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7.1: Introduction

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    By the 1970s, the cold war between the United States and European nations against the Soviet Union caused political and economic issues worldwide, bringing the advent of the Cold War. After World War II, many of the Eastern European countries were under the control and rule of the Soviet Union. Although both the United States/European alliance and the Soviet Union were theoretically at peace, the entire period was dominated by the arms race, including nuclear, proxy wars, and sociopolitical bids around the globe for world dominance. The United States was focused on the potential spread of communism, a concept ruling the political discourse and conflicts in America and indiscriminate wars abroad. By 1970, the space race was well underway as both the United States and the Soviet Union made space exploration part of the Cold War. Part of the space race was the development of missiles capable of space travel, and more ominously, giving the countries the ability to launch nuclear warheads into other countries.

    After World War II and the successful expulsion of Japan from China, the civil war in China began. The Nationalist government led by Chiang Kai-shek was attacked by the Communist leader Mao Zedong. By 1949, the communist forces won, and Mao Zedong was established as the head of China. The Chinese government assisted North Korea and Vietnam in their wars against the United States. By 1971, China was given a seat at the United Nations, official recognition of the country. When President Nixon was elected, his focus was to use diplomacy, and in 1972 the president went to China to start diplomatic relations with a country closed to the world since World War II. Nixon and the Soviets also signed the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty, the first step to reducing nuclear missiles.

    However, President Reagan reversed the ideas of diplomacy and funded insurgencies in other countries, especially Central America. Simultaneously, the Soviet Union experienced severe financial and political disintegration. When Premier Mikhail Gorbachev took office in 1985, he started the concepts of 'glasnost' or political openness and economic restructuring. The Soviet control and influence over the Eastern European countries ended, and by 1991, the Soviet Union fell apart, and the existing Cold War stopped. Many of the former Soviet states established forms of democratic governments. China had strong financial ties with other countries, including the United States, expanding its manufacturing capabilities. The Chinese people began demanding more freedoms culminating in a million students demonstrating in 1989 at Tiananmen Square. The police massacred students, and the government clamped down on their freedoms.

    The European Union was formed in 1992, integrating their economic activities and giving more freedom of movement to work and travel across borders. Significant events occurred in different places, including the Oslo Accords, a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians, still a tentative process. The North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) was signed to bring favorable trade relations between Canada, the United States, and Mexico. In 1994 South Africa, Nelson Mandela, a man who spent years in prison for his work against the apartheid white government, was elected the first black president. And in 1999, the United States transferred control of the Panama Canal to Panama.

    By 2000 and the entry to a new century, the world was a global community, with many of the countries able to build a middle class and prosperity. Multiple countries became players in the global field, each establishing their economic fortune and power. However, some countries still lived with persistent poverty, disease, poor economies, and population explosions. The major powers of China, Russia, and the United States are still locked in conflicting struggles for dominance.  

    Expression of Neo-Expressionism

    How people are positioned on the canvas or paper was a discussion and concept for the Neo-Expressionists. They did not focus on the subject itself. Instead, they explored the paint application instead of the content. It was important for the viewer to interface with the colors or lines on the surface. Georg Baselitz turned his images upside down on the canvas to emphasize the shapes or colors. Other artists positioned a person in sections or parts, placing them in random patterns. Graffiti art was popular, and artists used some of the techniques to express a concept with symbols or embodied in shapes. Modern spray paint was an innovation used in graffiti applications and adopted by some Neo-Expressionists like Jean-Michel Basquiat. Basquiat started as an artist spraying graffiti on walls in New York City and used some of the same ideas for his canvases. The artists used forceful brushstrokes, splattered paint, or dark dividing lines. Some of the expressions were almost primitive and frequently criticized societal politics.

    Technology of the Video Artists

    Video art started in the late 1960s based on the availability of new technology for consumers, including videotape recorders, colored televisions, DVDs, and video cameras. From the 1970s, the technology became cheaper, faster, smaller, and more powerful, allowing more creativity for the artists. Small, hand-held cameras allowed artists to video record, no longer tied to the expensive 8-mm and 16-mm equipment. They were also able to simply remix and combine footage they shot and pre-recorded images from multiple sources. By the 1980s, editing software became affordable for the average person. The software lets the artists program their videos, edit different scenes, and add audio. Artists started to combine Video Art and Performance Art. With the small video cameras, performance might be outside or in a kitchen, freeing anyone to become a performer. The capabilities opening for this new art form because of the advent of small, portable camera recorders formed the same revolution as the Impressionist's ability to paint outside because they had portable paint tubes. Andy Warhol was one of the first artists to use technology on a grand scale when he used a computer system and software to create his digital drawings. Since the 1970s, technology has been intertwined with art, the ever-expanding media bringing continual changes and experiences for artists. The 1990s technology brought the internet and the ability of people to interact, access broader audiences, and manipulate their artwork.

    Materials of the Young British Artists

    The Young British Artists became a brand name used to market Britain's new and unusual style. The movement began with students at Goldsmiths College of Art when they set up an exhibition called Freeze; the show became known for its shock tactics based on unusual materials and the way they used materials. The artists frequently used found objects and presented them in different ways. Dada artists incorporated their art around found objects; however, they were conservatively displayed compared to the Young British Artists. The artists used dead preserved animals, their furniture, food of all types, or medicines and pills. The objects were stuffed, crushed, disassembled, or combined into integrated artwork. Artists also used film and photography to create or enhance their work. Some artists went beyond the traditional view of the female body, treating the image outside of the definition of how males defined the beauty of a woman's body.

    Forms of Sculpture

    Sculpture took many forms with the advent of new technological breakthroughs in materials and the assembly of sculptures. However, one of the most basic forms became popular in this period in the form of Land Art or Environmental Art. The artist interacted with materials found in the natural environment. Land Art celebrated nature, and artists often enhanced nature with other materials, the art was not based on anything except the beauty of nature. Sculptures also went beyond the single figure and made installations frequently based on social issues. Minimalism concepts were found in many forms of sculptures as technology and manufacturing capabilities allowed artists to create shapes and forms that might be considered simple, except the immense size of the installation made a dynamic impact. The ability to roll massive metal sheets, form them, and transport and install them brought stunning sculptures. Other artists of this time used materials previously unheard of, the dead shark representing the symbol of absurdity.


    This page titled 7.1: Introduction is shared under a CC BY 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Deborah Gustlin & Zoe Gustlin (ASCCC Open Educational Resources Initiative) .

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