings. His work taps into the viewer’s unconscious—often intertwining fragments of cartoon characters with abstract shapes and partially obscured images that evoke memory and recollection. Using techniques of fragmentation, splicing, and re-contextualization, Herrera’s work is provocative and open-ended. For his collages, he uses found images from cartoons, coloring books, and fairy tales, combining fragments of Disney-like characters with violent and sexual imagery to make work that borders between figuration and abstraction and subverts the innocence of cartoon referents with a darker psychology.
Accomplished in a variety of media, Cai Guo-Qiang began using gunpowder in his work to foster spontaneity and confront the controlled artistic tradition and social climate in China. While living in Japan from 1986 to 1995, he explored the properties of gunpowder in his drawings, leading to the development of his signature explosion events. These projects, while poetic and ambitious at their core, aim to establish an exchange between viewers and the larger universe. For his work, Cai draws on a wide variety of materials, symbols, narratives, and traditions: elements of feng shui, Chinese medicine and philosophy, images of dragons and tigers, roller coasters, computers, vending machines, and gunpowder.
Repetition and revision are central to Ellen Gallagher’s treatment of advertisements that she appropriates from popular magazines like Ebony and Our World. Initially drawn to wig advertisements because of their grid-like structure, she later realized that it was the accompanying language that attracted her. Gallagher began to bring these “narratives” into her paintings—making them function through the characters of the advertisements, as a kind of chart of lost worlds. Although the work has often been interpreted strictly as an examination of race, Gallagher also suggests a more formal reading with respect to materials, processes, and insistences. From afar, the work appears abstract and minimal; upon closer inspection, googly eyes, reconfigured wigs, tongues, and lips of minstrel caricatures multiply in detail.
Appropriating curatorial methods and strategies, Fred Wilson creates new contexts for the display of art and artifacts found in museum collections, along with wall labels, sound, lighting, and non-traditional pairings of objects. His sculptures and installations lead viewers to recognize that changes in context create changes in meaning, and thereby shape interpretations of historical truth and artistic value.
Central to Hiroshi Sugimoto’s work is the idea that photography is a time machine, a method of preserving and picturing memory and time. Sugimoto sees with the eye of the sculptor, painter, architect, and philosopher. He uses his camera in a myriad of ways to create images that seem to convey his subjects’ essence, whether architectural, sculptural, painterly, or of the natural world. He places extraordinary value on craftsmanship, printing his photographs with meticulous attention and a keen understanding of the nuances of the silver print and its potential for tonal richness—in his seemingly infinite palette of blacks, whites, and grays.
Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler live and work in Austin, Texas, as life partners and artist-collaborators. Together they make short films and photographs about the construction of narrative time and space, without the context of a traditional story line; their open-ended, enigmatic narratives elicit multiple readings. They began their collaboration in the mid-1990s, making sculpture, installation, photography, and performance-based work. Their interest in the construction and negotiation of space, architecture, and the function of objects in three dimensions plays a primary role in their work. Their productions reveal a strong sense of carefully constructed mise-en-scène that owes as much to natural-history-museum dioramas as to cinematic directorial techniques.
Ida Applebroog has been making pointed social commentary in the form of beguiling comic-like images for nearly half a century. Anonymous “everyman” figures, anthropomorphized animals, and half-human/half-creature characters are featured players in the uncanny theater of her work. Applebroog propels her paintings and drawings into the realm of installation by arranging and stacking canvases in space, exploding the frame-by-frame logic of comic book and film narrative into three-dimensional environments. Strong themes in her work include gender and sexual identity, power struggles both political and personal, and the pernicious role of mass media in desensitizing the public to violence.
Jessica Stockholder is a pioneer of multimedia genre-bending installations that have become a prominent language in contemporary art. Her site-specific interventions and autonomous floor and wall pieces have been described as “paintings in space.” Stockholder’s complex installations incorporate the architecture in which they have been conceived, blanketing the floor, scaling walls and ceiling, and even spilling out of windows, through doors, and into the surrounding landscape. Her work is energetic, cacophonous, and idiosyncratic, but close observation reveals formal decisions about color and composition, and a tempering of chaos with control.
Josiah McElheny creates finely crafted, handmade glass objects that he combines with photographs, text, and museological displays to evoke notions of meaning and memory. Whether recreating miraculous glass objects pictured in Renaissance paintings or modernized versions of non-extant glassware from documentary photographs, McElheny’s work takes as its subject the object, idea, and social nexus of glass. Influenced by the writings of Jorge Luis Borges, McElheny’s work often takes the form of “historical fiction”—which he offers to the viewer to believe or not. Part of McElheny’s fascination with storytelling is that glassmaking is part of an oral tradition, handed down generation to generation, artisan to artisan.
By appropriating public buildings and monuments as backdrops for projections, Krzysztof Wodiczko focuses attention on ways in which architecture and monuments reflect collective memory and history. Projecting images of community members’ hands, faces, or entire bodies onto architectural façades, and combining those images with voiced testimonies, Wodiczko disrupts our traditional understanding of the functions of public space and architecture. He challenges the silent, stark monumentality of buildings, activating them in an examination of notions of human rights, democracy, and truths about the violence, alienation, and inhumanity that underlie countless aspects of social interaction in present-day society.
Laylah Ali creates her small, figurative, gouache paintings on paper with such precision that it takes her many months to complete a single work. She meticulously plots out every aspect of her work in advance, from subject matter to choice of color and the brushes that she will use. Her paintings resemble comic-book serials, but they also contain stylistic references to hieroglyphics and American folk-art traditions. Ali often achieves a high level of emotional tension in her work as a result of juxtaposing brightly colored scenes with dark, often violent subject matter that speaks of political resistance, social relationships, and betrayal. Although Ali’s interest in representations of socio-political issues and current events drives her work, her finished paintings rarely reveal specific references.
Matthew Ritchie’s artistic mission has been no less ambitious than an attempt to represent the entire universe and the structures of knowledge and belief that we use to understand and visualize it. The artist’s paintings, installations, and narrative threads delineate the universe’s formation as well as the attempts and limits of human consciousness to comprehend its vastness. Although often described as a painter, Ritchie creates works on paper, prints, light-box drawings, floor-to-wall installations, freestanding sculpture, websites, and short stories, which tie his sprawling works together into a narrative structure.
Mike Kelley’s work ranges from highly symbolic and ritualistic performance pieces to arrangements of stuffed-animal sculptures, to wall-size drawings, to multi-room installations that restage institutional environments (schools, offices, zoos), to extended collaborations. His work questions the legitimacy of “normative” values and systems of authority, and attacks the sanctity of cultural attitudes toward family, religion, sexuality, art history, and education. He also comments on and undermines the legitimacy of the concept of victim or trauma culture, which posits that almost all behavior results from some form of repressed abuse. Kelley’s aesthetic mines the rich and often overlooked history of vernacular art in America, and his practice borrows heavily from the confrontational, politically conscious, “by all means necessary” attitude of punk music.
Oliver Herring’s early works were woven sculptures and performance pieces in which he knitted Mylar, a transparent and reflective material, into human figures, clothing, and furniture. Since 1998, Herring has created stop-motion videos and participatory performances with “off the street” strangers. He makes sets for his videos and performances with minimal means and materials, recycling elements from one artwork to the next. Open-ended and impromptu, Herring’s videos have a dreamlike stream-of-consciousness quality; each progresses towards a finale that is unexpected or unpredictable. Embracing chance and chance encounters, his videos and performances liberate participants to explore aspects of their personalities through art in a way that would otherwise probably be impossible.
Even when considering his three-dimensional works, Richard Tuttle commonly refers to his art as drawing rather than sculpture—the distinction emphasizing the diminutive scale and idea-based nature of his work. Influenced by calligraphy, architecture, and poetry, he subverts the conventions of modernist sculptural practice by creating small, eccentrically playful objects in humble, fragile materials. Tuttle also manipulates the space in which his objects exist, placing them unnaturally high or oddly low on a wall—forcing viewers to reconsider and renegotiate the white-cube gallery space in relation to their own bodies.
Roni Horn explores the mutable nature of art through sculptures, works on paper, photography, and books. She describes drawing as the key activity in all her work, “because drawing is about composing relationships.” Horn’s drawings concentrate on the materiality of the objects depicted. Horn crafts complex relationships between the viewer and her work by installing a single piece on opposing walls, in adjoining rooms, or throughout a series of buildings. Horn’s work also embodies the cyclical relationship between humankind and nature—a mirror-like relationship in which we attempt to remake nature in our own image.
Susan Rothenberg’s early work—large acrylic, figurative paintings—came to prominence in the 1970s New York art world, a time and place almost completely dominated and defined by Minimalist aesthetics and theories. Rothenberg’s paintings since the 1990s reflect her move from New York to New Mexico, her adoption of oil painting, and her new-found interest in using the memory of observed and experienced events as an armature for creating a painting. These scenes excerpted from daily life, whether highlighting an untoward event or a moment of remembrance, come to life through Rothenberg’s thickly layered and nervous brushwork.