top of page

Unit 10: 1980 CE - Present

Global Contemporary

Images 224-250

Main Ideas:

  • In an era of rapid modernization, these artworks touch upon its consequences such as gender & racial disparities, economic neocolonialism, and restrictions on basic freedoms

  • These artworks use innovative methods often with mixed media and in-person installations to showcase different aspects of their central message

xu-bing-3 (1).jpeg
smith-trade (1).jpeg

In-Person Installations

1 ipi
  • With a 3-D installation, the viewers can easily immerse themselves in the artwork to understand the artist's clear unambiguous message through the artwork's features
  • The message of these artworks is generally a critique on the consequences of rapid modernization, such as class & gender disparity, economic neocolonialism, and restrictions on freedoms

Image 224: The Gates

b62bd7c53991cc48326f2b72b5c11bab994bba5b (1).jpeg
gates-1 (1).jpeg


The Gates


New York City, US


Christo and Jeanne-Claude


1979 - 2005 CE


Mixed-media installation

  • The gates are placed along the pedestrian walkways in Central Park → They represent the natural pattern of pedestrian movement throughout the park
    • In Feb 2005, there were 7503 gates at this exhibition

    • The gates are placed along the pedestrian walkways of New York's Central Park → Allows pedestrians to move through them

      • There is no single vantage point to see all the gates, but rather, the gates are all in an oval-shaped loop along the walkway → Represents the idea that people shouldn't view the gates as static and rather focus on the motion/movement they represent​

    • The bright orange color of the gates seeks to set it apart from the surrounding nature so that its sense of movement can easily be seen

Image 225: Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Its Underground Location:

vietnam-veterans-memorial (1).jpeg
vietnam-veterans-memorial-maya-lin (1).jpeg


Vietnam Veterans Memorial


Washington, DC, US


Maya Lin


1982 CE



  • The memorial's architecture allows for a more personal reflection of the soldiers' lives
    • This memorializes the victims of the Vietnam War (1955-75) with their full names, not their photos

      • By putting a person's photo, we only see them in one particular way (which could be staged or candid); however, with a person's name, we can think about everything that person has done​ → A person's name is a more holistic all-encompassing identifier

    • The memorial is located slightly underground: We have to descend a small ramp to reach it, then we see all the names on the left wall → We are somewhat "swallowed up" by the memorial and more attentive and reflective toward the memories of the victims

      • Black granite's color reflects the solemn mood of the memorial

    • Some believed this memorial to be controversial as Maya Lin's Asian heritage may conflict with the fact that these soldiers were killed in Asia, yet the memorial was successfully built despite these opponents

Image 229: A Book from the Sky

xu-bing-3 (1).jpeg


A Book from the Sky


Xu Bing


1987 - 1991 CE


Mixed-media Installation

  • Uses artwork made out of Chinese characters to make a political statement against censorship in Communist China
    • Xu Bing made up random pseudo-Chinese characters and put them on books, hanging scrolls, etc. all over the floors, walls, and ceiling

      • Because no one can read them (since these aren't real Chinese characters), it invites the viewer to instead reflect on the scene as if the ground was the sea and the roof was the sky​

    • As the viewer reflects on the empty scene, it allows us to think about how the Chinese government censored certain books and prevented people from understanding the true meaning and practice of scholarship through the limitations on freedom of expression​​

      • Also allows to think that Chinese propaganda is sometimes meaningless to the viewer and creates a false image of reality

Image 236: En La Barberia no se Llora (No Crying Allowed in the Barbershop)

En-la-Barberia (1).jpeg


En La Barberia no se Llora (No Crying Allowed in the Barbershop)


Pepon Osorio


1994 CE


Mixed-media Installation

  • The artwork in the room contains many stereotypical masculine aspects that criticizes the idea of masculinity (machismo) in Nuyorican culture
    • Nuyorican: Puerto Ricans in New York City

    • Machismo: Latin-American ideal of male dominance and masculinity

    • Has many traditional masculine aspects as well as satirical aspects that all together criticize the idea of masculinity

      • Barber chairs, car seats, sports equipment, depictions of male reproductive figures, etc.​

      • Main aspect are the images of men crying, which criticize the idea of masculinity in Nuyorican society

    • Has many small trinkets (chucherías) that represent aspects of Puerto Rican culture (its flag, portraits of famous Latin American men, etc.)

      • The idea that these national symbols are represented through small trinkets mocks the strict cultural ideals of Latin America, which includes machismo

    • The room also has video installations with Latino men in stereotypically masculine poses

      • Many of these men are among the elderly → Shows that machismo is a deeply-rooted multi-generational issue that should be fixed​

    • He criticizes the ideal of machismo to advocate for more gender equality

Image 237: Pisupo Lua Afe (Corned Beef 2000)

94224ec8b430ea8a6bd4a54d04273abc1ded8899 (1).jpeg


Pisupo Lua Afe (Corned Beef 2000)


Michel Tuffery


1994 CE


Mixed media

  • Represents the negative environmental and social impact of colonialism and the introduction of beef on Samoa
    • Pisupo initially meant "pea soup" in the Samoan language but now also means "canned food"

    • The structure is made of food cans in the shape of a cattle to criticize the effect that canned food and beef had on the Samoan population