Trends - or a lack of - in Contemporary Art

Over the years, art history has been neatly categorized into time periods and art movements, such as Impressionism, Expressionism, Cubism, Abstract Expressionism, and so forth. It's interesting to see how artists in one period inspired those at a later time, how styles evolved, and to see the progression up to our current times. But what is happening in our current times? Are there "movements" taking place now? What is the current "ism?"

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Artsology visited the Armory Show art fair in New York City*, where galleries and artists from around the world came to showcase their latest art. We wanted to show you a few of the things that we found, and let you draw your own conclusions.

*this report and the art work found below dates from 2006, so at this point it could already be considered "art historical," since we're looking back more than a decade ...

Camouflage self portrait by Andy Warhol

Pictured above: "Camouflage Self-Portrait" by Andy Warhol.

Please note: we apologize, as we didn't have time to record every artist's name and the titles of all of the artworks shown below. However, our purpose here is to show you the diversity of styles, and to give you a general overview of things happening at contemporary art at this particular snapshot in time.

The contemporary painting below left is an altered image of a Picasso painting in an auction catalog, and is meant as a commentary on the staggering prices spent on art masterpieces. The text "Lot 137 No lot" refers to the sale of a Picasso painting titled "Boy with a Pipe" from 1905 (pictured below right) which sold at Sotheby's auction house in 2004 for $104 million!

Sothebys Picasso painting up for auction

Boy with a Pipe, 1905, by Pablo Picasso

Not all contemporary art is made for the purpose of commentary, however. These two beautiful works by Ashley Bickerton (below) have an abstract, decorative quality.

abstract art by Ashley Bickerton

abstract art work with decorative frame by Ashley Bickerton

Contemporary art is much more than just painting. Below left we have a large scale photograph, with a very curious and mysterious image. The old man is sitting in a puddle, which might initially seem funny. But his back is turned toward us, and we can't see his face ... has he just had an accident? Why is he just sitting there? Should we feel sorry for him, or laugh at him? There's no way to know what happened immediately before or after this moment - all we have is this moment, and our curiosity.

Below right we have a painting that shows the genre of landscape painting is still alive and well in 2006. Although somewhat abstracted, it brings to mind the style of certain Cezanne landscapes.

Fine art photography depicting a man sitting in a puddle

abstract landscape painting in the style of Cezanne

This painting (below left and center - two photographs taken from the center of the massive canvas) was easily the largest painting we saw at the art fair. It must have been 10-12 feet high and 25-30 feet long. The intense red abstraction exploded in a burst of color as soon as one saw it. But on the tiny side, this portrait below right was definitely one of the smallest paintings we saw. It is only about 3 inches tall, and the amount of perfectly-painted detail of this person's face at this small scale made it a fascinating painting to see.

Extremely large and very small paintings side by side at the Armory Show, 2006

This is just a very small sampling of the art presented at the art fair. There were displays by over 100 contemporary art galleries, with literally thousands of art works being displayed. But hopefully this will show you what a range of styles are currently being made by living artists ... find the art galleries in your home town and see what the local artists are doing!

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