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Monday, December 31, 2018

2018 Art

Tidal Wave, London, Ed Lopez. Digital painting is definitely a mark of some of the best art of 2018.
Almost a month ago, I wrote about the art of one hundred years ago--1918 Art. This being New Year's Eve, I thought it only appropriate that I should also delve into the art of this past year--2018 art. For those writing about art, it's far easier to discuss the art of the past than that of the present. The past offers perspective. The present, nothing but uncertainty. The art of the past allows me to write about individual artists and their contribution to all the art that has followed their efforts. That is, of course, by definition, impossible in dealing with the work of contemporary artists. The most I can do is to discuss trends I see and to choose works that are representative of art being created today while at the same time offering some degree of uniqueness. What you see here is not in any way an evaluative critique or comparison one piece to another. And although I try to identify the artist, in no way am I predicting the fame and/or fortune of any artist. These are simply works which struck me as outstanding in some, often difficult to pinpoint, manner. In most cases that has more to do with creativity than content--a Postmodern departure from the norm.
The Wire, Seth Globepainter. Street artists in 2018 have continued recent trends in working on "canvases" on a scale seldom seen in the past. This one is in Fontaine, France.
Tidal Wave, London, (top) by Ed Lopez is definitely representative of the "wave" (pardon the pun in this case) of the future. CGI (computer generated imaging) allows artists do let their imaginations run wild, unhampered by most limitations as to traditional art skills. It does, however, usher in a whole new "paintbox" of new skills involving digital manipulation offering far greater potential for the representational "painter" than any taught in the past and most art classes now. The other major trend I've noticed is the building-sized murals and the Postmodern use of both serious and whimsical content as seen in Seth Globepainter's The Wire (above). That's obviously not the artist's real name but a pseudonym, which is, in itself, a recent trend.
Virtually every style of painting today can be found on the walls of home art galleries which reflect much the same quality as those of the high-end art market, yet at a very small fraction of the cost.
In showcasing the outstanding art (paintings only in this case) I've broken down the work into three major areas--abstraction, portraits, and first of all that which has been created exclusively to satisfy a huge demand for decorative domestic wall art. I've termed them "Couch Paintings" (above), which in no manner is intended as a derogative classification. Quite the contrary, I often find in this type of work some of the most extraordinary creativity to be seen today. The one classification which I've excluded is landscape painting. Quite frankly I suspect that such art is simply "worn out." That is, the possibilities for new imagery, new content, new styles, has simply been exhausted by centuries of such works (particularly the 20th-century). I tried diligently to find landscape paintings on a par with most of the other work being created today but came away both surprised and disillusioned by my efforts.

Abstraction is often taken to mean non-representational. Usually, and in the best works, it's not.
Abstract art is not a style. Abstract Expressionism is, and all too often the two are confused...even used interchangeably. Abstract Expressionism is a style, founded in the Post-WW II era, predominantly in connection with what's come to be known as the "New York School." It was usually non-representational (but not always) and thus thought to be lacking in content. That too is a misconception. The content was the basic elements of design. The abstract art of today seldom lacks some vestige of identifiable content, which makes it devilishly hard to evaluate minus a clear title and statement from the artist. As the works above suggest, most of the traditional art content areas have been freshened (some might say invaded) by the work of abstract artists today (even landscapes). In any case abstract art no longer invites the question: "What is it?" It does not lack traditional content, it simply strips it down to its bare essence, minus details, minus message, minus preconceived notions as to how that content "should" appear. In doing so, the artist is free to pursue beauty, texture, line, color, shapes, and space without most of the traditional constraints of the past.

Portraiture today invites virtually every style of painting from the past while remaining fresh and exciting.
Perhaps the most enduring type of painting in the history of art is that of portraiture. And in spite of the advent of photography, a century and a half ago, it has remained quite lively and inspiring. Portrait painting accommodates virtually every style and medium artists have ever used. Joshu Miels' portraits are about as close to abstraction as on dares venture without losing the key element of a recognizable likeness. Stephan Mackey's portrait of Mason is about as traditional as such work gets today, yet his inclusion of the artist at work on a painting of his own is a fresh concept adaptable to virtually any subject's painted image. Everyone has a job or avocation, right? Meanwhile, Kehinde Wiley's hard-edged rendering of former President Obama breaks virtually every mold ever seen for a presidential portrait. Yet it captures both the man, his gentleness, and his "green" values perfectly.

Rhinos by Dianne Bollentini, in pen and ink
Susan L, Richard Sneary,
Although it's not technically a painting, nor is it what it appears to be--a mosaic--Dianne Bollentini's Rhinos (above) is rendered in pen and ink, painstakingly giving the appearance of what it's not. Not only is the work exquisitely done, its content nothing if not unique, but the work captures perfectly the Postmodern es-sence of the art of 2018. By the same token, Richard Sneary's, watercolor titled Susan L (left) is notable for the artist's departure from the tired, traditional watercolor subject matter of landscapes and still-lifes. Though it re-mains, technically, a still-life, the subject is of such size and industrial homeliness as to stand apart from most of the work done today in painting's most difficult medium. Art need not be beautiful. Can the art of 2019 be summed up in just a word or two? Probably, but I'm not up to the task at the moment. I'll let the paintings speak for themselves on that score. And, even though I still paint a little (three or four this year) I've resisted the urge to include any of my own work here in that neither it nor I are representative of the art of 2019.

Mia Molly, artist unknown, but not one of mine.

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