greatest contemporary artists


Current Billboard standings for this week (March 21, 2015)

1. Billboard Hot 100 #21 (up from 37) ☆☆☆

2. Billboard 200 #1 (hot shot debut) ☆☆☆

3. Billboard 200 #122 (re-entry onto chart)

4. Artist 100 #5 (up from 48) ☆☆☆

5. Billboard Top Digital Songs #21 (up from 32)

6. Billboard Twitter Top Tracks #31 (up from 35)

7. Billboard Top Album Sales #1 (highest ranking debut) ☆☆☆

8. Billboard Digital Albums #1 (highest ranking debut) ☆☆☆

9. Billboard Adult Contemporary #9 (same as last week) ☆☆☆

10. Billboard Adult Pop Songs #10 (same as last week) ☆☆☆

Not Pictured

11. Official U.K. Singles Chart - Heartbeat Song #10 (down from 7)

12. Official U.K. Albums Chart - Piece By Piece #6 (debut) ☆☆☆

13. Billboard Canadian Hot 100 - Heartbeat Song #25 (up from 28) ☆☆☆

14. Canadian Digital Songs - Heartbeat Song #27 (up from 37)

15. Canadian Albums - Piece By Piece #4 (debut) ☆☆☆

☆☆☆ : peak position on the chart

#6 Julie Mehretu (b. 1970 -)

I think of my abstract mark-making as a type of sign lexicon, signifier, or language for characters that hold identity and have social agency. The characters in my maps plotted, journeyed, evolved, and built civilisations. I charted, analyzed, and mapped their experience and development: their cities, their suburbs, their conflicts, and their wars. The paintings occurred in an intangible no-place: a blank terrain, an abstracted map space. As I continued to work I needed a context for the marks, the characters. By combining many types of architectural plans and drawings I tried to create a metaphoric, tectonic view of structural history. I wanted to bring my drawing into time and place

These words of the artist herself are perhaps the best description one can make of Mehretu’s works. An abstract analysis of globalization and the expanding structures of capitalism. Despite this, she is politically neutral, even going so far as to be commissioned by Goldman Sachs in 2007 to paint a mural for their building. Her opinion of the corporation; “I don’t see it as an evil institution, but as part of the larger system that we all participate in. We’re all a part of it.” And perhaps this is a part of the logic of her art. Clearly fascinated with the abstract landscape of global civilization, she envisions a certain democratic highway of mass interaction.

In her paintings, everything is ordered by a certain chaotic interconnectedness. Like the charts of collisions of subatomic particles, Mehretu maps out a macroscopic vision of the microscopic interactions that make up the mass of interactions called civilization. Perhaps it may be ironic to quote Marx in regards to such a politically-neutral artist, but not only are Mehretu’s paintings one of the highest expressions of Late capitalism and postmodern signification, they testify to Marx’s declaration that “Society does not consist of individuals, but expresses the sum of interrelations, the relations within which these individuals stand.”

Her masterpiece to date, and one of the greatest paintings of the last decade is Congress, shown above.

#8 Sean Scully (b.1945-)

While Scully calls himself a Romantic, I’d more likely call him a spiritualist harking back from the medieval tradition. His repeating textures are highly reminiscent to many of the precursors to abstract expressionism one can find a thousand years back such as the glowing decoration of The Book of Kells or the design of the Durham Cathedral.

Like such passionate believers in the beauty of variation and repetition as Bach or Ozu, Scully makes the carpet-like patterns of carefully organized stripes a religion. His greatest works it seems are the ones that maintain a highly baroque and monotone pattern, with a sudden interruption in order by another order, that is, not a dissent from pattern by chaos, but a digression from dominating order to a minor one. 

Like many works of abstract expressionism, Scully’s exist outside of time and space, yet they have a certain baroque precision to them, even more so than other Color Field paintings. In this regard he is just as much a craftsman as he is a painter. His stripes of his paintings like bricks to some grand cathedral that shall forever be unconstructed.