Young people are making the most powerful statements through quality contemporary artworks.
Earlier this year, I went to an international contemporary art exhibit. Among the works shown, I found images that broached current issues that took my breath away and sculptures that confronted reality in a very raw but beautiful way. I felt the strong messages these artists were conveying in their works. However, some of the other artworks left me feeling a little confused. One particular painting caught my attention: it was a plain, blue canvas worth thousands of dollars. I remember this painting was called “Blue”, and it was actually nothing but a blue canvas. I approached the artist who was selling this, and spoke with him for a while. Wondering what the piece was about, I asked him what it meant. He stared at me for a minute, and then said: “the world.” I didn't know whether I should ask him to explain it a bit more because I didn’t want him to feel that I wasn’t appreciating his work. So, I just smiled and walked away.
I grew up with my grandmother, who painted over 200 impressionist landscapes and portraits, so I’ve been surrounded by art all my life. I genuinely appreciate everything from the oldest to the most recent artists, and even if I don't love someone’s work, I will always try to give it a shot for the sake of art. I love the way people express themselves through the works they create, but pieces like the Blue painting are making me see why so many people don’t like contemporary art. Many people complain that they don’t get it, that artists have taken abstraction to the limit, and that their works are complete nonsense.
This last part might be right, but the thing is that contemporary art is just one form of expression among many others. There’s so much more to it than blue canvases and plain walls. To prove the haters wrong, here are some contemporary artists who are creating great works of art:
French photographer and street artist. He became famous for his “larger-than-life” street installations, which feature black-and-white images of people. His works can be found on walls all over the world.
He broke out globally after documenting the Paris riots of 2004 and pasting these images on walls around the city. This particular way of celebrating street life has led JR to showcase his work in the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and South America.
Hiroyasu Tsuri, also known as TWOONE, is a Japanese painter and street artist currently living in Australia. Like JR, TWOONE became interested in the visual arts through graffiti.
After obtaining a degree in visual arts, TWOONE started exploring new ways of working with paintings, murals, sculptures and installations. Since then, he has participated in a number of group exhibitions, producing murals that will grab your attention and won't let go.
Kour Pour (1987)
A British-Iranian artist, known for his popular series of carpet paintings inspired by traditional Persian art. Kour spent his childhood in his father’s rug shop, where they would hand-dye faded portions of carpets in order to bring back their original colors.
After moving to Los Angeles, Kour obtained his Bachelor of Fine Arts and incorporated the art he grew up with into his new work, developing a unique style of his own. His art is not just beautiful, it also serves as a bridge connecting Eastern and Western culture.
Awol Erizku (1988)
This contemporary Ethiopian-American artist has created a color revolution through painting, photography, and sculptures that you can’t miss.
Awol received his B.A. from Cooper Union in 2010, and his M.F.A from Yale in 2014. His work has been shown recently at MoMA and The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York. His images challenge art history’s traditional perspectives, while celebrating the beauty of black culture.
Contemporary art will always be criticized and condemned for being too abstract, weird, and confusing. There will always be a reason not to like it, but that doesn’t mean it’s lousy or low-quality. If we dare to see beyond those opinions, and we fully soak ourselves into the art world (specially in the contemporary one), we may find very pleasant surprises. Not all of them are expensive plain, blue canvases.
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