The last decade of a wild a millennium, the 1990s rejected the fashions and practices of the 80s in preference of grunge and hip hop. Cable TV and public Internet transformed lifestyles, learning, and social culture. The 1990s became a period of intense political movement throughout the world, as countries like those from the Warsaw Pact, South Africa, and Chile transitioned to democratically elected governments placing more power into the hands of their people, and Nelson Mandela’s election effectively ended apartheid in South Africa. Along with the changes in popular and political culture, the art market for contemporary prints experienced a period of change as well. Unlike the 1980s, the frenzy surrounding printmaking subsided in the 1990s. Sadly, printmaking lost its previous popularity as the world began to face economic struggles. Art was soon viewed as a frivolous commodity, forcing connoisseurship to decline.
The art of the 1990s lost the demanded precision of previous decades. The message created through works of art became the primary focus of artists who opted to engage the viewer, forcing them to confront the uglier and uncomfortable realities of society. Many artists used installation art as a way to upset traditional gallery spaces and to assault all senses of the viewer. With new global awareness stimulated by the Internet and countries in crisis, art began to fervently reference the global community.
In this dynamic 1996 print, Joel Shapiro focuses on geometric elements that suggest anthropomorphic qualities of movement and vigor. See this work on view in “It’s New / It’s Now: Recent Gifts of Contemporary Prints and Drawings” at the MIA.
Check back next week when we explore the digital revolution, Homeland Security Advisory System, sustainability, and Ugg boots of the 2000s.
Joel Shapiro (American, born 1941), Untitled, 1996, color screenprint. Published by Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, New York; edition of 108, Anonymous gift
More about the artist and print
Joel Shapiro was first recognized in the 1970s for his Post-Minimalist sculptures, arrangements of simplified geometric elements that suggest anthropomorphic qualities. Shapiro explained, “I think there are certain fundamental formal relationships that are profoundly human. Do they extend beyond yourself? They must.” In both his three- and two-dimensional work, Shapiro deftly exploits these formal relationships—between individual elements, between parts and the whole, and between space and surface—to create dynamic, powerfully expressive art.
Visit “It’s New / It’s Now: Recent Gifts of Contemporary Prints and Drawings” to see this work by Joel Shapiro and 120 other contemporary prints and drawings in person. Reserve your tickets today!
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