Art:21: Another PBS Masterpiece: Sixteen Artists Reveal Their Personal Visions, Inspiration, and Technique in Public Television's Only Series Dedicated Exclusively to Contemporary Art and the People Who Create It

USA TODAY, September 2005 | Go to article overview

Art:21: Another PBS Masterpiece: Sixteen Artists Reveal Their Personal Visions, Inspiration, and Technique in Public Television's Only Series Dedicated Exclusively to Contemporary Art and the People Who Create It


EVERY DAY, contemporary artists ponder questions about life, society, philosophy, psychology, race, science, technology, memory, history, and the nature of art itself. Through an astonishing range of approaches, techniques, and materials, they transform their ideas into art that explores the possibilities of creative thinking and self-expression. What goes on inside the minds of today's most dynamic visual artists? How do they make the leap between insight and finished object? What tools do they use and why do they choose them? How do they locate themselves, their methods, and their works within the traditions of art history? What inspires artists to break through the barriers of convention to arrive at new ways of seeing?

These and other intriguing questions are explored in the third season of "Art:21--Art in the Twenty-First Century." the only series on national public television to locus exclusively on contemporary art and the people who create it. Like the great biennial art exhibitions that regularly showcase current artistic activity, "'Art:21" returns to television every two years to profile working artists who build our living culture with each painting, sculpture, photograph, or installation that they create. This season, "Art:21" travels from Silo Paulo to Boston, from Berlin to Houston, to film 16 working artists and to open up the intimate spaces where they flourish. The four-part series can be seen Sept. 16, 23, and 30, and Oct. 7 on PBS.

Creating art is a complex process; sometimes deliberate, sometimes serendipitous, always rigorous. "Art:21" takes viewers into the artists' lives, unfiltered, for a rare encounter with the creative process in action and an exciting opportunity to hear what cutting-edge creators are thinking about as they work. "It is difficult to imagine anyone who works harder than an artist," says Susan Sollins, executive producer of the series. "'Art:21' allows public television viewers to experience the passion, the focus, and the compulsion that drives their creativity."

As in previous seasons, each hour of the show is organized around a unifying theme that helps audiences analyze, compare, contrast, and juxtapose the artists profiled. The Sept. 16 program explores "'Power" and the issues of violence, domination, and control that pervade contemporary society. "Memory," airing Sept. 23, delves into how an artist's personal backgound, as well as our shared historical past, emerge in artistic expression. "Structures," on Sept. 30, profiles artists who investigate context and order in the organization of their art. "Play," broadcasting Oct. 7. reveals artists who fearlessly tap improvisation, games, spontaneity, and mundane objects to make art that is simultaneously whimsical and profound.

Each of the programs is introduced by a celebrity host who is passionate and knowledgeable about contemporary art. This season, David Alan Grief, Isabella Rossellini, Sam Waterston, and Grant Hill announce the theme at the beginning of each hour. Every show also includes an original work of video art by Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Bitchier. Known for their haunting video projections, Hubbard and Birchler's work alters temporal, cinematic, and architectural expectations of the viewer through the use of looping narratives. For "Art:21," their first commission for television, they have created a series of beautiful and enigmatic short films, always in the same setting and with recurring characters, centered around the idea of sleep and dreams.

For many viewers, this season should challenge conventional notions of "the painter" or "the sculptor" who works in a single medium. A great many of the artists profiled are adept in numerous media, easily moving from one to the next as they experiment and search for the perfect form for expressing their visions. Matthew Ritchie talks about how central drawing is to his practice, but here is seen creating metal sculptures, elaborate multimedia installations, and even designing playing cards and games. …

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Art:21: Another PBS Masterpiece: Sixteen Artists Reveal Their Personal Visions, Inspiration, and Technique in Public Television's Only Series Dedicated Exclusively to Contemporary Art and the People Who Create It
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