SchoolArts Magazine

April 2016

SchoolArts is a national art education magazine committed to promoting excellence, advocacy, and professional support for educators in the visual arts since 1901.

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P eople today have unparalleled access to art and artists and the ability to connect with each other. Before the arrival of the Internet, museums and artists had to be visited in person or through books. This meant that people living in areas far from museums and galleries had little access to contemporary art. Now, a quick Google search will bring you to a seemingly limitless number of museums, galleries, and artists. While art historians like to cat - egorize artists into groups based on style or time period, contemporary art covers a vast range of styles, materi - als, and processes, and does not have a specific beginning or end date. Instead, "contemporary" art refers to work created by living artists. These artists explore every imaginable theme, including personal issues, poli - tics, and goals in ways that both chal- lenge our understanding of the world and create powerful connections between artists, cultures, and people. Understanding the World through Contemporar Art Henrique Oliveira (b. 1973) Henrique Oliveira is known for large-scale sculptural installations that reflect the problem of urban poverty in his native Brazil. His most well-known works, like Tran - sarquitetônica and Desnatureza 2, look like massive liv- ing trees, plants, or organs and fill large galleries. All of his installations are site-specific and made from salvaged scraps of wood found in nearby construction sites and abandoned buildings—a response to the venue's architec - ture, its community, and the time in which it is created. Oliveira envisioned his 250-foot-long (76 meters) installation Transarquitetônica, not as an object, but rather as a total sensory experience involving touch, smell, and sound. It has a corporeal feeling as viewers walk through its tunnels, following a virtual history of architecture from scraps of discarded wood with thatch - ing to brick and stone. The construction of Transar- quitetônica contrasts starkly to the pristine, modern architecture of the gallery, causing viewers to reflect on the impoverished areas of Brazil's large transient cities, called favelas, in which people who are too poor to live in the nearby cities construct their own homes using what - ever is available. Additionally, the Transarquitetônica creates an enclosed space that is reminiscent of the caves that once served as homes for humankind. Chiharu Shiota (b. 1972) The work of Japanese performance and installation artist Chiharu Shiota was inspired by pioneering performance artists of the 1970s such as Ana Mendieta, Janine Antoni, and Rebecca Horn, and sculptors such as Louise Bourgeois. The overriding theme of Shiota's installations is an investi - gation of the traces the human body leaves behind, and the interconnectedness of humanity. The discarded objects she collects for use in her work act as a memorial to lost indi - viduals and fleeting moments. Shiota's education in German art schools oriented her work around the human body and the traces it leaves in the world. Shiota is renowned for her complex webs of black thread, incorporating personal objects and sometimes bod - ies, into a single context. The artist, who manually knots and weaves the thread by hand, views this process as a type of umbilical cord, binding her body to the subject. Labyrinth of Memory was first installed in 2008 in an abandoned apartment formerly inhabited by an elderly woman. The installation is different in each location based on the architecture, but the thread web always incorpo - rates sixteen plain, white dresses. Shiota views the dresses, ensconced in a labyrinth of black thread, as symbols of a "second skin" caught in the daily concerns of space, time, emotion, and work. Such haunting common objects, elevated into a rarified, iconic platform for study, confront viewers with the idea of their own mortality and the lost moments in their lives. SCHOOLARTSMAGAZINE.COM 25 L O O K I N G & L E A R N I N G H E N R I Q U E O L I V E I R A & C H I H A R U S H I O TA Co n t e m p o r a r A r t i s t s Chiharu Shiota, Lab rinth of Memor , 2012. Installation, La Sucriére, Lyon, France. Photo by Sunhi Mang. Courtesy of Chiharu Shiota.

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