The best thing in the world is not love, sex or respect. It doesn’t involve making friends, influencing people, or rising above an insurmountable foe. The best thing is simple and easily attainable: a magical entity that will earn you all of the above, and will also trick you into believing you are smart.
This, of course, is sounding knowledgeable about art – and that, of course, is the ability to parrot certain words out of your delicately sneering mouth. Nothing will spike your quasi-intellectual quota faster, or match your shoes better. Today, anything can be art, so it’s best to be prepared with a crisp and cosmopolitan insight – if you’re louder than the other mimosa-wielding automatons in the gallery, people will notice. We’re rearing up for the bright-lights-big-city “real world” nowadays, as few people fail to remind us – so we’d better get prepared.
For your future reference and mine, I’ve compiled a list of several influential artistic movements, as well as some horrifying overgeneralizations. It’s the next-best thing to actually “going to school” and “learning something” about art, and it doesn’t require prolonged exposure to berets. Mazel tov!
Renaissance: If you want to stare at a naked baby Jesus and not be immediately damned for eternity, this is your bag. This 13th-century movement emphasized symmetry and single-focus order; Raphael was in the forefront and painted these religious representations in the Vatican. (This was several years before he became the red Ninja Turtle and got a cool stabby weapon.) Italians were all over this movement. Side note: Geniuses were Italian, and Italians eat pasta, and pasta has carbs, so genius equals carbs. Suck on that, Atkins.
Illusionism: MTV for the 15th century. Artists tried to trick the viewer into believing false objects were real, incorporating 3D techniques on flat surfaces. Many cathedral ceilings were adorned with convincing clouds, roofs and nudie cherubs. The artists (especially Andrea Mantegna and Correggio) were really, suspiciously good at it; they inspired quadratura or larger-scale fake-outs that were confused with the buildings they were painted on. Illusionism is the movement to blame if you’ve ever walked into a wall – and like MTV, it was later modified to exclude fat chicks.
Orientalism: This 19th-century attempted to portray the Middle East as primitive and excessively luxurious, with harems and elegantly spouting blood in all directions. The bastardized visual was popular in France and Britain because it promoted imperialism and pushed to conquer these savages “for their own good.” Eugene Delacroix was a star in the effort; he painted bleak orgytastic scenes in which the Orientals managed to look white. (Sneaky brutes!) This movement went on to directly influence Impressionism, as well as George W. Bush.
Impressionism: Your contacts aren’t dirty; they really painted it that way. In the 19th century, artists started focusing on the subtle effects of water, light, etc. Accuracy was not the intent; rather, the style hinted at certain characteristics through varied brushstrokes. “Impressionist” was first used as an insult, before Monet and Renoir worked toward the more modern definition of “your girlfriend’s only non-Colin Farrell poster.” This was a spontaneous type of art.
Impressionism is like R. Kelly – leaky, unable to recognize irony, and hiding behind a blurred veil of reality. But Impressionism doesn’t make excruciating twenty-hour-long music videos about hillbilly love triangles and metaphorical homosexuality. Impressionism does not pull out its gun every two seconds, either.
Abstract Expressionism: This movement explains why you will never be happy. Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and others threw paint splotches on canvas and drew big monochromatic squares. The irreverent style, big around 1940s-50s, concentrated on the physical effort of painting and was also called “Action Painting.” Psychologist Carl Jung was a big influence because he explored archetypes in society. This is the only instance where a thick black line in a big red box is a breathtaking, billion-dollar statement. Be jealous – you did the same thing in third grade and look where you ended up.
Post-modernism: This word gets thrown in the air more than a sorority girl’s legs, yet there is no universal definition for it. Being an expert on nothing, including sorority girls, I’m leaning on “art for art’s sake” – that is, this recent major movement makes statements on art itself, and questions the disposability of it. Andy Warhol famously drew the diptyche, or mass colorized replication of Marilyn Monroe to note how a celebrity becomes immortalized through their own image, and lost behind it.
Another famous postmodernist artist is Jeff Koons, who frames everyday objects because, dammit, function is artistic too. This movement is good for people who want to be ironic or have enough pot for a convincing attempt. It will also ruin your life, because you’ll never be able to look at a light switch the same way again.
Stacey Anderson is a journalism and music senior, KCPR DJ and failed gallerina. Catch her Sundays 7 to 8 p.m., and Tuesdays 2 to4 p.m. on 91.3 FM or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.