Season 6 of the Peabody Award-winning series "Art in the Twenty-First Century includes featured artists Marina Abramovic, 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.
The sixth season of PBS's Peabody-winning series showcases 13 visual artists, including internationally renowned talents Marina Abramović and Ai Weiwei, both of whom have inspired full-length documentaries (and have graced New York City with landmark sculptures and installations). Arranged by theme, the four episodes--change, boundaries, history, and balance--allow subjects to share thoughts about their work while setting up shows and working on a variety of projects. In "Change," Los Angeles photographer Catherine Opie takes portraits of her working-class neighbors and completes a corporate commission with personal significance, Nigerian-based multimedia artist El Anatsui talks about his roots in Ghana and creates undulating sheets of metal from bottle caps, and Chinese sculptor Ai speaks about his striking wood and metal constructions, but probation forbids him from discussing his 2011 arrest on political grounds, so his assistants fill in some of the details. In "History," Yugoslavia-born conceptual artist Abramović credits her stoic communist parents for her "physical endurance and extreme willpower." Indeed, she doesn't appear to move once during the performance she contributes. Other subjects include Japanese animator Tabaimo, British-born realist painter Rackstraw Downes, and American filmmaker Mary Reid Kelley, who incorporates family members into her playful pieces. Simply watching these artists work with neon, wire, plaster, and other media provides the primary characteristic of a program that eschews traditional narration. Art in the Twenty-First Century may be short on biographical detail, but the insights into the creative process represent a significant compensating factor. --Kathleen C. Fennessy