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Season 8 of "Art in the Twenty-First Century"Trailer
Trailer for Season 8 (2016) of the Peabody Award-winning series, Art21 Art in the Twenty-First Century. Featured artists include: Natalia Almada, Edgar Arceneaux, Nick Cave, Minerva Cuevas, Stan Douglas, Theaster Gates, Brian Jungen, Barbara Kasten, Liz Larner, Liz Magor, Tala Madani, Damian Ortega, Pedro Reyes, Diana Thater, Jeff Wall, and Chris Ware.
Each Season 8 episode is hosted by multiple Golden Globe- and Emmy Award-winning actress Claire Danes.
The series provides unparalleled access to the most innovative artists of our time, revealing how artists engage the culture around them and how art allows viewers to see the world in new ways. The artists’ lives and works engage universal experiences that anyone can relate to: resistance, pleasure, mortality, and the hope for a better tomorrow.
For the first time in the show’s history, the sixteen featured artists are grouped into four one-hour episodes by their unique and revealing relationships to the places in which they live—Chicago, Los Angeles, Mexico City, and Vancouver.More information
Through the Art21 Translation Project, multilingual audiences from around the globe can contribute translations, making Art21 films more accessible worldwide.
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Barbara Kasten makes photographs and video projections in her studio that evoke an experience of movement through modernist architecture. While abstract, her work is subversively political, asking viewers to fundamentally question their perceptions. Trained as a sculptor, Kasten began to investigate photography through cyanotypes of fabrics and photograms of objects placed directly on the paper. This led her to photograph elaborate compositions of objects in the studio—such as Platonic shapes, paper, plexiglass, and wire—often illuminated by theatrical lighting and colored gels. Kasten’s video projections of rotating objects and planes of drifting color, cast onto building exteriors and interiors, destabilize the architecture through the optical fragmentation of forms.
Brian Jungen draws from his family’s ranching and hunting background, as well as his Dane-zaa heritage, when disassembling and recombining consumer goods into whimsical sculptures. Jungen transforms plastic chairs into whale skeletons, garbage bins into a giant turtle carapace, and collectible Nike Air Jordan shoes into objects resembling both the ceremonial masks of British Columbian coastal tribes and abstract modernist sculptures. At once direct and disarming, Jungen’s sculptures are entirely familiar in their material and assembly and yet still trick the eye through complex and deft illusions. While exquisite for their craftsmanship and graphic use of pattern and color, Jungen’s works also contain subtle critiques of labor practices, global capitalism, and cultural stereotypes.
Known for his New Yorker magazine covers, Chris Ware is hailed as a master of the comic art form. His complex graphic novels tell stories about people in suburban Midwestern neighborhoods, poignantly reflecting on the role memory plays in constructing identity. Stories featuring many of Ware’s protagonists—Quimby the Mouse, Rusty Brown, and Jimmy Corrigan—often first appear in serialized form, in publications such as The New York Times, the Guardian, or Ware’s own ongoing comic book series Acme Novelty Library, before being organized into their own stand-alone books.
Damián Ortega uses objects from his everyday life—Volkswagen Beetle cars, Day of the Dead posters, locally-sourced corn tortillas—to make spectacular sculptures which suggest stories of both mythic import and cosmological scale. In many of the artist’s sculptures, vernacular objects are presented in precise arrangements—often suspended from the ceiling or as part of mechanized systems—that become witty representations of diagrams, solar systems, words, buildings, and faces. These shifts in perception are not just visual but also cultural, as the artist draws out the social history of the objects featured in his sculptures, films, and performances.
Diana Thater makes video installations that poetically grapple with threats to the natural world, from the extinction of species to long-lasting environmental disasters such as the nuclear fallout of Chernobyl. Many of the artist’s works take the space where people and animals meet as their subject, exploring the experiences of wild gorillas in a Cameroon park, a wolf trained to work in Hollywood films, a monkey-inhabited temple in India, and zebras at an exotic animal farm. Adopting cyclical time signatures and extended durations, Thater’s ambient works are abstractions of time which diverge from the linear narratives humans use to make sense of themselves and the cosmos.
Edgar Arceneaux investigates historical patterns through drawings, installations, and multimedia events. In the artist’s work, linear logic is abandoned in favor of wordplay and visual associations, revealing how language, technology, and systems of ordering produce reality as much as describe them. Seemingly disparate elements—such as science fiction, civil rights era speeches, techno music, and the crumbling architecture of Detroit—find a new synchronicity in the artist’s hands, ultimately pointing to larger historical forces such as the rise of the surveillance state.
Attentive to the accidental encounters that can inspire an image, Jeff Wall recreates flashes of inspiration obtained from sources as varied as personal recollections to something noticed on the street, to daydreams, and encounters with paintings or photographs. With an idea in mind, Wall goes to exacting lengths to produce the picture, which may include constructing a scene from scratch, factoring in the position of the sun over several weeks, and improvisational rehearsals with performers. Wall’s pictures include both fantastical scenes and vernacular images of people on the margins of society or in moments of exchange and quiet contemplation.
Liz Larner experiments with abstract sculptural forms in a dizzying array of materials, including polychromatic ceramics that evoke the tectonic geologic shifts of the western landscape. An inventor of new forms, Larner’s sculptures are not easy to categorize. They defy easy description by design, such as the geometric sculpture of a cube turning into a sphere that is both yet neither, or a complex chain of linked metal rings that never tangles and can also be worn as jewelry. Working with both analog and digital tools, Larner’s materials change from work to work and can include fiberglass, crystals, paper, clay, aluminum, steel, rubber, epoxy, mirror, cloth, and even bacteria. As daring as her investigation into new forms can be, Larner’s sculptures are approachable in their human scale and idiosyncratic vision that favors personal narrative over minimal austerity.
Liz Magor makes uncannily realistic casts of humble objects—garments, cardboard boxes, ashtrays—that speak to mortality and local histories. Magor’s delicate copies are often combined with found ephemera, whether tiny vices—such as cigarettes, candy, and alcohol—animals in the form of taxidermied birds and stuffed toy dogs, or small mementos given to her by friends. Social narratives of how things in the world are created, enter our lives, and depart to the junk heap as part of a vast human waste stream are folded together with personal anxieties and small worries, such as the desire to afford nice things, to mend what’s broken, and to preserve order against inevitable entropy.
Minerva Cuevas is a conceptual and socially-engaged artist who creates sculptural installations and paintings in response to politically-charged events, such as the tension between world starvation and capitalistic excess. Cuevas documents community protests in a cartography of resistance while also creating mini-sabotages—altering grocery store bar codes and manufacturing student identity cards—as part of her non-profit Mejor Vida Corp / Better Life Corporation. Cuevas addresses the negative impact that humans have on animals and the environment through sculptures coated in tar and tender paintings of animal rights activists, imagining a society that values all living beings.
The great-granddaughter of Mexico’s controversial 40th president Plutarco Elías Calles, Natalia Almada makes intimate films that delve into the tragedies of her Mexican-American family’s personal history as well as the Sinaloa region’s violent present. Ranging from documentary to fiction to experimental narrative, Almada’s films portray a world filtered through recollection and constructed by diverging points of view. Whether chronicling the daily lives of Mexican drug smugglers, immigrants, corrido musicians, or government bureaucrats, Almada’s camera acts a witness to lives ensnared by violence and power struggles.
Nick Cave creates “Soundsuits”—surreally majestic objects blending fashion and sculpture—that originated as metaphorical suits of armor in response to the Rodney King beatings and have evolved into vehicles for empowerment. Fully concealing the body, the “Soundsuits” serve as an alien second skin that obscures race, gender, and class, allowing viewers to look without bias towards the wearer’s identity. Cave regularly performs in the sculptures himself, dancing either before the public or for the camera, activating their full potential as costume, musical instrument, and living icon. Cave’s sculptures also include non-figurative assemblages, intricate accumulations of found objects that project out from the wall, and installations enveloping entire rooms.
Pedro Reyes designs ongoing projects that propose playful solutions to social problems. From turning guns into musical instruments, to hosting a People’s United Nations to address pressing concerns, to offering ecologically-friendly grasshopper burgers from a food cart, Reyes transforms existing problems into ideas for a better world. When encountering a project by the artist, viewers are often enlisted as participants or as creators of objects in collaborative workshops. Originally trained as an architect, Reyes is acutely aware of how people interact with the built environment, with many of the artist’s works taking the form of enclosures.
Stan Douglas reenacts historical moments of tension, connecting local histories to broader social movements of struggle and utopian aspiration. In the artist’s intricate works, time and place fold back onto themselves to create a parallax of both vision and narrative: multiple moments in history and geography are experienced by the viewer simultaneously and reconciled into a new story. Working at the forefront of new media technologies, Douglas’s works have taken the form of mobile apps, virtual reality simulations, live cinema, theatrical productions, and multi-channel video installations where the narrative alters continuously through recombinant editing software.
Tala Madani skewers stereotypes in her sharply satirical paintings that evoke clashes of culture: men and women, the rational and the absurd, Western and non-Western. Madani’s figurative paintings often feature a riotous cast of middle-aged men, balding and stocky, whose libidinal mayhem wreaks havoc on any situation the artist thrusts them into. Acerbic caricatures of both machismo and a childlike desire for mischief, the physical comedy at work in Madani’s paintings is anchored by intense pleasures, pathos, and a pervasive sense of violence. Madani’s pictures are also transformed into stop-motion animations where the artist photographs a freshly created scene over time—wet paint still glistening—resulting in stories of small calamities that are once hilarious, tender, and ghoulish.
Theaster Gates creates sculptures with clay, tar, and renovated buildings, transforming the raw material of urban neighborhoods into radically reimagined vessels of opportunity for the community. Establishing a virtuous circle between fine art and social progress, Gates strips dilapidated buildings of their components, transforming those elements into sculptures that act as bonds or investments, the proceeds of which are used to finance the rehabilitation of entire city blocks. Many of the artist’s works evoke his African-American identity and the broader struggle for civil rights, from sculptures incorporating fire hoses, to events organized around soul food, and choral performances by the experimental musical ensemble Black Monks of Mississippi, led by Gates himself.