Contemporary visual art in America / Современное визуальное искусство в Америке

In America, today, it is much more difficult to pinpoint the dominant approach within modern visual art. In part, this is because art has changed, in part because America and the rest of the world have changed. However, there are some tendencies that American visual art is following. They are best understood by looking at individual artists who exemplify them.

One of the most celebrated artists of the moment is Matthew Barney. He has been the subject of a major retrospective exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. Barney is both a filmmaker and an installation artist. His installations largely consist of props from the sets of his films. His magnum opus is a seven-hour-long, five-section film entitled Cremaster. Although each segment resembles a feature film both in length and visual polish, there are some significant differences between what you see at the local cinema and the films Barney offers for view. His whole opus contains only 12 lines of dialogues and it is filled with outlandish characters and creatures. There is a cheetah woman, a tap dancing satyr, a bag-pipe-playing Scott, a re-imagined Harry Houdini, played by writer Norman Mailer and a tragic queen, played by actress Ursula Andress The five sections make reference to everything from the 1930s Hollywood dance sequences of Busby Berkley to murdered Gary Gilmore to Masonic ritual. The narrative is highly ambiguous.

Barney’s Cremaster series suggests how visual art can merge with film to create something that is quite far from our conventional expectations of either. Something similar goes on in the marriage of art and architecture that takes place in the work of Elizabeth Diller and Ricardo Scofidio.

Trained architects who are equally at home in the world of visual art, Diller and Scofidio create the work that questions what architecture is and how it functions in the world. Their most famous work is a beach house, commissioned but never built, whose raison d’etre is the view from a single window. This work reverses the usual relationship of watchers and the watched, again changing our perceptions of our relation to the world.

To sum it up, navigating this brave new world of visual art takes an agile mind and willingness to put aside preconceived ideas of what it should stand for.

(Adapted from "Arts in America")


to pinpoint the dominant approach — точно определить доминирующий подход

to exemplify smth — служить примером

the most celebrated artists — самые знаменитые художники

a magnum opus — самое главное произведение

outlandish characters and creatures — чудные герои и создания

a cheetah woman — женщина в образе гепарда

a tap dancing satyr — сатир танцующий на кране

highly ambiguous — довольно двусмысленно

conventional expectations — традиционные (условные) ожидания

an agile mind — живой ум

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