Move into the now

Sometimes we art teachers can get stuck in the past. And I get it. For most, the past is awesome. We grew up in the past. We have fond memories of the assignments we were given and the artists we discovered. I still remember vividly the amazement I felt with every double click sound of the slide projector as it switched from one beautiful old European painting to another. We teach because we want to share that awe and excitement with our students. But remember, the world our students live in is much different than the one we grew up in. And they are very aware of it all.

I’ve got a classroom full of “woke,” culturally aware, socially conscious, passionately active students, and for them, modernism isn’t going to cut it. They want to see artists that have that same rebellious energy that they do.

Now, the nice thing is that you don’t have to throw out those modernists. Chances are, the artists your students are going to be inspired by were themselves influenced by those modernists. You can show them the old and the new side-by-side. This will deepen the understanding of both artists’ work and create some very interesting dialog. Here’s a little list I put together off the top of my head. What connections can you make from the list I’ve put together? Are there others you would add to this list?

The Terracotta Army of Qin Shi Huang (210 BCE) with All the Submarines of the United States of America by Chris Burden (1987)

Gustave Caillebotte’s Paris Street, Rainy Day (1877) with Frank Romero’s The Arrest of the Paleteros (1996)

Georges Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (1884) with Kerry James Marshall’s Past Times (1997)

Auguste Rodin’s The Kiss (1882) with Felix Gonzalez-Torres’s Untitled (Perfect Lovers) (1991)

Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa (1509) with David Wojnarowicz’s Untitled (One Day This Kid…) (1990)

James McNeill Whistler’s Arrangement in Grey and Black No.1 (1871) with
T.R. Ericsson, American Tragedy (2017)

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