Compare and Contrast The nature of artistic expression is broad and fluid. While art has popularly been understood as representation through paintings, the 20th century witnessed an explosion of forms, with conceptual art self-reflexively challenging the very nature of the art object…
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This essay compares and contrasts two divergent forms of art -- Ah Leon’s ‘Memories of Elementary School’ and James Siena’s exhibit ‘Compare, Contrast, Connect’ – in terms of emotional appeal, form, and theme. While Ah Leon’s ‘Memories of Elementary School’ and James Siena’s ‘Compare, Contrast, Connect’ are ostensibly divergent forms of artistic expression, there are a number of comparative aspects in terms of emotional appeal. Leon’s exhibit is a conceptual piece that recreates an elementary school setting; conversely, Siena’s exhibit contains four etchings with juxtaposed images and colors. In terms of emotional appeal, Leon’s work harkens back to memories of childhood and the process of education. This is contrasted with Siena’s work that is more highly abstract, as it depicts vague exploratory images. In these regards, Siena’s work plays more on direct and intuitive emotions through its elaborate color design and vivid imagery. Still, it’s clear that both images share some emotional qualities. In these regards, they are both clearly concerned with challenging intellectual quandaries. Although Leon’s work contains emotional nostalgia, and Siena’s direct emotional appeal, there is also a removed sort of intellectualism inherent in both works. Another prominent consideration in terms of these works of art is their form. Within this context of understanding, the works perhaps demonstrate their most divergent qualities. The first consideration in these regards is Leon’s ‘Memories of an Elementary School’ as noted above this is broadly characterized through its depiction of seats and chairs of a Taiwanese elementary school. Within this work there is strong regimentation as well as etchings in the desks that further add expressionistic details to the art. In terms of categorical form, Ah Leon’s work clearly falls under what has been termed conceptual art. In these regards, the art form but questions the nature of art, as well as expresses meaning. This aspect of form can be contrasted from Siena’s ‘Compare, Contrast, Connect’. This exhibit can be categorically placed within the context of the abstract art movement and is divergent from Leon’s work in these regards. Indeed, Siena has frequently been characterized for his work in abstraction ("Harlan & weaver," 2010). The work functions less as a self-reflexive question on the nature of artistic expression and more of in terms of the artist’s personal vision. Still, both forms make demands on the viewer as they force them to consider subtle undertones. In Siena’s work this emerges as the viewer is asked to consider the juxtaposition of the four etchings. Ultimately, both forms are on opposing artistic spectrums. A final consideration of these artistic works is in terms of theme. While these works seemingly exemplify divergent thematic structures, it’s possible to find similar thematic elements. One of the most notable thematic elements of Leon’s work is his exploration of the rigidity of Taiwanese education. Within this thematic concern is clearly Leon’s characteristic exploration of scale. Indeed, it’s been said of Leon’s other work that, “The effect of Ah Leon's obsession with scale here is not simply to stun viewers but to move them" (Chung 2000). While Siena’s work lacks a thematic investigation of scale, it does explore a similar mode of personal expression. In these regards
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