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Second Look


In the May 14th column I commented on the fact that some people were having a hard time incorporating Season 4 artists into their classrooms and studios. This weekend, hiding from the heat here in New York, I had the opportunity to see the Allora and Calzadilla segment for a second time and realized not only what a fantastic few minutes of film this is, but also the many things this episode can teach. For example:

  1. Collaboration can produce wonderful work, but it is still a relationship that has to be navigated. Compromise is part of that relationship.
  2. Sound has clearly become another element of design. The traditional seven elements of design are not adequate to describe Allora and Calzadilla’s work. This is true for many Art21 artists and contemporary artists worldwide.
  3. Artists are often engaged in research of some kind. Sometimes contemporary artists are in search of discovering something they know very little about.
  4. Humor can be “beautiful, horrific, critical.”
  5. An artist’s job is to turn things upside down (take the discussion table, for example) and use this new perspective for more than just a new way of looking at an object. The new perspective can hold symbolic meaning or can free the artist(s) to do something unexpected.
  6. Engaging with and understanding contemporary art often involves becoming familiar with the “ideological glue” that holds the work together.

Segments like this one can teach our students more than providing visual examples of new and exciting work. They can provide opportunities and examples of how artists today work in a variety of styles and with a wide variety of media. They can provide starting points and big ideas for both traditional and non-traditional approaches to making works of art.

Allora and Calzadilla’s segment will be a part of my teaching next year. Have some of you discovered new and exciting contemporary artists to incorporate starting next semester? Who are they? How did you decide?

Photo by Amanda Cianciulli, age 17

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