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Art Movement in Focus: The Pictures Generation – An Introduction

Welcome to Art Movement in Focus! In this section, we explore significant art movements in history through a series of articles dedicated to each movement. Here’s looking at the Pictures Generation.

The Pictures Generation – An Introduction

Images are invested with power. They have the ability to break boundaries, support prejudices, raise questions, and confirm suspicions, silently. Such is the import of photographs. Much before the advent of the social media army of Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat, there were pictures. And there was a talented group of artists, many of whom were trained in the traditional art of painting and sculpture. They chose to work with the medium of film and photographs. 

It was not an organised movement, but an amalgam of artists born in the period after World War II, and during the Cold War. A group who witnessed society and politics and came together to critique, understand and analyze it in a way they best saw fit. The name was coined from a show at an Artists Space, which was curated by Douglas Crimp in 1977, and he simply called it “Pictures”

East Meets West

The story of the Movement can be traced back to the decade of the 70s when there was a perceptible shift in the teaching of art. Professors included unorthodox media in the curriculum. It was the generation that foresaw the growing trends of mass media through advertisements, television, and film, they recognised that it was time to break free of previously laid norms and formats.

Education programs like the Whitney Independent Study Program in New York City (1968), and New York’s Buffalo State College’s visual arts program, and the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) in LA created a climate to nurture future generations of artists. Many from the ‘Pictures Generation; were students in CalArts, New York, LA, and Buffalo.

The Pictures artists, were privy to a profusion of images owing to television and print, the political climate of prosperity threatened by the impending threat of nuclear war prepared the ground for a generation to speak up and express their views, and they had the perfect medium.

“I could never figure out why photography and art had separate histories, So I decided to explore both.”

– John Baldessari

OUR TOP 6 Artists for The Pictures Generation

Helene Winer, director of the Pomona College Museum of Art in Claremont, California from 1970 to 1972, was a pivotal figure in bringing the groups together. As director of Artists Space in New York City, in 1975, she showcased Cindy Sherman’s collection, among others. Needless to say that Winer was close to the artists from California and New York. There was a close-knit society that had unintentionally formed and cohesive in its structure, chose to stay close.

The artists lived close to each other, and were a part of each other social circle, worked jobs where they came to be in close proximity, often partied together, dated each other, and most importantly shared ideas and propelled their work together.

  1. Robert Longo
  2. Cindy Sherman
  3. Sherrie Levine
  4. Jack Goldstein
  5. Troy Brauntuch
  6. Richard Prince

6 WORKS THAT DEFINE THE PICTURES GENERATION

As can be seen from the works their preoccupation with gender, race, and known norms was something that they worked with. Their craft expanded and needed to work with ‘Appropriation’, questioning  ‘Authorship’,  and relentlessly captivating the ‘Viewer’.

Robert Longo
Joanna and Larry
1983

Joanna and Larry 1983, Robert Longo (b.1953)
Image courtesy: https://www.sothebys.com/en/buy/auction/2019/prints-multiples-evening-sale/robert-longo-joanna-and-larry

Cindy Sherman
Untitled A
1975

Untitled A 1975, Cindy Sherman ( b.1954 )
Image courtesy: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/sherman-untitled-a-p11437

Sherrie Levine
After Rodchenko: 1-12
1987-1998

After Rodchenko 1-12 1987-1998, Sherrie Levine (b.1947),
Image courtesy:
https://www.guggenheim.org/artwork/18535

Jack Goldstein
Untitled
1986 – 1988

Untitled 1986-1988, Jack Goldstein ( b.1945 )
Image courtesy:
https://www.artsy.net/artwork/jack-goldstein-untitled-7

Troy Brauntuch
Emily’s Boot
2005

Emily’s Boot 2005, Troy Bauntuch (b. 1954 )
Image courtesy :
 https://www.christies.com/lotfinder/Lot/troy-brauntuch-b-1954-untitled-6128399-details.aspx

Richard Prince
Cowboy
1989

Cowboy 1989, Richard Prince (b.1949)
Image courtesy:
https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/283742

For more such quick introductions and lists regarding Art History, visit Art Movement in Focus.

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