31. January 2017 · Comments Off on Contemporary Art History: A Brief Look Over the Decades · Categories: Art History · Tags: ,

Contemporary Art as an art classification has a fluid description. It is like floating down a river. You are always on the river, but as you move along sometimes it’s fast and rocky, and other times it’s calm and serene. Contemporary Art is like that river; it changes with the seasons of our culture. A generally accepted definition of Contemporary Art would be art that was produced during our lifetime. Obviously, a lifetime will mean a different amount of time to various people, but current contemporary art would be starting around the 1960’s through present day.

1960’s — Minimalism and Pop Art

The 1960’s art has two important branches. One is Minimalism Art, and the other is Pop Art. Both of these styles can be seen coming out of the culture as a whole. The love and free spirit movements of the 60’s were about throwing off the structure and established practices and beliefs of the previous generation. Art was art simply because it was art. It didn’t have to mean anything. Minimalist Art was about simple lines and colors often on industrial mediums that lacked texture. Pop Art was art that involved anything current, whether that be colorful paintings of the famous Marilyn Monroe or a set of images on canvas of cans of Campbell’s soup.

1970’s — A Continuation of the 1960’s

The artists of the 1970’s continued the tradition of the previous generation. There was a continued deconstructing of what art was. It is not uncommon to see text used in pieces of 70’s artwork. Also during this time artwork started to take on a more “earthy” feel. Dirt, sand and other natural mediums were experimented with during the 70’s.

1980’s — The Pictures Generation

The 1980’s artists were known as “The Pictures Generation.” The human form began to become more commonly used in artwork. Artists would manipulate and merge photos creating a combination portrait and painting in one. Neo-conceptualism began sometime during the 80’s. It has no real hard defined characteristics but if the piece of art led to discussions on politics, social issues or economic issues it likely would be classified Neo-conceptual.

1990’s — Installation Art


Perhaps the most recognizable art of the 1990’s was Installation Art. This sometimes meant transforming a room in the art gallery into the actual work of art, or it might mean constructing a large piece of artwork in the middle of a field or downtown New York.

2000’s — Time Will Tell!

Art at the beginning of the 21st century is probably too recent to be able to look back on the decade to see what defined the decade. If anything it might have been a mashing together of the ideas of the last 50 years.

Final Thoughts…

Contemporary Art is hard to draw lines around and define. It changes with the current cultural revolutions, with the politics of the times, and with what is considered edgy or different. As King Solomon of ancient Israel said, “There is nothing new under the sun.” Art flows from one generation to the next. It is rejected, adapted, modified, copied and then rejected again. It is an ever-present expression of the inner thoughts and feelings of the human race.