Art has always been a subjective topic, but that doesn’t stop people from voicing their opinions. Over the years, there has been a noticeable rise in the amount of contemporary pieces. Contemporary art is what it sounds like – art made in our time period. However, contemporary art has received a certain stigma that paints it as the art that “anybody can do,” in contrast to more traditional art, which consists of a high amount of detail and borders on realism. However, the contemporary exhibits at LACMA prove how modern pieces are more than what they appear to be on the surface.
On my last visit to LACMA, I walked through the collections, observing paintings to decipher what contemporary art is about. One of the exhibits I explored harbored the Babel Unleashed, 2001 – a piece by Julie Mehretu. Also displayed were the first three works of her painting cycle – Retopisitics, Renegade Delirium, and Dispersion. These paintings seem to have certain similarities. Each is made up of colorful streaks of paint and thin lines of ink in the background. While some may think these aspects of the paintings are random and careless, a closer look reveals much more. Each stroke is placed in a certain composition to represent the setting of a metropolis, even incorporating perspective into certain sections. I was especially drawn to Renegade Delirium, as I saw a grounded chaos in the colors and perspectives. I could make out the top of a tower peeking out from a stripe of orange, while a balcony jutted out from a flurry of purple and black. To me, the defined structures of the architecture served as a stark juxtaposition to the chaos of the colors. However, I could also imagine how the painting could invoke other thoughts and emotions, as each person perceives various ideas differently. One may see just the chaos of colors while someone else just sees the definition of the structures.
Julie Mehretu, who painted Renegade Delirium, was able to capture the essence of contemporary art within the borders of the canvas. She was able to show that everything in the painting – however trivial it may seem – is thought out and contributes to the overall product. The many other paintings at LACMA also contained the same essence. Cai Guo-Qjang’s Mountain Range, 2006 depicts a large mountain range. Gunpowder on paper creates a unique effect, creating different textures and colors.The power of the gunpowder corresponds to the size of the piece, which spans across a six-panel screen. From this artwork, I realized that contemporary art does not only take a unique approach in stylistic terms but is also open-minded to other materials.
Contemporary art may seem like random splatters and strokes of paint on the surface, but it is distinctive in its ability to convey meaning through this chaos. The style is impressive because it can embrace the definition of creativity and experimentation in art.
Kate Jang, Grade 9
Crossroads School for Arts & Sciences