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Contemporary Art: Twisted Tradition


Contemporary art is difficult to define. As with other forms of creative expression, advances in technology have enabled visual artists to create and share art that does not necessarily have a place in traditional galleries. Perhaps the most notorious contemporary artist is Banksy. No one knows the real identity of the mysterious man whose graffiti art is adored and abhorred the world over. His detractors dislike his apparent disrespect for authority and public property; his fans admire him for precisely those reasons. His work looks sloppy at first, but upon further inspection it is clear that Banksy possesses a great deal of technical talent in addition to his rebellious attitude. He has managed to escape detection by creating his own stencils and using those to apply his images to the sides of buildings.

Kris Lewis is a lesser-known painter whose portraits are classically beautiful with ominous undertones. The women in his paintings would look nearly real if not for the deliberate mistakes in proportion. A woman may have a head that is too big or a neck that is too long. It is a clever twist on the staid portrait. He uses rich colors and smooth lines to depict characters that are so realistic as to be creepy, yet there is a childish aspect to his work. His work is emblematic of the direction of modern art because he has figured out how to put his own stamp on old-fashioned motifs.

Mixed media pieces have attained great popularity due to the vast possibilities they offer to artists who think in three dimensions. Some pieces are simple collages of magazine scraps and original bits of artwork. Others may be structures comprised of found objects and new sculptures. Many mixed media artists play with distance and perspective by making their pieces look different from all angles or hiding small pictures inside larger images. No mixed media artist has distinguished him- or herself in recent years, but the versatility of the genre means that the stage is set for someone with a unique vision to emerge.

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