Art in The 21st Century: Consumption
Art in The 21st Century: Consumption

Art in The 21st Century: Consumption

Illuminations Media

Consumerism pervades American culture, it dominates all aspects of American life, including the work of the country's artists.

Consumption explores artists respond to the pevasiness of consumerism through five artists, including Barbara Kruger, Michael Ray Charles, Matthew Barney, Andrea Zittel, and Mel Chin.

This film in the Art21 series asks the question when culture is so much about what we buy, and in some sense, how what we consume comes to give us our sense of self, and when nothing is off limits, from sex to art, how does art respond?

Barbara Kruger boasts a long career as the art visionary for many popular publciations such as "Home and Garden." This experience puts Kruger in a unique position to critique the consumer culture for which she used to work, creating an advertising aesthetic of black and white photographs overlaid with colour captions of pronouns and imperatives.  Her images draw in the viewer with pithy and aggressive texts that speak to the struggle for power and control.

Micahel Ray Charles's graphically styled paintings investigate racial stereotypes drawn from a history of American advertising, product packaging, billboards, radio jingles, and television commercials.  Drawing upon mass-media's caricatures of black culture, such as Aunt Jemima, Charles is able to trace the evolution of the American understanding and portrayal of race.

Matthew Barney is best known for the the surreal set of films, the 'Creymaster Cycle,'  a series of five visually extravagant works created out of sequence.

The films themselves are a grand mixture of history, autobiography, and mythology—an intensely private universe in which symbols and images are densely layered and interconnected. The resulting cosmology is both beautiful and complex.

Andrea Zittel is an American sculptor, installation and Relational artist.   Zittel’s sculptures and installations transform everything necessary for life—such as eating, sleeping, bathing, and socializing—into artful experiments in living. Blurring the lines between life and art, Zittel’s projects extend to her own home and wardrobe.

Mel Chin is a conceptual artist who, though classically trained, creates both analytical and poetic art thus evading easy classification. Alchemy, botany, and ecology are but a few of the disciplines that intersect in his work. He insinuates art into unlikely places, including destroyed homes, toxic landfills, and even popular television, investigating how art can provoke greater social awareness and responsibility.


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