In each of our new season 6 episodes, not to mention throughout the entire Art21 series, there are superb quotes to share with students, colleagues and friends as kickstarters for discussions, assignments- even as a way to challenge assumptions we make in our work as artists and educators. This week I want to highlight a few quotes from the Balance episode and reflect on some of what each quote can inspire or teach, even across disciplines. During the summer I will then revisit the “Kickstarters” posts to focus on other quotes from the remaining episodes.
I don’t think of myself as being a landscape painter. In the popular envisioning of that term, a landscape consists of a painting with a field and a pond and a tree and a mountain in the distance, etc. It’s a sort of recipe thing. I hope very much that my paintings don’t look like recipe paintings, that I’ve gone to other places and seen something different. – Rackstraw Downes
What I like most about this quote is that Downes reminds us that he goes to “other” places for inspiration, which is essentially what we ask of our students on a regular basis. He makes clear that he has seen “something different” and wants to share this vision. He also gets to remove the box that a description like “landscape painter” may very well put him in. As teachers, we want our students to look beyond the obvious and at details in order to make sense of the complexity that comes with seeing a bigger picture. We want them to cultivate an individuality that steers clear of most labels.
I like setting up problems for the viewer and that viewer isn’t someone detached from me. I’m the viewer. I’m the first viewer. – Robert Mangold
The power of using this quote by Robert Mangold comes from re-visioning who the “viewer” actually is. If the artist is the first viewer then the effect a work has on the artist can inform how to shape the work for others to experience. Mangold also emphasizes “setting up” problems and intentionally giving himself something to figure out in order to learn something new. Think about how different some assignments would be if we simply asked, “So what kind of problem are you setting up for yourself here?”
My whole body of work has this kind of flexible, mutable quality. It has the rawness of a studio, or the rawness of a laboratory where things could happen, where things could fall apart. – Sarah Sze
As Sarah Sze discusses her work, she spotlights how many artists today are making art that is elastic in some way. But she is also talking about taking risks, which we emphasize is a big part of learning in all disciplines. Taking a chance where in fact things CAN fall apart simultaneously holds the promise of, “What can we learn if it doesn’t?”
Until next week…
The new Season 6 educators’ guide is now available as a quick and easy downloadable PDF. As we celebrate the broadcast of our new season, I thought this week might be a good time to highlight some of what the new guide has to offer educators interested in teaching with contemporary art.
First, the new guide has a lot of the same great introductory features from previous seasons. You get to learn about Art21 and the philosophy behind the organization of the guide in the first three pages. Simple, straight up and to the point.
Also within the introduction, on pages 4 and 5, there is a short description titled “What Is Contemporary Art?” and ideas for utilizing contemporary art in the classroom and community.
Each of the Season 6 programs is organized around a theme and all four themes, along with the artists featured, are described in the thematic introductions. A broad overview of the theme is presented in addition to introducing the artists with some foundational discussion questions.
Then, beginning with Marina Abramović’s page, each artist is given the star treatment complete with information about the artist, questions to share before, while, and after viewing, along with suggestions for creating different kinds of work in response to the segment.
It’s hard for me to have “favorites” because I wrote our new educator guide with the blessed help of my colleagues Jessica Hamlin and Flossie Chua. But when I reflect on the artists featured this season I just know I’ll be using artists like Ai Weiwei, El Anatsui, David Altmejd, Glenn Ligon, Catherine Opie, Rackstraw Downes, Tabaimo and Sarah Sze in the classroom… probably sooner than later. I think about how artists like Ai Weiwei and Tabaimo can broaden student understanding of what an artist does. I think about sharing the passion David Altmejd and Rackstraw Downes have for their work. I think about the way Catherine Opie and Sarah Sze speak to what students already know about their world.
I sincerely hope you get the chance to spend some time with the new guide and episodes from our new season. Once you have, please let me know your thoughts here on the blog or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Many thanks! See you next week.
It’s official: “Art in the Twenty-First Century,” the Peabody Award-winning biennial television series, is returning to PBS this April for a sixth season. The new season premieres nationally on PBS on Friday, April 13 at 9:00 p.m. (ET).
The new season features artists Marina Abramović, Ai Weiwei, David Altmejd, El Anatsui, assume vivid astro focus, Lynda Benglis, Rackstraw Downes, Glenn Ligon, Robert Mangold, Catherine Opie, Mary Reid Kelley, Sarah Sze, and Tabaimo across four episodes.
We will be posting additional previews, resources, features, and more throughout the weeks leading into broadcast. Be sure to join us on Facebook and Twitter—and keep an eye on the Art21 website—to catch the latest on Season 6.
In the meantime, check out the season trailer and episode listing below, and please feel free to let us know what you think about the new season in the comments!