Art in The 21st Century: Systems
Art in The 21st Century: Systems

Art in The 21st Century: Systems

Illuminations Media

How are we to understand our ever increasingly complex society? What new ways of thinking and visualisions do artists construct;and why do we find comfort in some systems while rebelling against others?

Systems explores these questions in the work of the artists John Baldessari, Julie Mehrutu, Kimsooja, and Allan McCollum.

Synthesizing photomontage, painting, and language, John Baldessari's deadpan visual juxtapositions equate images with words and illuminate, confound, and challenge meaning.  He upends commonly held expectations of how images function, often by drawing the viewer's attention to minor details, absences, or the spaces between things.  By placing colorful dots over faces, obscuring portions of scenes, or juxtaposing stock photographs with quixotic phrases, he injects humor and dissonance into vernacular imagery.

Julie Mehrutu's paintings and drawings refer to elements of mapping and architecture, achieving a calligraphic complexity that resembles turbulent atmospheres and dense social networks.

Architectural renderings and aerial views of urban grids enter the work as fragments, losing their real-world specificity and challenging narrow geographic and cultural readings.  The paintings' wax-like surfaces, bulit up over weeks and months in thin translucent layers, have a luminous warmth and spatial depth.

Their formal qualities of light and space are made all the more complex by Mehrutu's delicate depictions of fire, explosions, and perspectives in both two and three dimensions.  Her works contain the history of nonobjective art - form Construtivsim to Futurism - posing contemporary questions about the relationsip between utopian impulses and abstraction.

Kimsooja's videos and installations blur the boundaries between aesthetics and transcendent experience through their use of repetitive actions, meditative practices, and serial forms.  In many pieces, everyday actions - such as sewing or doing laundry - become two- and three-dimensional or performative activities.  Central to her work is the "bottari," a traditional Korean bed cover used to wrap and protect personal belongings, which Kimsooja transforms into a philosphical metaphor for structure and connection.  In videos that feature her in various personas, she leads us to reflect on the human condition, offering open-ended perspectives through which she presents the questions reality.  Using her own body, Kimsooja creates works that emphasize the metaphysical changes within the artsist-as-performer as well as the viewer. 

Applying strategies of mass production to handmade objects, Allan McCollum's labor-intensive practice questions the intrinsic value of the unique work of art. McCollum's installations - fields of vast numbers of small-scale works, systematically arranged - are the product of many tiny gestures, built up over time.  Viewing his works often produces a sublime effect - as one slowly realizes that the dizzying array of thousands of identical-looking shapes is, in fact, composed of subtly different, distinct things.  Economical in form, yet curious in function, his work and mechanical-looking process are infused with humore and humility, often stemming from his collaborative and democratic form of creativity.  


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