I just recently purchased this PBS DVD called “Art 21“, which documents several living artists currently creating new and exciting work in the 21st century. I find this extremely fascinating, because for one, I absolutely love art, especially painting, and I feel very intimately linked to it through color and sound. One big reason for this is that I experience synaesthesia when I hear sound – something that I’ve always experienced but never really talked about for personal reasons, although I’m starting to talk about it a little bit now. So, when I look at paintings (especially abstract ones such as Jackson Pollock for instance), I can “see” sound, just like I can “hear” color. As I’m not really in the art world, I don’t know who most of these people are or what kind of work they are doing, but I found it so fascinating that I thought I would sort of talk about each artist that I learn about, starting with three.

Richard Serra

Serra is a groundbreaker in the world of sculpture, and is doing some very exciting new things with the medium. He creates these absolutely massive, architectural and monolithic sculptures that somehow still contain movement. You can actually walk into these massive sculptures, which kind of ecapsulate the space inside, making the air within sort of part of the sculpture. I get the feeling that these things are something to be experienced as much as seen. I was actually surprised at how fascinated I was with his work, since sculpture and installation don’t usually resonate with me as much as painting does.

Sally Mann

Again, I wasn’t expecting to be as taken with this as I was given that her medium is photography, and black and white photography at that, but I was wrong again – heh. Sally Mann is interested in capturing the everyday and the mundane, but catching it somewhat flawed, or just “off”. Her method of working is really interesting. She uses and old 19th century camera, and take the photographs onto chemically treated glass plates (a 19th century technique) which produces – man, just incredible looking images of seemingly ordinary things. It forces you to re-examine the ordinary in these things and wonder if there’s more to it that you’re missing. Some of the photos turn out ghostly, or ambiguous or obscured in some way. Others are so clear and confront you in such a personal way that they are almost uncomfortable to look at. Great stuff.

Margaret Kilgallen & Barry McGee

This husband and wife (in thier 20’s at the time of the Art 21 documentary – or at least right around 30) work in a really wide variety of mediums and settings. It really wasn’t made clear in the documentary that they were even together, and I just now found out (when I was looking for a link) that Margaret recently died of breast cancer at age 33, which really made me sad. Both of them had a strong connection to underground street art, especially graffiti (which they would do on public walls, fences, trains, whatever – and incredibly great stuff too – these two are truly talented), but also work in the gallery world selling thier work to collectors. It was interesting the dilemma that they found themselves in. On the one hand they enjoyed living as artists and making a living from selling their art, but on the other hand were careful not to lose touch with the world outside of the very closed and elite gallery and auction house world. They were actually more concerned with reaching “regular” people in the real world, than impressing a bunch of art buyers at art auctions, which I thought was extremely cool (something I’m really trying to keep in mind with my music). I was particularly taken with Barry McGee’s work, which was definitely not pretentious and really aimed at a more underground and real art scene, but at the same time the dude has serious chops – really talented.

OK, more to come….