Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Modern Times: Teaching Modern & Contemporary Art

Students rarely feel blasé about modern and contemporary art. Generally speaking, they are either captivated by it or bemused by it – “Geez, I could do that!” is a common response. Whatever their attitude, student reaction to such art is honest and visceral. One byproduct of the “I could do that” attitude towards modern art is that students often find it more accessible and less intimidating than other types of art that stress realism.  Less intimidating material tends to allow students to approach the subject with less trepidation and with more tolerance regarding mistakes that can occur when creating their own artwork.

Strictly speaking, contemporary art generally refers to art produced since 1945, although the term now includes work done more recently. Modern art usually describes a movement that began in the late 1800s and lasted until the 1970s, and includes types of art such as Surrealism, Cubism, Pop art, Fauvism, and others. Since the contemporary and modern art movements overlap, the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, although contemporary art more often reflects social issues than modern art. Common themes in contemporary art, for example, include human rights, economics, global warming, and politics, which provide great opportunities for cross-curricular instruction. In many schools, art instruction often focuses on more traditional forms of art, where students often imitate the works of various famous artists. While this method certainly has value, students can gain much more from the experience by simultaneously learning about and discussing not only the elements and principles of art & design, but also how to think, respond to, and express new ideas using a visual language.

Art, however, is not simply about ideas. While one component of art education is certainly to highlight and nurture the creative spark in every student, students also learn valuable skills. Students learn how to translate their ideas into a workable piece of art – a complex process that involves planning, making mistakes, regrouping, editing, and execution. In this way, students develop confidence in their abilities to create their own art, and to think of new ways to express themselves through art. In developing these skills, they also begin to learn how to critically approach and appreciate various types of art. This week, I’ve selected three resources on modern and contemporary art for various grade levels; many of the lessons are adaptable to a range of ages. Throughout the week, I’ll also be featuring several new lessons and resources daily on this topic on our Facebook and Twitter pages, so be sure to give those a look.

A Bug’s Journey
Subjects: Visual art, Language arts
Grade: 3-5
Students will explore contemporary artist John Baldessari's mixed-media work of art inspired by a 16th-century drawing of a beetle. After writing a story about a bug's journey, each student will create a mixed-media representation of a bug that is inspired by the contemporary artist's work. This lesson was created by the staff at the
J. Paul Getty Museum. The Museum offers a host of resources for K-12 teachers and students, including professional development opportunities, lesson plans, and interactive art features.

Color Scramble
Subjects: Visual arts
Grade: 5-12
In the 1960’s, Frank Stella became known for his minimal geometric paintings of concentric squares that used color to create visual movement. Each concentric square of color related to the next, whether they were harmonic or contrasting colors. In this lesson plan, students consider color relations and “paint” a Stella-style work with colored masking tape. This lesson was produced by Dick Blick Art Materials, a supplier of art goods for artists and educators. Dick Blick also provides lesson plans for teachers that meet the National Standards for Visual Art Education.

Introduction to Modern Art: Practice and Principals
Subjects: Visual arts, Writing
Grades: 10-11
In this lesson, students learn about several Abstract Expressionists and identify the ways in which they use color, line and form to express themselves. Students will learn about such artists as Red Grooms, Frank Stella, Stuart Davis, and Hans Hoffman. In addition, they will also learn about Stuart Davis, whose color theory may be contrasted with Hofmann’s. This lesson was created by PBS in support of its film Hans Hoffman: Artist/Teacher, Teacher/Artist. PBS provides many preK-12 educational resources and activities for educators tied to PBS programming, many of which are correlated to local and national standards.   

~ Joann's Picks - November 11, 2011~

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