How does contemporary art address the idea of place? How do artists working today reveal and question commonly held assumptions about land, home, and national identity? The “Art in the Twenty-First Century” documentary Place explores these questions through the work of Richard Serra, Sally Mann, Barry McGee, Margaret Kilgallen and Pepon Osorio.
Richard Serra was born in San Francisco in 1939. Serra’s early work in the 1960s focused on the industrial materials that he had worked with as a youth in West Coast steel mills and shipyards; steel and lead. A famous work from this time involved throwing lead against the walls of his studio. Though casts were created from the impact of the lead hitting the walls, the emphasis of the piece was really on the process of creating it; raw aggression and physicality, combined with a self-conscious awareness of material and a real engagement with the space in which it was worked.
Sally Mann was born in 1951 in Lexington, Virginia, where she continues to live and work. Her early series of photographs of her three children and husband resulted in a series called “Immediate Family.” In her recent series of landscapes of Alabama, Mississippi, Virgina, and Georgia, Mann has stated that she “wanted to go right into the heart of the deep, deep South.”
Pepon Osorio was born in Puerto Rico in 1955 and is best known for his large-scale installations. Osorio’s pieces, influenced by his experience as a social worker, in The Bronx, usually evolve from an interaction with the neighbourhoods and people among which he is working; he says, “My principal commitment as an artist is to return art to the community.”
Barry McGee was born in California in 1966 where he continues to live and work. He is a lauded and much-respected cult figure in a bi-coastal subculture that comprises skaters, graffiti artists, and West Coast surfers. His drawings, paintings, and mixed-media installations take their inspiration from contemporary urban culture, incorporating elements such as empty liquor bottles and spray-paint cans, tagged signs, wrenches, and scrap wood or metal.
Margaret Kilgallen was born in 1967 in Washington, DC. Early experiences as a librarian and bookbinder contributed to her encyclopaedic knowledge of signs, drawn from American folk tradition, printmaking, and letterpress. Painting directly on the wall, Kilgallen created room-size murals that recall a time when personal craft and handmade signs were the dominant aesthetic.
Art21: Art in the 21st Century is an award-winning series of 24 programmes in which 100 contemporary artists explain their creations, their creative processes, and their perceptions of art. Available for the first time on DVD in the UK, Art21 covers a wide range of artists and contemporary visual art.