Rudolf Urech-Seon Composition P, 1954 – Orient, 1958
Photograph: Katalin Deér, 2011, Verwaltungsgebäude

[...] Over the centuries, not only have artists’ methods, materials, and motifs changed, to say nothing of their clients and the function of the works they produce, but artists have set new goals for themselves, and they have led their audiences to develop new expectations of art.

This explains why a work can be described as new even when it “merely” revisits a particular mode of representation – which is what contemporary art often does – with the result that the work is not actually “new” at all, at least not in terms of technique or craftsmanship. Traditional forms and techniques can also be harnessed to the pursuit of completely different goals. After all, the intention underlying a work is just as much a part of it as its objective existence.

So when we ask whether an artist is in tune with the times, we should not confine our comparison to mode of representation – the handling of form, in other words – alone; we should rather inquire into what the artist actually intended with his or her work. As artistic intentions have not remained constant, works from different periods can be compared only up to a point. And as goals change, so historical works can be viewed in a new light.

Historical works can be viewed in a new light

While the leading artists of the 1960s and 1970s were most often those who used their works to reflect on their medium of choice, who questioned and broadened the notion of “the work,” [...]


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