November is the perfect month to bundle up with a good book and do nothing for the weekend. But sometimes, an afternoon outing is just as fun, despite the seasonally appropriate cozy weather of grey and rain. Last Friday, we headed out to gain ourselves a bit more culture and wound up on London’s South Bank at the Tate Modern. Admittedly, contemporary art can be confusing. Gallery corners filled with mystery goop, crudely carved tree trunks, feathers hanging from the ceiling, what? Contemporary art, unlike art of previous centuries, puts emphasis on the concept instead of the outcome. The art is merely a vessel for the artist’s larger concept and work. To shed some light on the weirdness that can sometimes be contemporary art, here are a few big themes popular with contemporary artists today:
Minimalism – Minimalism is abstract art taken to the extreme, and became popular around the 1960’s. Minimalists believed that art should not mimic anything, like a beach scene or a cityscape. As a result, we have pieces like Robert Morris’ Mirror Plate Glass and Wood. Which, understandably, out of context, looks like a bunch of mirrored cubes in a room, but arguably, the piece reimagines what was considered at the time through it’s celebration of raw materials and clean silhouettes.
Arte Povera – The Italian term literally translates to poor art. Arte Povera artists took interest in creating art with worthless, or useless materials like cheap plastics, old clothes, and newspapers. It was largely a response to the commercialization of art, which was quickly becoming commoditized and commercialized in the 1960’s (think Warhol). The Tate has some incredible pieces from the Arte Povera period, one of my favorites is Giuseppe Penone’s Tree of 12 Metres 1980-2.
Feminism – Hurray for gender awareness in contemporary art! Around the 1970’s both men and women began experimenting with using the body as a site for art. Performance art became increasingly popular, as individuals like Yoko Ono and Marina Abramovich pushed their bodies to the limit both emotionally and physically for the sake of artistic communication.
So perhaps the next time you come upon a rainy day and an open weekend, head over to the Tate, if anything for the great gift shop and surprisingly good coffee. And the best part? The entry is free!