Watch Friday, September 16 at 9pm & Friday, September 23, 2016 from 9pm-11pm on WMHT-TV
ART IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY provides unparalleled access to the most innovative artists of our time, revealing how artists engage the culture around them and how art allows viewers to see the world in new ways. For the first time in the show’s history, the episodes are not organized around an artistic theme. Instead, the 16-featured artists are grouped by their unique and revealing relationships to the places where they live: Chicago, Los Angeles, Mexico City, and Vancouver.
Episode 1: “Chicago” | Friday, September 16 at 9pm
Chicago is a city rooted in industry and towering architecture, and artists in Chicago are disrupting urban experience through experimentation. Nick Cave (b.1959, Fulton, MO, USA) creates “Soundsuits”—surreally majestic objects blending fashion and sculpture—that originated as metaphorical suits of armor in response to the Rodney King beatings and have evolved into vehicles for empowerment. Theaster Gates (b.1973, Chicago, IL, USA) first encountered creativity in the music of Black churches on his journey to becoming an urban planner, potter, and artist. Gates creates sculptures out of clay, tar, and renovated buildings, transforming the raw material of the South Side into radically reimagined vessels of opportunity for the community. Barbara Kasten (b.1936, Chicago, IL, USA) makes photographs and video projections in her studio that evoke an experience of movement through modernist architecture. Chris Ware (b.1967, Omaha, NE, USA), known for his New Yorker magazine covers, is hailed as a master of the comic art form. Ware’s complex graphic novels, which tell stories about people in suburban midwestern neighborhoods, poignantly reflect on the role of memory in constructing identity.
Episode 2: “Mexico City” | Friday, September 23 at 11pm
Mexico City artists exit their homes and studios to use the growing megalopolis as their canvas. The artists present everyday materials as artworks, mine recognizable images for their poetic potential, and take their art to the streets. Damián Ortega (b.1967, Mexico City, Mexico) uses objects from his everyday life—Volkswagen Beetle cars, Day of the Dead posters, locally sourced corn tortillas—to make spectacular sculptures, which suggest stories of both mythic import and cosmological scale. Pedro Reyes (b.1972, Mexico City, Mexico) designs ongoing projects that propose playful solutions to urgent social problems. From turning guns into musical instruments, to hosting a People’s United Nations to address pressing concerns, to offering ecologically friendly grasshopper burgers from a food cart, Reyes transforms existing problems into ideas for a better world. Minerva Cuevas (b.1975, Mexico City, Mexico) is a conceptual and socially-engaged artist who creates sculptural installations and paintings in response to politically charged events such as the tension between world starvation and capitalistic excess. Cuevas documents community protests in a cartography of resistance while also creating minisabotages—altering grocery store bar codes and manufacturing student identity cards—as part of her Better Life Corporation. Natalia Almada (b.1974, Mexico City, Mexico), the great-granddaughter of Mexico’s controversial 40th president, Plutarco Elías Calles, makes intimate films that delve into the tragedies of her Mexican-American family’s personal history as well as the Sinaloa region’s violent present.
Episode 3: “Los Angeles” | Friday, September 23 at 9pm
While sprawling Los Angeles has world-class museums and art schools, artists working in the shadow of the entertainment industry are more “under the radar,” affording them space and time to imagine. Diana Thater (b.1962, San Francisco, CA, USA) makes video installations that poetically grapple with threats to the natural world. She is filmed preparing for her monumental exhibition, The Sympathetic Imagination, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Liz Larner (b.1960, Sacramento, CA, USA) experiments with abstract sculptural forms in a dizzying array of materials, including polychromatic ceramics that evoke the tectonic geologic shifts of the western landscape. Tala Madani (b.1981, Tehran, Iran) skewers stereotypes in her sharply satirical paintings that evoke clashes of culture: men and women, the rational and the absurd, Western and non-Western. And Edgar Arceneaux (b.1972, Los Angeles, CA) investigates historical patterns through drawings, installations, and multimedia events, such as the reenactment of Ben Vereen’s tragically misunderstood blackface performance at Ronald Reagan’s 1981 Inaugural Gala.
Episode 4: “Vancouver” | Friday, September 23 at 10pm
In small and tightly-knit Vancouver, artists reframe the world through a series of sophisticated illusions. By recreating historical moments, staging photos of vernacular scenes, and crafting intricate sculptures that trick the eye, artists reveal how everyday images and moments from the past are not always what they seem. Liz Magor (b.1948, Winnipeg, MB, Canada) makes uncannily realistic casts of humble objects—gloves, cardboard boxes, cigarettes—that speak to mortality and local histories. Through complex video installations, photos, theatrical productions, and virtual reality simulations, Stan Douglas (b.1960, Vancouver, BC, Canada) reenacts historical moments of tension that connect the history of Vancouver to broader social movements of struggle and utopian aspiration. Brian Jungen (b.1970, Fort St. John, BC, Canada) draws from his family’s ranching and hunting background, as well as his Dane-zaa heritage, when disassembling and recombining consumer goods into whimsical sculptures. Attentive to the accidental encounters that can inspire an image, photographer Jeff Wall (b.1946, Vancouver, BC, Canada) recreates flashes of inspiration by building sets and repeatedly photographing gestures until they coalesce into a picture that’s printed on a grand scale.