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Sunday, January 13, 2013

Twenty-first Century Influences

The most influential artist of the 21st Century
In an earlier blog entry a few months ago (11-09-12), I proclaimed that if we were to list the three most influential living artists today in terms of their effect on art of this century, not one of them would be a painter. I proposed this to incite a riot, (though not much of one ensued). Of course it's a guessing game and will be for the next 25 years or so. My own list of living artists likely to have the strongest influence in 21st century art would include the filmmaker Steven Spielberg, the architect, I.M. Pei (now slowing down a bit at the age of 95), cartoonist Gary Trudeau, and on the three-dimensional side, Jeff Koons or Dale Chihuly (a toss-up). If forced by tradition to include a painter, I'd have to go with Chuck Close, simply because what he's doing now with his large-scale portraits made up of small-scale abstracts is so computeristic (for lack of a better word), in exploring painted pixels and letting them speak on a grand scale in creating his realistic portraits. Whether on canvas or digitally (more likely the latter), I think this is the direction of 21st Century art.

Close, close-up
Being a major influence over the major part of an entire century of art is a tall order. I made a point of using the term "artist" rather than painter because paint is such a limited and outmoded means of expression. It wouldn't take a prophet to see that such a trend can only continue. (By the same token, I've excluded performing artists as this would make too unwieldy the list.) And even though I've included Spielberg on my list, I can foresee the same set of limitations that have antiquated painting as a means of serious social expression also besetting film in the next century. The reason being, despite all the special effects, 3-D, color, sound, digitalization, etc. that have put film making on the cutting edge of art, I can see them no longer measuring up to the creative demands of artists of the 21st century.

Sims 3, twenty-first century interactive "movie" making.
The reason being, film making is unidirectional. And while Spielberg may influence the "look" of films for generations to come, the viewers of the next generation or two will want a hand in controlling that which they see. We see the first indications of this in the scenario video games that are such hot sellers now (take my favorite, the Sims 3, for example). It's only a short leap creatively and technologically to see these "games" evolving into interactive art--a hybrid of cinema and gaming. If you're wondering why I included I.M. Pei (more on him to come), it's because his work is such a natural progression from the real driving force in the art of architecture of this century and the last--Frank Lloyd Wright. As for Gary Trudeau, he may be the most influential artist working today (see my blog of 10-22-11 for details). (For Koons see 3-17-12.)  Dale Chihuly is simply an exquisite master of a very difficult sculptural medium (glass) and the only working sculptor today (besides Koons) standing head and shoulders above the rest (more on him in tomorrow's blog).

A Chihuly work in progress.
It is a guessing game, but I can visualize an America in the future made up of sleek, Pei- influenced homes where huge, digitized, ever-changing Chuck Close portraits of family members adorn the walls; and where those family members watch a remake of E.T., each getting to play Elliot and deciding whether or not to climb aboard the UFO at the end. Okay, maybe there's an antique Jim Lane painting over the video-fireplace.
Is it real or is it video?

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