Teaching with Contemporary Art

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“Series #23 (White)” by Robert Ryman

Teaching students is one thing but having the opportunity, like we do in the summer, to teach and share perspectives with colleagues, friends, family, even strangers, can be an equally fulfilling experience. So if you have the chance, especially if you have the chance with someone who is a lover of representational painting, share the Robert Ryman segment from Season 4 with them.

Robert Ryman teaches viewers young and old to slow down and take in what seems extremely simple on the surface. It can teach those who look into his work to see the nuances that physically bring the viewer closer without even realizing it.

Even more important, Robert Ryman’s work will challenge those looking for something to label. What’s it a picture of? Well… white. It’s a picture of white over white over gray.

While there are many, many artists that ask the viewer to realize that the paint is in fact the subject, Robert Ryman does it with white. Everything is stripped down to brush stroke, the act of painting, the marks made by the brush.

What kinds of challenges do we face as teachers when we share works like these? Why share artists like Robert Ryman with our students? While it certainly can get students involved in a dialogue about what constitutes a painting, what else can his work teach?


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