Objects and Non-Traditional Media in Art Intrinsic to the very nature of art is the pressing desire to transcend traditional forms of expression. Still, to a great extent, for hundreds of years art conformed to easily distinguishable mediums and subject matter (Gombrich, 1994)…
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This trend continued into the 19th century as Vincent Van Gogh experimented with impression, and well into the 20th century, as artists such as Pablo Picasso and later Jackson Pollock revolutionized the medium through increasing forays into abstract modes of expression (Gombrich, 1994). While the subject matter of these visual works greatly changed over time, their overriding medium remained largely constant. Through conceptual and minimalist movements, art in the second half of the 20th century began to step outside the canvas-painting trend (Osbourne 2011). Today artists regularly use or manipulate objects and non-traditional media in creating art. Through a consideration of intentions and methods, this essay examines artists’ implementations of such objects and non-traditional media. Perhaps the 20th century’s most prominent non-traditional medium is assemblage art. This specific art form establishes two or three-dimensional art forms by combining found objects (Lockhart 2010). In better understanding the structural nature of this art, one considers that its parallel in literature is stories or novels formed from already existing texts (Lockhart 2010). While assemblage art forms date to as early as Picasso’s early 20th century cubist constructions, the term was first articulated in the 1950s after Jean Dubuffet’s work ‘assemblages d'empreintes’ (Lockhart 2010). ...
While assemblage art refers to a specific type of non-traditional production, one also considers the implications of transcending mainstream modes of artistic expression. In gaining interpretive insight into such an event, it is necessary to step outside traditional art criticism into perspectives that analyze the broader media. One of the most seminal such perspectives in this arena is that of Marshall McLuhan. McLuhan (1964) argued that the medium is the message. While such a statement makes a variety of complex arguments, one element is that the very nature of the medium necessitates shifts in meaning. When such a perspective is extended to artists working in non-traditional mediums, one comes to recognize that such expression not only functions as a means of the artist creating a unique work, but is necessary to capture the increasingly complex cultural signs operating within modern social contexts. It will be seen that the central thorough-put in assemblage and non-traditional art is an effort to codify and comment on this complexity. When considering the use of non-traditional forms of expression one of the seminal early assemblage artists is Joseph Cornell. Cornell’s work largely was created around the mid-20th century, paving the way for future forays into assemblage (Soloman 1996). While the Cornell’s exact motivation for venturing into non-traditional mediums is unknown, today his work carries with it a haunting, yet characteristic aesthetic (Soloman 1996). Cornell’s work mainly centered on small boxes that he would meticulously fill and arrange with objects. Fig. 1 below is an image of Cornell’s 1950 work ‘Planet Set.’ From observation one recognizes the highly uncharacteristic and unique assemblage of
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