5 Artists Who Have Taught Us To See Visual Culture

July 30, 2013 General 0 Comments

Visual CultureInterested in how art communicates to the public?

Visual artists are often characterized by their cross-media techniques. Their work may play with various art and design methods, advertising, fashion and images from popular culture. Visual art is noteworthy because it illustrates “a dialogic interplay of high and low cultural forms,” notes Martin Irvine of Georgetown University’s Communication, Culture & Technology Program.

Learn about these five famous visual artists and how their cross-media techniques influenced our culture:

Robert Rauschenberg

October 22, 1925 – May 12, 2008

American Painter, Sculptor, Graphic Artist

Best known for: 1950s “Combines,” which mixed non-traditional materials and objects in innovative combinations

Rauschenberg tried pharmacology studies and military service before turning to art in 1947. He took classes at Kansas City Art, the Academie Julian, Black Mountain College, and the Art Students League – meeting several important artists and contemporaries, including his wife Susan Weil.

His first solo exhibit was held at the Betty Parsons Gallery in New York in 1951. His art is characterized by experimentation with photographic blueprints, collages, hanging assemblages and found elements. Well-known series include the White Painting series, the Red Paintings and his Combine work.

He was involved in theater as well as painting and sculpting.

Andy Warhol

August 6, 1928 – February 22, 1987

American Artist

Best known for: Leading the American Pop Art movement in the late 1950s and early 1960s

After graduating from the Carnegie Institute for Technology with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in pictorial design, Warhol moved to New York City to pursue a career as a commercial artist. He worked with Glamour, becoming one of the most successful commercial artists of his time.

He gained much recognition and won many awards for his uniquely whimsical style, which was characterized by a blotted line and rubber stamp technique he developed.

Warhol devoted himself to pop art and painting in the late 1950s. His art focused on mass-produced commercial goods such as Coca Cola, hamburgers and Campbell’s soup cans. He is also well-known for his celebrity portraits. Today, many of his paintings are iconic.

Barbara Kruger

January 26, 1945 –

American Conceptual Artist

Best known for: Her black-and-white photography, overlaid with declarative captions

Kruger did not begin producing her most influential work until the late 1970s and early 1980s. Though she had been focusing on art and poetry, it was not until her collage Untitled (Perfect) was published in 1980 that she gained some recognition. The picture was from a mid-century American print-media source, portraying a woman’s torso and clasped hands. The word perfect was printed along the lower edge of the image.

Many of her collections are styled in a similar way. She utilizes mid-century American sources for her collections. These images are always in black and white. She juxtaposes these images with “raucous, pithy, and often ironic aphorisms, printed in Futura Bold typeface against black, white or deep red text bars,” note critics at Ro Gallery in New York.

Her style may largely be credited to her work in magazine publishing and graphic design.

Bill Viola

January 25, 1951 –

American Contemporary Video Artist

Best known for: His focus on the themes of birth, death and consciousness in his productions

Viola has been instrumental in the establishment of video as a vital form of contemporary art. His work has expanded the scope of technology, content and historical reach for video art.

His work included videotapes, architectural video installations, sound environments, electronic music performances, flat panel video pieces and works for television broadcast. Viola’s video instillations work to create a total environment experience for viewers, surrounding them in image and sound. His collections employ state-of-the-art technologies and are well known for their direction, precision and simplicity.

Viola studied visual art and electronic music at Syracuse University in the 1970s.

Gregory Crewdson

September 26, 1962 –

American Photographer

Best known for: His elaborately staged photographs of American life, with a specific focus on the home and the neighborhood

Crewdson is a prolific contemporary photographer. His images are incredibly detailed and surreal; they have a decidedly cinematic feel and have been compared to Steven Spielberg’s films. These photographs are increasingly spectacular and complex, requiring Hollywood-style lighting, specifically crafted stage sets and the combined efforts of many assistants and technicians.

In different ways, these artists have created multimedia platforms through which they communicate with the public. Whether it is paint, sculptor, photography or video, each has succeeded in mastering their medium. Their work is provocative, begging specific societal questions or evoking specific themes.

What can you learn from the work of these visual artists? As a Communication Design student, you may want to study their techniques and learn how various art forms are impacting communication.


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