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The student news site of Pleasant Valley High School

Spartan Shield

The student news site of Pleasant Valley High School

Spartan Shield

Polished to passionate: The value of modern art

PV+AP+Art+students+complete+prerequisites+to+ensure+a+fluency+in+art+history+and+techniques%2C+then+spend+class+time+completing+a+portfolio+to+submit+to+college+board
Selah DeVore
PV AP Art students complete prerequisites to ensure a fluency in art history and techniques, then spend class time completing a portfolio to submit to college board

The tradition of artistic expression is one that stretches back to the beginning of human existence.

Much more than a depiction of aesthetic beauty, artists have always stiven to capture the essence of the human experience. AP Art student Willa Samuelson has been dedicated to her craft for over a decade., “The whole history of art is based on the breaking of boundaries and freedom of expression,” she said.

But one form of expression has divided the art community for decades: modern art. Far from the talent-forward tradition of artists throughout history, modern art prioritizes self expression, something that sparks much controversy.

Modernism is generally dated to the Industrial Revolution, when the rapid shift in manufacturing and technology resulted in significant social and cultural changes as well, leading artists to develop new ways of self expression to account for the rapidly changing world and culture.

Before the Industrial Revolution, artists were most often commissioned by wealthy patrons to create religious or mythological pieces. Because of this rigid structure, artists were confined to certain expectations in order to make a living.

The Industrial Revolution altered this system allowing artists to focus more on self expression than impressing a client. This freedom led the trend away from realistic depictions of the world, a standard set by renaissance artists, and abstract, symbolic art began to become more common- a trend that remains today.

In Samuelson’s eyes, modern artists broke boundaries by stepping away from transition. “[They] felt no desire to conform to the standards previously set by institutions and artists,” she explained.

AP art teacher Aimee Peters believes modern art is just the next step in a long history of traditions. “Movements in art always come from a couple of things: rebellion from the period that happened before it, what’s happening politically and socially in the world at the time, when pieces come out, or when a new style comes out,” she said.

This renouncement of realism is part of what makes modern art so controversial, as many view it as less technically complex and skillful.

Responding to this argument, Peters clarifies that many modern artists are classically trained. “it’s taking that training and looking at it and saying, ‘Okay, I know how to do this, but it does not express what I am trying to express,’” Peters explained “So they abandon that.”

But in reality, this art merely serves a different purpose. “Modern art was created just after the Impressionist movement, it was originally designed to remove the skill and flamboyance of artwork in favor of just the concept,” Samuelson said. “The whole basis of modern art is the concept that the idea is more important than the medium.”

Arguments from those who value modern art often center around the impact over the technique. The Marshall Art Gallery argues, “We may discover new ways of thinking and perceive the world in a different light by looking at and debating modern art. Contemporary art may also serve as a source of inspiration, allowing us to generate new ideas and address issues in novel ways.”

Others argue that Modern Art is “pretentious nonsense” that anyone with a banana and some duct tape could easily replicate. Samuelson is part of this school of thought, describing modern art as a “bit of a hoax.”

“Modern art has become a bit of an epidemic, I have found that many of the works of modern art on display lack the genres original depth of idea. Clutter is not art, neither is a white dot on a blank canvas” she argued.

Regardless of how much modern art is valued, it is likely here to stay, and so is the debate about its merit.

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Selah DeVore, Copy Editor
Selah DeVore is a senior at Pleasant Valley High School and serves as the copy editor for the Spartan Shield. At PV, Selah is very involved with the theater department both on and offstage, most recently serving as the co-director for the 2024 childrens show. Outside of journalism, Selah passionately loves reading, overthinking, and gossiping with friends, but often finds herself cramming for a last minute anatomy test or chauffeuring her friends and siblings all over creation. Selah works as the props program aid for Davenport Junior Theater where she enjoys burning her fingers with hot glue and listening to audiobooks. After graduation, Selah plans to pursue a career in the medical field and hopes to become a physical therapist.

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