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Merzbau by Kurt Schwitters

Detritus is a fancy word for garbage. It’s usually used a biology term to describe refuse within an environment although artists like to use it because it sounds better than trash.

Many artists have used detritus (in the form of scrounged objects or found objects), but most notable are Kurt Schwitters use of found objects in his piece Merzbau and many of Robert Rauschenberg‘s assemblages.

One of the most recent stabs at collecting detritus can be found in the magazine aptly named Found Magazine. They have a community of readers/collectors who find interesting scraps of people lives and send them in to the magazine that then turns around and publishes the findings.


Helena: The Goldfish Blender by Marco Evaristti

Shock Art is a form of art that utilizes disturbing images, smells or sound to create a “shocking” or unpleasant experience for the viewer. Currently, Shock Art is one of the most marketable art forms on the market today, although there are many critics who dismiss it as “cultural pollution”.

Shock Art also tends to be very controversial because of its use of corpses (be they human or animal), religious figures, or highly pornographic images. Often times this controversy comes from the public’s reaction to the works rather than from within the art community.

Some examples of Shock Art:

Merda d’Artis-ta (1961), a series of 40 tin cans allegedly filled with the excrement of artist Piero Manzoni

Myra, (1997) a portrait of murderer Myra Hindley constructed of children’s handprints, by Marcus Harvey

Orgies of Mystery Theatre, by Hermann Nitsch, a display of music and dance in the midst of “dismembered animal corpses”

So go figure, I was talking with a friend today and I found out I have been miss using the term Modern Art. While art made recently is indeed modern in a sense Modern Art is used to define art created between roughly 1860 to 1970 and is defined by a removal of art tradition to make way for experimentation. Recent artistic productions are referred to as Contemporary Art.

Guess I need to brush up on my Art Speak.

Avant-garde is French for “advanced guard” or “vanguard” and is used in art to refer artists who are experimental or radically different from the norms. These artists push the boundaries of the status quo to create something totally unique and different often spawning new art movements as they do so.

Appropriation is a term first used in photography to describe taking possession of something and calling it your own through the act of photographing it. The term came into being in the 1980’s when photographer Sherrie Levine photographed a number of famous photographs by Walker Evans and displayed them as art. By doing so, Sherrie Levine challenged the ideas of authenticity and originality.

Before Sherrie Levine, a number of artist throughout the twentieth century used the act of appropriation in their art. The incorporation of newspaper and “found objects” in art goes back as far as the early twentieth century.

Many people disagree on what exactly Post Modernism is, but the general consensus is Post Modernist art is art that rejects aspects of Modernism or appears after a certain date (which can change depending on who you talk to). Post Modernist artists employ a number of elements in their work including appropriation, collage and the depiction of consumer and popular culture.

Like Modernism, Post Modernism also extends outside of the art realm into areas such as architecture and music.

Modernism is a cultural movement that occurred during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century in opposition to traditional values of various arenas such as art, architecture, music and literature. Modernism encouraged the examination of these values with the intent to replace “outdated” or “non-progressive” values with newer more “modern” ideas hence the name.

In terms of art, the “avant-garde” were considered the first artists to embrace the ideas of Modernism and incorporate them into their work. These artists embraced disruption and revolution associated with Modernism to create new art movements such as Dada, Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art and Minimalism, just to name a few.

Assemblage is a fancy word for a work of art that incorporates three-dimensional elements (often found objects) into the piece. These works are considered by some to be collages, but the main distinction between a collage and an assemblage is the 3-D aspect the artist uses in his or her work.

Today, many artists will ride the line between assemblages and collages, so the safe way to identify if a work or art is an assemblage or a collage is to go with what the artist calls it.

”When you put together things that other people have thrown out, you’re really bringing them to life – a spiritual life that surpasses the life for which they were originally created.”

-Louise Berliawsky Nevelson

Trompe l’oeil (tromp loy) describes art that is made to trick the viewer into thinking that an image is real. Think of it like the old Road Runner cartoons where Wile E. Coyote paints a tunnel on a rock and suddenly a train comes roaring out. Same concept except there won’t be any trains coming out (we hope).

Trope l’oeil dates back to the Renaissance when artist began using perspective to give their paintings a more realistic look, but is used today to primarily describe works with photo realistic qualities.

This Week

Dec. 12 - Dec. 19, 2008
UT Dallas (Art Gallery)
Fall Arts Festival

Opening reception Dec. 12 @ 6:30 pm

Artillary Retrospective