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Thanks to all those who have responded to my query about teaching
contemporary art. The recent conversation strand about scanning
reminded me that I should clarify what my definition of contemporary art is.
It is postmodern. There are diverse voices, multiculturally, by gender, and
sexual orientation, spiritual and political convictions, etc. Much of the work
I wonder about teaching is the kind we see in galleries here in New York,
in the recent Sensation show at the Brooklyn Museum, and at the
Biennale at the Whitney. While some abstract expressionism, color field
painting, and other non-objective art is "difficult" to teach because it lacks
realistic and representational images, the difficulties in teaching about
postmodern art have more to do with representation and image,
perception of the rightness for these images to be created, viewed,
supported by grants (think about the NEA and Culture Wars). These are
the images artists are creating now, and popular culture — to which our
children have such immediate access — provides the themes: violence,
graphic sex, racial and ethnic discrimination and disrespect, gender
biases, political messages, etc. Dick Morris mentioned watching a docent
tour the Mapplethorpe exhibit with a school group. School groups came to
the Brooklyn Museum to see Sensation. Could you bring a group to these
kinds of exhibits? Would you? Why or why not?
I want to know if and how teachers in high schools and colleges teach
about controversial contemporary art , and the successes (and failures)
they have had so that pre-service art teachers, and all others who might
be thinking about the advisability of presenting these themes and the
artists who explore them can be well-informed about the outcomes of so
In other words, what works, what doesn't work. Any advice?
I hope this helps. Thanks again to all who have weighed in so far. I love
the list, and I am getting tons of good ideas for my next teaching year
(middle school). Cheers!
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