Artist Interviews :: Top Contemporary Artists? Or Are They?

Continuing forward with our discussion, what does it mean to be an artist? (in 2018) – Below, I have organized several interviews/ talks taken from various time periods with some of today’s top contemporary artists.

Several of the interviews below will be screened and discussed in class on 9/18/18.

*In the comments section below, please leave your sentiments about what you have observed.

1. Does one artist stand out to you? If so, describe why?

2. Do you see and hear more similarities or contrasts between the artists? What are they?

3. Do you have a favorite artist that you have heard speak in a recent interview or talk? Feel free to paste links into the comments section as well.

 

Video with Damien Hirst- 

http://www.damienhirst.com/video/2007/ftlog-interview

“I just thought, ‘What can you pit against death?”[1]

‘For the Love of God’, a platinum skull set with diamonds, is one of Hirst’s most important and widely recognised works. Its raw materials define it as an artwork of unprecedented scale. The 32 platinum plates making up ‘For the Love of God’ are set with 8,601 VVS to flawless set diamonds, weighing a massive 1,106 carats. The teeth inserted into the jaw are real and belong to the original skull.

The skull from which ‘For the Love of God’ was cast, was purchased from a London taxidermist and subsequently subjected to intensive bioarchaeological analysis and radiocarbon dating. This research revealed it dated from around 1720 – 1810, and was likely to be that of a 35-year-old man of European/Mediterranean ancestry. The title originates from exclamations Hirst’s mother would make on hearing plans for new works when he was starting out as an artist. As he explains: “She used to say, ‘For the love of God, what are you going to do next!’”

‘For the Love of God’ acts as a reminder that our existence on earth is transient. Hirst combined the imagery of classic memento mori with inspiration drawn from Aztec skulls and the Mexican love of decoration and attitude towards death. He explains of death: “You don’t like it, so you disguise it or you decorate it to make it look like something bearable – to such an extent that it becomes something else.”[2]

The incorporation of the large central stone was inspired by memories of the comic ‘2000 AD’, which Hirst used to read as a child. He relates how the comic, “used to have a character in it called Tharg the Mighty who had a circle on his forehead. He was like a kind of powerful, God-like figure who controlled the universe,” Hirst explains. “It kind of just looked like it needed something. A third eye; a connection to Jesus and his dad.”[3]

Alongside their dazzling brilliance and “Eucharistic” beauty, Hirst’s fascination with diamonds results partly from the mutterings and uncertainty surrounding their inherent worth. In the face of the industry’s ability to establish their irreplaceable value, it becomes necessary to question whether they are “just a bit of glass, with accumulated metaphorical significance? Or [whether they] are genuine objects of supreme beauty connected with life.”[4] The cutthroat nature of the diamond industry, and the capitalist society which supports it, is central to the work’s concept. Hirst explains that the stones “bring out the best and the worst in people […] people kill for diamonds, they kill each other”.[5]

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1. Damien Hirst – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6jQ6isqr2OY

2. Jeff Koons – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wZWwqlcA50w

3. Kara Walker – Domino Sugar Factory Interview – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sRkP5rcXtys&t=2s 

4. Marina Ambramovic – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M4so_Z9a_u0

5. James Turrell –  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_bvg6kaWIeo

6. Mariko Mori – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qztEpDgYA1Y

18 thoughts on “Artist Interviews :: Top Contemporary Artists? Or Are They?

  1. 1. The artist that stood out the most to me was James Turrell. I admire how he found an interesting and new way to focus on a traditional topic in art (lighting). In traditional drawings and paintings light is an important way to create mood or create realistic drawings. However, Turrell found a new way to look at and focus on light as the art form. I feel like contemporary art is about finding something new in art; either the way your see, feel, experience something. Turrell found a very organic and beautiful way to to reintroduce light to the viewer to experience and see in a new and creative way.\
    2. I see more similarities between the artists. they are all artists and feel a passion for what they are creating.They all create off paper and create it to bring people together. They all find their own way to present themselves to the public eye, which each way is different, it is something you have to do when you’re in the public eye. They are not their own island: All the artists seem to have at least one other person that is involved in the their creation.
    3. After watching the videos I was really captured by James Turrells work and was interested in looking further into his work. I really admire how he continuously works with this theme of light and trying to create an experience for his viewers and seems to continue to create new ways to do this. He seems to be an artist who really put a lot of focus and thought into his work and wants to dissect every way you can use light to create art that makes the viewer think and feel something.
    https://www.dw.com/en/james-turrell-master-of-light/av-45383961

  2. 1. Does one artist stand out to you? If so, describe why?
    The artist that stood out to me was Marina Abramovic , in particular “The Artists Manifesto”. After watching the videos posted and doing a little extra research I found that she is considered “The Grandmother of Performance Art”. I then realized that this manifesto is a performance piece (as she mentioned meant to be read aloud by a group of people), not simply a speech! That changed the entire meaning of her manifesto. I found a lot of humor in the video. It’s a funny concept to state an entire set of guidelines or rules for something that really has none. Or further more for a group of people (artists) who are known for breaking the rules and can often be defiant!

    There were also some deeper moments Ms Abramovic’s Manifesto as well. A favorite was “An artist relation to inspiration…”

    “An artists relation to inspiration: An artist should look deep inside himself for inspiration. The deeper inside the artist looks inside himself the more universal the artist becomes. The artist is universe, the artist is universe, the artist is universe.”

    According to dictionary.com the definition of the universe is…

    “The Universe is all of space and time and their contents, including planets, stars, galaxies, and all other forms of matter and energy. While the spatial size of the entire Universe is still unknown, it is possible to measure the observable universe.”

    This speaks to me as the inspiration for an artist really is infinite. Just as the universe as we know it to be infinite. This also speaks to me because I believe at our core we are all more similar than different. Within our human realm of perception all thoughts, feelings, and actions stem from fear and love. To hammer the universal idea home art is thee universal visual language, unrestricted by language or socio-economical level.

    Another segment of “The Artists Manifesto” I enjoyed was “An artists conduct in relation to work”…

    “An artist conduct in relation to work: An artist should avoid going to the studio everyday. An artist should not treat his work schedule as a bank employee does. An artist should explore life and work only when idea comes to him in a dream or during the day as a vision that arise a surprise. An artist should not repeat himself. An artist should not over produce… An Artist should avoid his own art pollution”

    I feel as though this was taking a jab at the “art factories” that we see from a lot of contemporary artists today. People do work for these art factories as bank employees. Which does ask the question how can one artist compete? How does a mom and pop store compete against Walmart? “An artist should avoid his own art pollution”, very strong language!

    2. Do you see and hear more similarities or contrasts between the artists? What are they?
    I really enjoyed watching and listening to this sample of contemporary artists. The only similarity I observed was that they all identify as being artists. Each artist spoke of their work in a different manner, procedures of creating, and methods of researching were all very different.

    3. Do you have a favorite artist that you have heard speak in a recent interview or talk? Feel free to paste links into the comments section as well.
    One of my favorite contemporary artists is Anish Kapoor, the space where his art is being exhibited plays a big factor in what he creates. Here are two links to Kapoor’s artist talks and interviews.

    1. I also liked listening to Marina Ambramovic artist manifesto. I thought it was humorous and well said. It made what could have been a simple speech into something with interest and comedy.

  3. 1. Does one artist stand out to you? If so, describe why?
    When I watched the videos I found Marina Ambramovic and Kara Walker to be thought provoking and very interesting. I have never really looked into preforming art before, but found Marina Ambramovic to be fascinating. I also thought that Kara Walker’s personality helped to define her as an artist. I thought that the way she educates herself through research and learning about the historical background of her subjects was refreshing. Listening to her comments was very relaxing and calming. Out of all the artists she articulates herself the best. However, I did find Marina the most interesting. She instructed the listeners about new techniques and I enjoy learning about the process she develops when she creates her art. She also has a very calming demeanor and when I watched more videos on her I found that she studies mediation. Much of her modern work is silent and still. I think her love of meditation is reflected in her artwork.

    2. Do you see and hear more similarities or contrasts between the artists? What are they?
    I see that all these people are artists, but I think they are different in the way they approach art emotionally and the way they get their artwork to be viewed. I think that Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons are not really emotionally attached to their work. The way they address their viewers is very up tight and snobby. They are short in their answers or do not answer the question at all. Now when you hear Kara Walker, Marina Ambramovic, and James Turrell speak about their work you can feel their passion and love for art. Each one of them answers the questions of the interviewer with direct and concise answers. When they talk they also make sure to give off a friendly and inviting persona.

    3. Do you have a favorite artist that you have heard speak in a recent interview or talk? Feel free to paste links into the comments section as well.
    Well to be honest I have never really listened to artists talk before. I love history and have taken most of my inspiration from the impressionist painters. There are no video interviews with these artists, but Georgia O’Keeffe also inspires me. I found a video of her talking about her work from when she moved to New Mexico. I enjoy the way she talks about her art and looks at the world. When she talks I feel like I am just talking to a friend at lunch. She is passionate about her art and she expresses it with such calmness and happiness. Although the video is old and the quality is not the best, the listener recognizes the amount of effort and passion that she puts into her work. She looks at skulls of wild animals in the desert as shapes and objects of beauty that she gains inspiration from for her artwork.

  4. 1. Does one artist stand out to you? If so, describe why?

    Kara Walker’s talk stood out to me. She was not trying to make he art sound fancier than it was. She made her talk relatable by not using complicated words and language. She made it well rounded bringing in talking about many aspects of the work; her historical research, her material, thought process, and work process. Like the way she describes the process of using sugar like the sugar residue that still existed in her piece’s space. You can tell in the video that making this piece was for her more about exploring her creative abilities and finding new ways to define herself as an artist; not just a stunt to amaze people.

    2. Do you see and hear more similarities or contrasts between the artists? What are they?

    While these artists are similar in the way that they are all just trying to produce art for others to see, there are more differences than similarities between them. Damian Hirst spoke more about how his pieces were successful and did not talk about process or his inspirations. Jeff Koons used fancy art language to talk about his works. Kara Walker uses more simple language and really gets into her idea process so the viewer can see exactly how her piece came together. Marina Abromovic really speaks from the heart. She talks about the emotional reasons for her pieces. She makes her Manifeso piece sound so personal even though they were rules for other artists. When James Turell talks about his art he uses more art language, talking about his pieces in terms of style words like shape, background, and picture plane. When Mariko Mori talks about her work, she ties it into history. Her work is based in history so she uses it to explain her artistic decisions.

    3. Do you have a favorite artist that you have heard speak in a recent interview or talk? Feel free to paste links into the comments section as well.

    One of my favorite artists is Juno Calypso. She does work that explores a lot of important themes and questions while still keeping comedy in her photographs.

  5. Having already published a graphic novel by self-publishing, I decided to research an artist that comes closest to what I have done and hope to do more of in the future. The artist that I did some research on was Aaron McGruder. Aaron McGruder is the creator of the television cartoon series, “The Boondocks.” GcGruder wrote the storylines and created the characters. He first started out as a comic strip artist for the college that he attended in Maryland in the late 90s. From there, he went on to create more comic strips for various newspaper syndicates not only in the U.S, but in other countries. Eventually he ended up with his own television cartoon series, which lasted four seasons during the years 2005-20014. McGruder’s work has been described as very controversial, “Gangster concepts”, and “Glorification of crime”. His work has also been described as “Hip”, “Funny”, and “Edgy”.

    I once watched all four seasons of Aaron McGruder’s “The Boondocks”, and FELL IN LOVE instantly with his work. I felt that having grown up in an urban atmosphere where I was constantly surrounded by violence, dysfunction at home, dysfunction at school-with teachers that just didn’t understand the experiences of a “ghetto kid” (as I could easily now describe myself and how I was back then), and the dysfunction constantly around me in the neighborhood that I grew up, It wasn’t difficult to relate to some of McGruder’s concepts. I felt that maybe I should try and do something similar to what McGruder did because I too had lots of stories to tell. And like McGruder, I wanted to do it with comedy. Also like McGruder, My stories are filled with controversial topics that address violence, racism, adult content, and strong language. But like my childhood life growing up in the projects, I like to think that my graphic novel is gritty and honest in some ways, though it’s a fictional series of short stories and fictional characters (13 total). Still, all of the characters that I created came from real life experiences, and even some of the stories told. After watching Aaron McGruder’s “The Boondocks”, I am convinced that he must’ve done the same…taken real life experiences and people and turning them into a comic strip/cartoon.

  6. 1. The artist that stood out to me the most was Kara Walker. I feel like she doesn’t hold herself in high regard when talking about her art, but rather talks about what it means to her and the message she is trying to make with it. The way she speaks is very casual and no matter who she talks to she would be very easy to understand. I can appreciate the amount of research that she does to make sure her artwork has meaning behind it and that she fully understands why she is doing something. I think dedication like that, no matter what ends up being produced is something to be held highly. I personally don’t do as much research when creating my art and I find it hard to talk about. I think after listening and watching her process on how she determines what her next project will be was inspiring and someone who can easily be looked up to as a great artist. She is very humble in the way she speaks and presents herself and I think that’s a great quality to have.
    2. I see a lot of contrasts between the artists. Some who come up with the ideas and have people do the artwork itself, and those who do both themselves. I think while both outcomes end up producing great works it takes a certain amount of dedication to always want to do it yourself and only rely on someone else if the work load is too much. I can understand where some of these people come from and if we all had to money to pay people to make our work, would we? It’s hard to say since only a handful of artists have made it big enough to do so. That aside I think it also affects how people carry themselves and present themselves to others. When they end up doing all the work themselves they can talk about their work more, the process and what it means to them and why they did it in the first place. I noticed those who have the money and work with a team of people seem to have interviews where many questions go unanswered and still leave you questioning their work.
    3. I honestly don’t really listen to many artists speak outside of school (bad habit). One artist in particular that I’ve been watching for a while though is Noah Bradley. He’s a digital artist and on his YouTube channel he has lots videos based on critique, tutorial and just talking about art. Even though its digital it’s helped me translate that to painting and has helped me improve greatly over these past two years.
    https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCYu89Q_krburzkoDSpm5xjw

  7. Probably in unpopular opinion, I really liked Damien Hirst. Hirsts interviews are so blunt and sometimes emotionless and I find that interesting on how he actually talks about his work. You get a sense on how an artist feels about his work by the way he or she talks about it. Hirst talks about his work in such a nonchalance way that it kind of rubs off to his work and could sway how a viewer feels about the work l if they have heard an interview from Hirst.

    Each of the artists talk about their work in different ways. Many are more passionate about their work than others. Some artists loop you around the question and it seems like they’re answering it but at the end of their answer you realize they didn’t even try and answer. It is interesting to see the different levels of the artists knowledge of being able to talk about his or hers work in interviews while others have difficulty putting their point across.

    My favorite artist interview that I have watched would have to be Jean-Michel Basquiat interviews. There aren’t many of them but the ones that we do have really show how his mannerism is just like his art.
    Here are a couple that you can sit and watch:

  8. One artist that really stands out for me is Jeff Koons, although his interviews aren’t the most thrilling when he is discussing his work I find his work to be the most relatable to connect yourself to the artwork. His work may look simple at a quick glance but when you really take a closer look at it you can see the incredible detail the metal sculpture holds. I find it amazing that he can get his materials to show the wrinkles of a latex balloon for his balloon dog sculptures. The details are breathtaking. Koons explains that his art “affirms your own existence; the work is reflective and you yourself is reflected back into the work when observing it.” I love how his art gives you the feeling of childhood and is playful and fun. Honestly in today’s world its nice to have a visual break from all the seriousness to enjoy and reminisce about a sense of familiarity. Koons’ work is avant-garde in a sense and is transformation.

    My all time favorite artist is Jackson Pollock, he is one to be considered as very controversial in the sense that his paintings we associate with him today are “simple splatter paintings that anyone could do.” I find his work to be revolutionary if you see where he started from to what his last paintings before his accident were. He went from using traditional forms of art making to rolling canvas onto the floor and experimenting with different paints and materials that other artists weren’t using at that time. Pollock teaches us that is it okay to be different, to paint in a different way than everyone else. That you don’t need images to express a feeling, you can get feelings through the color and different strokes he used to apply paint. He even applied paint with materials other than a paintbrush. Pollock is someone we can learn a lot from and is an example on how artwork can be reflective for the viewer not just the artist. In the video below, it’s not an interview with Pollock but an investigation on why his work is meaningful.

  9. 1. Does one artist stand out to you? If so, describe why?

    Anselm Kiefer is the artist who stands out to me. A German painter and sculptor whose works are not particularly made by oil paint but are completed by materials like clay, straw, and ash. Breathtaking in scale and strikingly impressive in technique, his works always carry social and political contexts narrating the dark history of his homeland and the annihilation of the country after world war II. what is astounding about his works to me is, how the paintings could portray the actual face of war. He believes that the “creation and destruction are one and the same.” From my viewpoint he is not only a painter but, is an ambitious historian to whom the blank pages of a book are not a suitable platform for writing. He writes the history by painting mediums and lets his canvases embrace any other materials that could make the Image easier to receive by its observer.
    (This is my favorite video of him. I highly recommend it)

    2. Do you see and hear more similarities or contrasts between the artists? What are they?

    It seems difficult to observe similarities between artists when the visual features of their work seem different but if we apply our minds more meticulous to their artistic behavior, we would notice the world of similarities especially in how they treat themselves as an artist. First, artists have devoted themselves to make art. no matter what medium they use to express themselves, they always feel responsible and committed to make art. It is a serious commitment, an unending lifestyle and a reason to survive. Artists also are the big embracers of imperfections. They all have a scroll of mistakes and wrong steps during their professional career. Another point that always takes my attention is their attempt to establish their personal signature that always has been influential in stabilizing their identity among other artists. They all knew their signature is the representation of their work’s authenticity.

  10. In our last class I mentioned Aaron McGruder, creator of the controversial cartoon series ‘The Boondocks’ because I feel that the type of artwork and storylines in my graphic novel are similar to his artworks and storylines. As I was researching some interviews of Aaron McGruder, I came across this one, where he was asked about his view on Martin L. King Jr. and African Americans today. He was asked this question because he made an episode of The Boondocks where MLK Jr. wakes up from a four decode old coma and is displeased with African Americans today. In a nutshell, Aaron McGruder basically says that MLK Jr.’s philosophy of nonviolence would not fit into today’s society and this would cause a rift between Dr. King and African Americans. The conflict in the cartoon episode causes much more controversy in that it uses the ‘N’ word. While my work may be very offensive to some readers and those who express an interest in art, I don’t and would never go that far so as to use the ‘N’ word. Growing up in the ghettos all my life, we always talked like that, and sometimes I like to display that raw, unfiltered, grittiness in the episodes in my graphic novel. I’d like to hear people’s opinion on this. You guys can reply or we can discuss in class. Here is the link to the interview that I am talking about. https://youtu.be/Ts-dUqWules

  11. One artist that really stands out for me is Jeff Koons, although his interviews aren’t the most thrilling when he is discussing his work I find his work to be the most relatable to connect yourself to the artwork. His work may look simple at a quick glance but when you really take a closer look at it you can see the incredible detail the metal sculpture holds. I find it amazing that he can get his materials to show the wrinkles of a latex balloon for his balloon dog sculptures. The details are breathtaking. Koons explains that his art “affirms your own existence; the work is reflective and you yourself is reflected back into the work when observing it.” I love how his art gives you the feeling of childhood and is playful and fun. Honestly in today’s world its nice to have a visual break from all the seriousness to enjoy and reminisce about a sense of familiarity. Koons’ work is avant-garde in a sense and is transformation.

    My all time favorite artist is Jackson Pollock, he is one to be considered as very controversial in the sense that his paintings we associate with him today are “simple splatter paintings that anyone could do.” I find his work to be revolutionary if you see where he started from to what his last paintings before his accident were. He went from using traditional forms of art making to rolling canvas onto the floor and experimenting with different paints and materials that other artists weren’t using at that time. Pollock teaches us that is it okay to be different, to paint in a different way than everyone else. That you don’t need images to express a feeling, you can get feelings through the color and different strokes he used to apply paint. He even applied paint with materials other than a paintbrush. Pollock is someone we can learn a lot from and is an example on how artwork can be reflective for the viewer not just the artist. In the video below, it’s not an interview with Pollock but an investigation on why his work is meaningful.

  12. Somehow my response disappeared.

    1. Does one artist stand out to you? If so, describe why?

    Kara Walker stood out the most. I feel that her need to bring issues to the forefront of our consciousness is important. If no speaks out many would not be aware that there is a problem. When you go to a show featuring her work there are clusters of people around each piece analyzing and quietly trying to decipher what she is trying to convey. Many walk away enlightened. I believe that this is the role of the artist and she is achieving it.

    2. Do you see and hear more similarities or contrasts between the artists? What are they?

    The similarities they all embody is they have an overwhelming need to put their message/ art out there. The driving force for each may be different. You can tell some do it for wealth more than anything else, while others may do it for the love of creation, and wealth is a benefit.

    3. Do you have a favorite artist that you have heard speak in a recent interview or talk? Feel free to paste links into the comments section as well.

    Lately, I have been admiring the art and activism of Ricardo Levins Morales. Morales prides himself an activist that creates “Social Justice Art”. He has been chosen to create images, logos and posters for political groups and organizations and is actively speaking out for various causes. He has a studio and store where you can purchase some of his works in Minneapolis. You can also purchase prints online at http://www.rlmartstudio.com.
    Watch “Longfellow Business Spotlight: Ricardo Levins Morales Art Studio” on Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/284734707?ref=em-share

  13. 1. Does one artist stand out to you? If so, describe why?

    I would like to talk about James Turrell. In the history of art, light has always played the role of an auxiliary work. The creative material in the hands of the artist can be oil paint, dust, stone or anything with a specific texture, but it will not be light. James Terrell is like a romantic magician, visualizing the invisible light. If Rothko’s paintings are to dissipate the canvas and the wall as if it were a subtle color so that the color spreads infinitely into space, then the device of Terrell is the opposite of Rothko: Here, color is given life and emotion by light, and three-dimensional space is also extended into plane by ubiquitous light. So whether it is Rothko or Turrell, our vision is no longer able to focus and stare in the usual way in the face of such works. The place we are in is no longer a figurative space, but more like a spiritual world.

    2. Do you see and hear more similarities or contrasts between the artists? What are they?

    They all have different features, if we say Jeff Koons has really good talking skills then we really should compare him to Marina Abramovic, who speak without the euphemistic distraction of topics, and speak from her heart.

    3. Do you have a favorite artist that you have heard speak in a recent interview or talk? Feel free to paste links into the comments section as well.

    One of my favorite designer, I read his book when I was undergraduate, it inspired my life, my design, and my art. His name is Kenya Hara.

  14. 1.Marina Abramovic. This is my first time to see what is the conceptual performance artist.

    2.The creative thinking. They all show their own unique creative style. Some might be a little cultural shock, the diamond skull. But, I think this creativity is the reason why they are called top contemporary artists.

    3. This is my first semester as an art student. I haven’t seen many artists so far.

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