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What is Contemporary Art? - Definition, Movements & Styles

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Instructor: Casey Hinkson

Casey has taught visual art to kindergarten through high school. She has a Bachelor's degree in Fine Art and a Master's degree in Education.

Contemporary art describes the vast, unrestrained art movement of the current day, unique from both modern and postmodern art and reflecting current mediums and events. Examine how contemporary art breaks the mold, explores new possibilities, and utilizes accessibility as a purpose. Updated: 10/15/2021

Breaking the Mold

Imagine, for a second, the restraint a wild bird would feel if it was captured as a fledgling and tethered on a short leash. It would yearn to be free of its confines and dream about the feel of the wind over its wings in the expanse of the wide-open sky. After much time for growth and strain from repeated attempts at breaking free, the tether snaps. Now nothing can hold the bird back from all of the possibilities of flight it had yet to realize. The wild bird mirrors, quite closely, the story of how we broke through the confines of traditional art movements to arrive at contemporary art.

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  • 0:03 Breaking the Mold
  • 0:38 Our Art
  • 1:23 Exploring the Possibilities
  • 2:03 Accessibility as Purpose
  • 3:23 Lesson Summary
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Our Art

Contemporary art is a very hard movement to define but has been categorized as any art made in our lifetime, in the late 20th and early 21st century, following the modern and postmodern art movements. Up until this point in time, we had only scratched the surface of what was possible, as it pertained to the subject of art. It is the first movement, in the fine art world, to lack restraints of any kind. It is defined, in part, by being undefinable. Artwork from this category spans all genres, from painting and film to sculpture and everything in between. These works of art also span a wide range of mediums and include numerous subcategories. Contemporary art is as much an experiment in processes as it is type of art.

Exploring the Possibilities

Like the bird, artists grew tired of the restrictions predetermined by individuals other than themselves. They began to focus on the exploration of concepts like social and global issues. There was and continues to be no shortage of subject matter here with the numerous stories making headlines from around the world. However, contemporary art is not limited to only art with a message. These artists strive to involve individuals in an experience when viewing their pieces. The experience of the artwork may confront multiple senses simultaneously and be presented in a multitude of ways. An acceptance for various approaches emerged to challenge what art is, how it's made, and why we make it.

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