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on January 22, 2002
As a new century dawns the international public is confronted by an ever more complex artistic culture. Never content to cover old ground, today's artists are experimenting with increasingly diverse media, engaging a wider variety of issues and flooding their work with more ambiguity then ever before. We exit museums, galleries and public spaces questioning the nature of the new and unfamiliar objects we encounter, daunted by the challenge of understanding how they relate to the society in which we live.
Art in the Twenty-First Century brings us closer to the understanding we're looking for. The series shows us today's top artists (e.g. Richard Serra, Matthew Barney and others) discussing their own work, giving us the opportunity to begin to comprehend their art as the outcome of their personal experiences and interaction with the world at large. We witness the artists in their studios, on site, AS WELL AS in their homes and with their families, leading lives not disimilar from our own - extracting fodder for their artistic visions from everyday observations and occurences.
Set in four epsiodes, the series groups the artists loosely according to themes (i.e. Place, Spirituality, Identity and Consumption). In such a way, we are offered a point of departure for considering a given artist's priorities and concerns, as well as a method for realizing relationships which may exist between two or more artists working in vastly different styles.
After watching Art in the Twenty-First Century you will feel equipped to embrace the ambiguity of contemporary art, to assess the integrity and thoughtfulness of work you may not even like, and to appreciate the wide array of perspectives and processes by which today's artists dissect and reassemble the modern world.
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on November 16, 2009
I teach high school art (and science) to students are "at-risk" for a lot of bad things, not the least of which is never graduating from high school.

For two years now, my students--most of who have never been to an art museum or thought too much about art--have responded positively to a number of the artists and their stories portrayed here. It's an eye-opener for many of them, all the different ways people can be good at art.

I'll continue to show this DVD, and those from other seasons, to my students.
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on June 24, 2014
The Production is well done with great insights into artists' thinking. Definitely for more mature, open-minded viewers--high school kids have a hard time appreciating the artwork, I think, if they aren't particularly interested in art. the scope and media of the art work covered is hard to capture in video. I prefer Simon Schama's Power of Art series for drama.
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on November 24, 2009
Offers great insight into the artistic process. A solid selection of American contemporary visual artists. Very high producton quality.
A balm for the soul of the artist seeking the like-minded. Very useful as an educational tool for high schools and post secondary institutions.
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VINE VOICEon January 12, 2011
Art it turns out is not all that complicated and not all that hard to understand if we just find the right way to approach it. ART 21 allows us to approach art just as an artist does: as a way of establishing a rapport and ongoing dialogue with the world. Each episode features four artists & each artist invites us into their artistic space & shares with us not only the evolution of individual works & shows in progress, but also a petit autobiography (including intimate details about why they began creating & continue to create) that gives us an ideal point of entry into their personalities, motivations, & thought processes. Most of the artists here were born in the 60's & do not present themselves as seers or sages (as early and mid 20th cent artists often did) but simply as normal humans who happen to think visually. That's refreshing.

The strength of the series is its lack of pretension and the way that it allows the artists to speak directly to us, and many of the artists are extremely articulate & fascinating to listen to (I was especially impressed with Ann Hamilton). This series avoids (mod, postmod & other) theory & instead foregrounds the artist as a developer of specific skills & strategies. It also foregrounds the artist as an often private creature involved in crafting a highly personal vision, albeit one that is ultimatley meaningless unless shared. The viewer therefore feels invited into the artist's space and vision and feels very welcome there. ART 21 is therefore a very pleasing introduction/orientation into the world of art. After watching a couple seasons worth of ART 21, viewers will likely feel that artists are people just like themselves but with one slight difference: they are obsessively devoted to their work.

The weakness of the series is that many of the artists selected seem to be carving out very private niches and although they may desire to connect with audiences, their work just doesn't give audiences much to connect to. The artists themselves are all interesting in their way, but the work presented does not always seem to be as interesting or evocative as the people describing it. In fact much of the work is virtually impossible to decipher without the artist's autobiography & self-commentary & the detailed explanation of the relation between self & material. All of the artists are dealing with memory & commenting on the way we use art to remember the past as well as connect to the present. But after awhile the content or message just seems generic/interchangable/inconsequential; what really singles individual artists out is not their message but their work habits, their techniques & their materials.

Most of the artists in this series were born after 1960. For this generation, it's not about the finished product or a fixed message; its about creating art that invites audiences to become part of the creative process & to become producers of their own interpretations & meanings. Perhaps the artist has never really been a meaning-maker, but simply one who examines the ways we make meaning out of routine & ritual; out of craft & technique; and out of close contact with the physical world. This certainly seems to be the underlying message of the series.

Perhaps future episodes/seasons or a future PBS series will feature not only individual artists discussing their own work, but panel discussions that put artists (from various generations, genders, & cultures) in dialogue with each other and with art world types (curators & critics...).

Highly recommended to both those with a casual and a longstanding interest in art.
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on January 1, 2013
Great review of Contemporary Art, Artists, and Art-making strategies.
I will return to these videos for inspiration over and over again.
Great information for art students and art courses.
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on August 28, 2007
The artists that are interviewed in these videos give a very myopic view of what modern artists are doing these days and what is on their minds. The focus is entirely on art stars who basically run in the same circles of galleries and therefore have a very similar sense of aesthetics regardless of medium, with very few exceptions.

There are times that a few of the artists included say some interesting things but often times enough, it's hard to see what they are saying has to do with the actual art that they are showing. Richard Sierra (1st season) and Elizabeth Murray(2nd season) are the high points of this series as I see it. They both give honest looks into their thought processes as artists, and without the pretensions of self-importance that most of the artists portray.

It's unfortunate that the producers couldn't find at least a few artists off the beaten path who are doing interesting things that aren't so main-stream for the art world. Perhaps that's too high-minded, but I think it would have made for a way more fascinating view into what is really happening in art in the 21 century!
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on July 16, 2013
It is an enjoyable series to watch with lovely commentary and insights by the artists themselves.Well worth a look if you're interested in contemporary American Artists and all mediums considered (painting, sculpture, installation, video).
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on December 30, 2014
These DVDs are excellent ways to experience different artists creative processes. It is also excellent in that the artists discuss how and were they get their ideas and how they view their own work.
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on December 29, 2014
A fantastic series documenting art practice at the start of the 21st century. I regularly refer back to this DVD as its artists are still affecting artists today.
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