Research: Does art and design always reflect the social, cultural or political climate of the time?

A lot of art does, in my opinion, reflect aspects of the time they were created in but I don’t believe that it always does.

Society:
community of people living in a particular country or region and having shared customs, laws, and organisations.

A society, culture and political climate implies large groups of people with similar views but often artists create work that is very personal to just themselves. A cathartic process of self exploration, for example Louise Bourgeois. Almost all of her work is unrelated to any social, cultural or political movement. It was only concerned with internalized personal themes of her own, her work explores pain from childhood experience that continued to haunt her through her whole life.

With ‘The destruction of the Father’ (1) Louise bourgeois directly references a time when her father used to humiliate her during dinner parties. This refers only to her personal experience and is very specific.

I expected that Tracey Emin, who because of her similar very personal approach, would also leave me with the impression that her work is unrelated to current climates. But when I truly considered her work I felt that it does speak of current social concerns, promiscuity, abortion, love. Things that our society can understand and relate to. Although her work is very personal it is very much fixed to now but could also in some cases be about someone else. Her subject is not always peculiar to herself. For example ‘Saying goodbye to mummy’ (2)or ‘The first time I was pregnant I started to crochet the baby a shawl, 1998-2000′(3) Both these pieces refer to abortion an experience many women go through and can relate to.

Another artist that I believe created work unrelated to social, cultural or political themes was the later work of Rothko. These later pieces were interested in how art can make you feel, moving the viewer in some way, inspiring a range of emotions from despair to rapture by enveloping them with carefully chosen colour contrasts. These pieces are very personal, created just for two people, the artist who created the work and the viewer who is looking at it whenever that might be, either now or in the future. Each piece is only concerned with the emotions of these two people.

His early work however was very different. During the 1930’s the great depression and increasing unemployment, heavily influenced his work. This early work explored the social themes of the time using expressionistic as well as surrealist techniques.

Most art is create in a very specific time and artists are inherently drawn to what surrounds them but it seems to me that there are some who’s work is very personal and therefore the topics themselves could stand alone outside of a particular historical time frame.

Image references

Louise Bourgeois

1 – http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/exhibition/louise-bourgeois/room-guide/louise-bourgeois-room-6

Tracey Emin

2 – http://www.lehmannmaupin.com/exhibitions/2002-09-21_i-think-itand39s-in-my-head/press_release/0/exhibition_work/1

3 – http://www.lehmannmaupin.com/exhibitions/1999-05-01_tracey-emin/press_release/0/exhibition_work/1

Mark Rothko

4 – http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/gallery/2008/sep/24/rothko.tate

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