The Age of Medium

Sarah Henderson
Oct 20, 2014 11:33PM

 What is art? The question may be as old as art itself. The answer is complex and ever-changing. I’m not here to answer the question. My goal is to appreciate those who keep us asking. Just when we think we have figured out the answer, someone transforms the very definition of art. We are no longer in a world where art is confined to tradition. In fact for some time now, it has been the trending challenge to break tradition: to reinvent and disturb the preexisting notions of expression. Art is not just about what it looks like anymore. It has become so much more. Art is medium, and we have seen time and time again that medium is limitless.

New mediums change the way in which we perceive the world around us.  Now everyday objects have the potential to be priceless works of art. These new mediums come paired with new ideas of motion and space. Art no longer simply hangs on a wall. The works in this virtual exhibition collectively demonstrate the versatility in an artist’s medium and presentation.

The viewer is compelled to see these works from multiple angles. Thus motion has become an essential aspect of the experience. Each step taken is paired with another bubble bursting in Rauschenberg’s Mud Muse. A head dramatically tilted watches a Calder dangle from above.  We are driven to walk around these works. As if each change in position will bring us some form of clarity. Messages are no longer straightforward and representational. They require more effort on our part and an open mind for the obscure.

These artists have brought us into a time in which curiosity is a necessity for understanding. When confronted with strange and new art mediums, the viewer inevitably asks themselves a series of complex, often unanswerable questions. Why are we seeing this? What does it mean? Again, the answers to these questions are not the focus. Instead, it is the fact that we feel prompted to dig beyond surface and aesthetic understanding.

While impressionists only dreamt of capturing light, artists like Dan Flavin transformed light into something that could be utilized and not just imitated. Spray paint, a material associated with cheap furniture renovations, has been claimed for the artist’s palette by Andrew Cannon in his Monogram Advantium. Cardboard, something to be disposed of, is now preserved in Burden’s elegant fleet of submarines. These materials confuse us. They ask that we think beyond what we already know and see in the world. They require us to react. Above all else, they demand to be seen and experienced. In walking their environments, we create a dialogue with these materials and their spatiality becomes integrated. One experience melds into another. Each work sparking new questions and surprising us even further still. This show would not be complete without Rauschenberg’s Erased de Koonig Drawing where the audience will realize that indeed no medium is off limits: not even the medium of absence.  

Sarah Henderson