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Four Contemporary American Artists to Know

Below you can discover just a handful of the many incredibly talented contemporary American artists from the late twentieth and twenty-first centuries!


1. Adrian Piper 

  Photo: Der Tagesspiegel

Photo: Der Tagesspiegel

Adrian Piper is a conceptual artist and philosopher who originally hails from New York City, but currently lives in Berlin. In her work, she often examines themes of otherness, gender, racial passing, and racism. She is particularly interested in using her artwork to address her audiences in ways allowing them to reflect on their own beliefs. She is acclaimed as being a large influence on conceptual art, with institutions like the  Modern Museum of Art in New York recently recognizing her contributions to the field with the largest retrospective of her work. To see her body of work, check out selected pieces from her website.


2. Michael Rakowitz

  Photo: Colleen Durkin

Photo: Colleen Durkin

Michael Rakowitz is an Iraqi-American conceptual artist who often chooses to display his artworks in non-gallery contexts. For example, in his 2005 artwork entitled paraSITE, he constructed homeless shelters made from plastic bags and tape, which could be attached to and ventilated by air conditioning systems on buildings. Additionally, much of his artwork is political in nature, and is often concerned with Middle Eastern relations, especially those in regards to Iraq—the country from which his family originates. For example, in his 2003 project entitled Enemy Kitchen, Rakowitz taught various Baghdadi recipes to public audiences during a time when Iraqi culture was often associated with political conflict and the US Invasion of Iraq. Through this project, Rakowitz was able to show a side of Iraqi culture that many of his audiences might not have known much about. You can look into more of his artwork on his website.


3. Barbara Kruger 

  Photo: A-Z Photo Gallery

Photo: A-Z Photo Gallery

Barbara Kruger is a conceptual artist and collagist whose work often features photographs and text. The images she uses are black and white photos, while the text she includes is usually white with a red background. This text style was famously and controversially appropriated by the skateboard shop and clothing brand Supreme, whose logo uses the same graphic design style that Kruger uses. In her art, she often examines themes of power, sexuality, feminism, and consumerism. Be sure to read more about her life and a few of her iconic images on The Art Story.


4. Keith Haring 

  Photo: Art Report

Photo: Art Report

Keith Haring was an artist within the Pop Art movement, as he worked primarily in the 1980s alongside prominent figures like Andy Warhol. Haring’s style often consisted of white chalk outlines on black advertising boards in subway stations, and colorful murals featuring dogs, babies, and flying saucers. He was very interested in making his work accessible; he often sold his designs on buttons, magnets, and t-shirts through his own shops in order to make his work available to a wider audience. Later on in his career, through his work he engaged with political and social issues, oftentimes those concerning AIDS and Sexuality. Learn more about his work through the Keith Haring Foundation website.


Vocabulary

  1. Conceptual art: This term refers to a recent style of art that began in the late twentieth century. In conceptual art, the ideas behind the art are more important than the final artworks

  2. To hail from (a place): This phrase refers to a place where someone lives or originates from

  3. Racial passing (or to pass): This term, often used within the United States in the context of racial identity, refers to someone of one racial group who “passes” or is accepted as a member of another racial group

  4. Body of work: The entire creative output of one person

  5. Collagist: Someone who creates collage artworks that layer elements—like photographs, newspapers, drawings—together to create one image.

  6. To appropriate: To take something for oneself without asking the permission of the owner

  7. Pop Art: An art movement that began in the 1950s and featured images drawn from “popular” culture (like advertisements, comic books, and everyday objects).


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Anna Deen is a student at Washington University in St. Louis studying English Literature, American Culture Studies, and Communication Design. In her free time, she enjoys hiking in the mountains, going to art museums, and eating ice cream.


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