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Making Contemporary Art: How Today's Artists Think and Work [Paperback]

Linda Weintraub
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

28 July 2003
Making Contemporary Art is the ideal launchpad for anyone wanting to understand all the essential, but sometimes elusive, aspects of art-making today. In her inimitable voice - accessible, straightforward and jargon-free - Linda Weintraub explores the conceptual and practical concerns that go into making contemporary art. Six clearly defined thematic sections - Scoping an Audience, Sourcing Inspiration, Crafting and Artistic 'Self', Expressing an Artistic Attitude, Choosing a Mission and Measuring Success - draw on the work of forty contemporary artists, including Matthew Barney, Chris Ofili, Isaac Julien, Nan Goldin and Mariko Mori, to create a complex understanding of how to make and look at contemporary art. A series of interviews with various artists sheds light on every aspect of their work, from how they conceive and create their pieces to their more prosaic, practical concerns. In addition to being a fine read for anyone who simply wants to understand how to look at contemporary art, Making Contemporary Art is also an exceptional teaching tool, and one that plugs a huge gap in the art education market.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Thames and Hudson Ltd (28 July 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0500284237
  • ISBN-13: 978-0500284230
  • Product Dimensions: 3.7 x 21 x 25.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 206,594 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Linda Weintraub is a curator, educator, artist, and author of several popular books about contemporary art. She has earned her reputation by making the outposts of vanguard art accessible to broad audiences. The current vanguard, she believes, is propelled by environmental consciousness that is not only the defining characteristic of contemporary manufacturing, architecture, science, ethics, politics, and philosophy, it is delineating contemporary art.

"TO LIFE! Eco Art in Pursuit of a Sustainable Planet" is published by the University of California Pres (2012. It was preceded by the series, Avant-Guardians: Textlets in Art and Ecology (2007) which includes EcoCentric Topics: Pioneering Themes for Eco-Art; Cycle-Logical Art: Recycling Matters for Eco-Art; EnvironMentalities: Twenty-two Approaches to Eco-Art. Weintraub established Artnow Publications in order to apply environmental responsibility to the books' material production. Linda applies these environmental concerns to her personal life by managing a sustainable homestead where she practices permaculture.

Weintraub is also the author of In the Making: Creative Options for Contemporary Artists and Art on the Edge and Over: Searching for Art's Meaning in Contemporary Society. She edited ANIMAL. ANIMA. ANIMUS with Marketta Sepalla; served as the director of the Edith C. Blum Art Institute located on the Bard College campus where she originated fifty exhibitions and published over twenty catalogues; and held the position of Henry Luce Professor of Emerging Arts at Oberlin College.

Product Description

About the Author

Linda Weintraub, Henry Luce Professor of Emerging Arts at Oberlin College, is the author of Art on the Edge and Over: Searching for Art's Meaning in Contemporary Society.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You won't reget buying this! 21 Dec 2008
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A very insightful and well written book that really educates the reader about the concept of what art is and what it is for. I bought it as I was writting a disertation but it will also appeal to the lay person who wouldn't find it too heavy going. Well recommended!
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7 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well structured study 8 Nov 2009
By Valery Koroshilov VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
When trying to understand the important concerns of contemporary art-making in the multitude of its aspects, one always finds it easier to rely upon a well structured text. And that is the strength of this study. The chapters are wisely chosen, sufficient in quantity and self-contained, yet there is enough overlapping to make the links. My reading did not follow the order suggested by the author, at the same time I only vaguely looked through a couple of sections, but I define this flexibility of the text's structure as an advantage.
My only concern is the choice of artists for the book. Although it does not directly effect the conclusive principles, it would have made a difference in terms of relation to the quality of art.
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Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  17 reviews
62 of 71 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars An awful, frustrating read 17 Dec 2006
By Jonathan Schnapp - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Now, I've never written a review on Amazon before, but, then again, I've never felt so passionately about a book before.

I'm being forced to read this book for a class and I'm finding it incredibly torturous. Despite that, I'm going to struggle to keep my emotions out of this review.

The Preface of this book begins with questions:

"Why am I an artist? Who is my audience? How can I communicate with this audience? What is art's function in society?"

As a fledgling artist myself I have found myself asking these questions often. I know that there are no answers and I didn't expect this book to provide any. But I thought this book would at least probe and examine these questions. I had my hopes up that this thick text would provide some meaningful insights that would expand my knowledge, change my perspectives, and maybe even tell me how flat-out wrong some of my assumptions are.

Boy, was I disappointed.

Past the introduction, Weintraub, the author, ceases to ask anything. In fact, there is hardly any investigation into any of these questions period.

There is no critical thinking. There are no references to contemporary theorists or philosophers. Instead, the book is composed entirely of articles about contemporary artists who are meant to illustrate various strategies for tackling these problems. For example, to answer the question "who is my audience?" there is an article about Thomas Kinkade as an example of someone who makes "art-for-all."

But once you start reading the articles, the questions fly out the window. Instead, each article reads like an extended press release. The artists' works are written about in superlative, round-about ways. If one were to take away all the fluffy descriptions and half-baked interpretations there might be one or two paragraphs for each artist.

The articles are full of statements like "The artist does this, this, and this" and "The viewer experiences this, this, and this," but there is no critical examination of what the artist is actually doing or what the viewer is actually experiencing. These examinations wouldn't be too difficult to accomplish either. Why not talk with art critics or art historians about what they think about the artists' works or why not interview actual viewers seeing the works what they think about the works? We, the readers aren't provided these options. We are told what to think and experience. The artworks function exactly the way the artist and Weintraub tells us they do.

On top of this, any and all context is removed. Weintraub places each of these artists in their own separate bubbles. No one looks at other art. No one goes to museums. No one has done any reading regarding their chosen subject matter. Weintraub writes as if each artist has miraculously created their ideas out of nothing and are amazingly original even if their concepts are far from new.

For example, Weintraub has write-up on artist Scott Grieger. A major aspect of Grieger's work deals with consumer and advertising culture. Yet apparently neither Weintraub nor Grieger are familiar with Baudrillard's "System of Objects" or Jameson's "Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism" or Naomi Klein's "No Logo" which are all very relevant and very major writings on that very topic.

Additionally, Weintraub writes with a very awkward style that obscures what she is trying to say. This works to her advantage, however, because much of what she is trying to say makes little to no sense. For example, here is a quote from the Grieger article (where she is discussing a work about global warming that incorporates a time/temperature digital display):

"In his determination to make visitors realize that these digital measuring devices actually report instantaneous environmental change with absolute accuracy, and that these changes portend dire circumstances, Grieger used another propagandist tactic: surprise. Exploiting the power of letters and numbers to exceed their role as information-conveyers, he harnessed their ability to captivate attention, and thus to provoke thought. As visitors turn to exit the gallery they confront two painted replicas of LED displays. The stasis of these representations highlights the movement of the functioning devices. The text inscribed on one is 'hELLO.' The other reads '07734.' The perplexing appearance of the lower case 'h' is the clue that helps reveal that the two apparently unrelated signs are actually the same. By turning the sign with the numbers upside down, the viewers realizes that it too spells the word 'hELLO.' As they depart, visitors receive a greeting instead of a farewell."

This long paragraph is mostly nonsense. How does the propagandist tactic of surprise fit into any of these LED displays? How do the "hELLO" signs lead us to think that the other ones "report instantaneous environmental change with absolute accuracy"? Why does Weintraub place so much emphasis on the profundity of the "hELLO" signs when any 3rd grader in math class already knows how to make their own on their calculators?

This review has gotten way too long. And yet I've barely scratched the surface of this book. Each article makes me want to bang my head against the wall. Each paragraph make me want to gouge my eyes out with a spoon. Hopefully I can prevent some of you from experiencing this same torture.

Thank you for reading.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars textbook material meets fun presentation 30 Jun 2004
By m jones - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I think this would be an excellent resource for any artist, especially as a classroom tool (textbook?) TONS of color pictures!! While this book is basically an overview of contemporary artists it takes an interesting form in that it breaks the artists up into 5 'groups' (chapters.) Each artist is looked at in terms of their own oeuvre but also in relation to whatever category they have been placed in. Categories include: "Measuring Success" "Sourcing Inspiration" "Choosing a Mission" "Scoping an Audience" etc. Despite how 'buisness oriented' these topics sound, they are very poignant for contemporary artists, as Weintraub demonstrates. It has a great variety of artists, mediums and styles and a very good representation of women and minority artists. The writing is easy to understand and although there is a lack of heavy critique in this book, it still manages to present challenges: The artists themselves pose questions and challenges both through the interviews and through their work.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars incredibly helpful and a good read 14 May 2008
By Jantine - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I haven't written a review on amazon before, but want to do one now after reading the negative response above.
For me, this book is an incredibly insightful and inspirational read. It shows tons of different approaches to art, not in a didactic manner or 'how-to'way but simply by showing what different bodies of work are about, and how they function. Questions such as 'for how large an audience should you want to be working' are answered not by giving a figure but by showing various possible relations an artist can have with his or her audiences and how the nature of the relationship they choose to build affects their work.
the essays are short, but long enough to get to the point.Each essay can be seen both as a case study for aspiring artists and as an introduction into contemporary practice for any interested reader. There are a lots of good fullcolor photograps added to the text.
The small interviews printed next to the essays hold a lot of insightful information on the more practical side of being an artist - for instance how important do you perceive your location to be, how is your income built up and so on (these interviews take up a lot less space). Totally recommended, i don't know of any book quite like this. I go through it very often.
7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect for teaching contemporary art 6 Jan 2004
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is an impressive introductory survey of where contemporary art is today, and gives a fair account of the myriad options open to young artists. It's easy to understand, beautifully designed, affordable, and up-to-the-minute. As a studio art teacher, I consider this book a great teaching tool. Whereas most college-level art classes are still teaching traditional art-making, this book advocates for a poly-artistic approach more in keeping with the media age. It should be used in all Foundations classes, as well as higher level classes.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must read text for makers 25 May 2013
By holly kilpatrick - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book outlines different approaches to art-making by sorting various makers by technique and methodology. Rather than becoming a stale catalog that oversimplifies through categorization, Weintraub curates this book with grace and skill so that it reflects diversity and scope of intentions in contemporary art-making practices. I would recommend this book as an interpretive tool for non-makers ,an exploration for emerging makers, and a reflection manual for those with a cultivated making practice.
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