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Art in the Era of Globalization

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Humans have been creating art since the beginning of time. Sometimes they knew they were being artistic; other times they were just creating things they liked, recording information using drawings, or creating pottery and tools to make work easier. Art has been created on cave walls and canvases, from the ground beneath our feet, and from materials made by mankind. Artworks that have certain features in common are considered to have the same style. Sometimes this means that they are part of the same movement, but not always. The concept of ‘movements’ in art is usually linked to a specific time, and sometimes place) in history. Different styles of art have been identified by a specific time in history; or whatever technique was most popular during that time. When thinking of artists of past centuries – before globalization has had the impacts of the digital age – it is relatively easy to stereotype their culture, geography, and – to some extent – even religion. One can walk into a museum and see great European painters, Asian tapestries, Native American pottery – and largely understand the tools and mediums that were available to them. Few would look at a painting from Seurat and think he was anything but European artist. Hokusai’s Great Wave or ancient tapestries are signature examples of Asian art. Ancient pottery is a little harder to discern, but most people could correctly recognize pieces from Navajo versus African culture. But in today’s modern art, artists all over the globe produce amazing works without regard to the boundaries and styles of the past.

I believe that globalization in art is the mashup of traditions and cultures. There are few boundaries between what is – and what is not – art. It is very likely that an artist in one place in the world is producing great work that may look strikingly similar to the great work produced by another artist across the globe using similar mediums, tools, and techniques. Art is more about the boundaries of technique and style, and less about the boundaries of culture or geography. To use the example of pointillism as established by Seurat as an illustration, modern artists from around the globe have used that foundation to create striking works of art. Five examples of modern artists that embody this theme of mashing-up traditions, mediums, styles, and cultures are below. These artists blend pointillism with sculpture and themes from unexpected cultures to bridge genres:

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  • All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins, Yayoi Kusama (2016). Japanese artist.
  • Burberry Bulldog, Herb Williams (2015). American artist.
  • Untitled, Ana Enshina (2012). British/Russian artist.
  • Pin Art/Jackie O, Philip Karlberg (2012). Swedish artist.
  • Street art in Valparaiso, Chile. From the River, Beth Kimwele (2016). Kenyan artist.

Thanks to the globalization of art, artists can easily grab inspiration from each other. They can manipulate media and leverage technology tools to create something visually pleasing.

I believe that once students experience the techniques of creating art they can understand the aesthetic feeling behind art. Mixing colors, blending values and shades, creating perceived or actual textures, and the constructing and building sculpture are just a few techniques students must creatively learn in order to understand how art is made. How artists work. I hope my students can see art from artists around the world and understand how culture, movement, style, and emotion are translated. By showing examples, students can begin to appreciate where art comes from, and what styles and movements have influenced the artist. How to recognize art. “What is art?” may not have a black-and-white definition, but by recognizing the basic principles of art – balance, proportion, emphasis, variety, movement, rhythm, harmony – students can form an opinion about artists’ work and build an appreciation for its quality. And when the work evokes an emotional response, students can connect to the work and begin to see art through the eyes of the artist and the cultures that influenced its creation. Art is fun. Art is a way for students to express themselves. Other classes – like math, reading, and science – teach that there is one correct way to solve an equation or pronounce a word, but art allows a child to say, feel, and share things creatively that they do not get to experience in other classrooms.

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