I may be an art fag now, but I wasn’t always so cultured (British accent). My earliest memories of going to museums all involve me being bored off my ass, constantly ready for lunch, in the museum but not there. I never really got modern art until grad school when I started taking classes with a Very Important Art Historian. All told, I’ve probably had 5 graduate seminars in modern and contemporary art to-date, and I even did two entire oral examination fields in the area. ??
I’ll never forget that in the middle of my Ph.D. exam, one of the Very Important Art Historians on my committee asked me to define “Modern Art.” Um, oh shit. I remember being suddenly drenched with sweat and then I was like, Modern art is kind of…when it’s like…and…postmodernism?…and like changing styles…and like the search for style…and race, class, gender, sexuality…and consumerism.
Okay, so I may not have a crystal clear definition of what “Modern Art” is, but I do know why I like it. I like it because with every group of artists a new language is forged, the language of a generation. How can so many different styles and approaches to art exist within a 100-year time span? Doesn’t the thought of that just drive you crazy? It’s fascinating. And if I had to spew out a rough definition of Modern art, I’d say it’s about an art that’s continually questioning what art is and what it can do, the possibilities it can create.
So here now is a breezy tour through ten works of modern/contemporary art that really speak to me. The way I see it, it all starts with Duchamp.