10 Contemporary Masters

October 20, 2014

This time we take a look at some of the most prominent, highly influential artists, painters, photographers and sculptors, who challenged preconceptions and pushed the limits of visual art, shaping the art world of our time. Following is the list of ten highly praised and widely recognized contemporary masters of visual art, that took the art world by storm as they invented new styles, employed innovative techniques and created astonishing works, leaving a huge mark in the history of art that will be recognized for centuries to come. All of them are exceptional artists whose works serve as models for what great art should be, and represent a great inspiration for generations of artists that follow them.

Cy Twombly

Edwin Parker Cy Twombly, Jr. (1928-2011) was the great American painter and sculptor famed for his highly sophisticated, freely scribbled, calligraphy and graffiti-like large format paintings. Twombly entered the world of art through private art lesson as a teenager and later continued his formal artistic education in several art schools and universities, but what left a distinct mark on his artistic style was his U.S. army service as a cryptographer. During the 1950s, when he became a prominent figure of the New York group of artists, Cy Twombly developed a signature, instantly recognizable painting technique of gestural drawing, characterized by thin bright lines that appear to be scratched onto dark canvass. Twombly's late works on paper took a turn toward romantic symbolism with their titles interpretable through painted shapes and words.

Andreas Gursky - dizzying proportions

German photographer Andreas Gursky (1955), prominent member of the Düsseldorf School of Photography, is praised for his large format photographs of the modern world, often seen from an elevated perspective and printed on an epic scale. Gunsky's overwhelming works of dizzying proportions show people, industries, supermarkets and buildings, subsumed by the people or the environment. Masterfully composed and rich in detail and color, these photographs appear like classic landscape paintings of a strange world. Gursky cleverly uses digital manipulation to enhance the dazzling effect of structures, patterns and massive crowds of people resulting in captivating and disorienting, gigantic images of our collective existence in globalized world.

Featured images:
Andreas Gursky. Courtesy of cicero.de
Andreas Gursky – Chicago Board of Trade II, 1999. Courtesy of Wikipedia

Anselm Kiefer

Anselm Kiefer (1945) is an internationaly acclaimed German painter, photographer, sculptor and installation artist, widely recognized for his large, confrontational scale paintings that often incorporate different organic materials like plants, ash, clay, lead and shellac, and deal with history, identity, religion, taboos and controversial issues. The great majority of Kiefer's works refer to subjects drawn from Germany and its culture, which Kiefer cleverly twists and uses as commonplace icons that evoke the misuses to which the Third Reich Nazi Germany propaganda subjected them. Kiefer's powerful use of fascist and nationalistic imagery shows artist's intimate and extremely passionate struggle as he tries to come to terms with the dark, fascist past of his home country.

Willem de Kooning

Willem de Kooning (1904-1997) was a Dutch American contemporary master and the leading artist of abstract expressionism, also known as action painting. He was the prominent member of the group of artists known as the New York School. The hallmark of de Koonig's agitated abstract style was an emphasis on complex figure ground ambiguity, as background figures overlap other figures and appear to be positioned in the foreground, and are again overlapped by dripping paint and positioned into the background. In the last part of his rich career Willem de Kooning was highly prolific and painted hundreds of paintings which became more cleaner and almost graphic, and presented the artist's new direction of compositional complexity and color juxtaposition, style that greatly influenced many generations of younger painters..

Jasper Johns

Painter, sculptor and printmaker Jasper Johns, Jr. is an New York based American contemporary master and one of the most significant and influential American painters of the twentieth century. Renowned for his extraordinary artworks which depict seemingly mundane objects taken from popular culture and classical iconography.  Johns' style is often described as neo-dadaist but he actually invented a whole new unique style that engendered a number of subsequent art movements, such as pop, minimal and conceptual art.  Jasper Johns is best known for his paintings that play with simple schema, such as flags, maps, letters and numbers, and create meaning solely through the use of conventional symbols which are presented as contradictions and paradoxes with a splash of irony.

George Condo

George Condo (1957) is a New York based American painter, sculptor and printmaker, and one of the most prominent and highly influential contemporary masters of visual arts. He is widely known for his works of the so called 'artificial realism' style, a hybrid of traditional European old masters paintings and American pop sensibility, which realistically represents artificial subjects. Together with Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring, George Condo is the most important artist 'responsible' for the international revival of painting in the 1980's. With a three decades long artistic career, and artworks that can be found in permanent collections of the world's most important museums and galleries, George Condo imposed high influence on numerous artists of both his and generations of visual artists that followed him.

Richard Prince

Richard Prince (1949) is an American painter and photographer, known around the world for his rephotographs, curious photographs composed of the works of other artists that redefined the concepts of authorship, ownership, and aesthetics. This appropriation art, which became popular in 1970s, uses the worlds depicted by others to create original art. Prince's ongoing series of rephotograps titled Cowboys, showing an idealized figure of American masculinity and inspired by the Marlboro cigarette advertisements is his most famous work. Another Prince's masterful series of artworks is his The Nurse Paintings series of paintings inspired by the covers of pulp romance novels he scanned, transfered to canvas using inkjet printer and then personalized them with acrylic paint.

Robert Rauschenberg

Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008) was an American painter, sculptor and graphic artists, widely known for his Combines, innovative combinations of paintings and sculptures, which employed non-traditional materials, such as trash, found objects and silkscreened photographs. Similar is Rauschenberg's series of single color Red Paintings he created with the addition of materials such as wood and newsprints that turned canvas into complex painting surfaces. Rauchenberg's other acclaimed series titled White Paintings, created in the tradition of monochromatic painting which reduces painting to its most essential nature, consists of seemingly blank canvases that react to smallest adjustments in lightning and atmosphere. Though mainly recognized as painter and sculptor Rauschenberg was also a great photographer, printmaker and performance artists.

Jean-Michel Basquiat

Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) was an American painter who quickly rose from a graffiti artist to the most prominent, famed artist whose art revived the contemporary painting. Before his career as a painter began, Basquiat used to produce punk-inspired postcards he sold on the streets of New York City, and became famous around the city for his political–poetical graffiti he wrote under the name of SAMO. Basquiat's art that combined text and image, abstraction and figuration, focused on suggestive dichtomies, such as wealth versus poverty, and presented a strong social commentary, artist's attack on system and its power structures and his support for class struggle. During his extremely short life Basquiat generated huge buzz surrounding his astonishing art that still resonates and inspires artists around the world.

Gerhard Richter

Gerhard Richter (1932) is a German painter and photographer, pioneer of the New European Painting movement, and one of the most important living visual artists, widely known for his abstract and photorealistic works, combinations of paintings and photographs. He began his career and immediately drew attention with paintings consisting of enlarged copies of black-and-white photographs painted with only a range of grey color. Throughout his career Richter continued this, highly prolific and stylistically varied exploration of the mediums of painting and photography, as he moved freely between figuration and abstraction. Richter is also credited with the innovation of a blurred effect in which portions of his compositions appear smeared or softened.

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