Postmodern art has its critics, and its enthusiasts. Many can’t quite understand the message or beauty in, perhaps, a urinal turned on its side, or coloured throw up on a canvas. Ever since it first became a recognized, respected genre, there’s been an ongoing debate about the value of modern art. Some believe it can be seen as a backlash against traditional artistic conventions. Is art only art if it follows certain rules? Or can anything be deemed art?
Arguably, looking at a renaissance painting next to pile of literal garbage and calling them equal doesn’t seem right. Proponents of this type of postmodern art, however, might say the garbage holds a deeper message, and thus has more objective value in today’s society. Regardless, it’s hard to deny that modern art does one thing it’s intended to do – it makes a statement, it critiques societal norms and it often gets us talking. Postmodern art is still alive and well today, since is inception in the ’50s as part of a contemporary art movement, but there are new sub-genres forming all the time. Art, as it always has, reflects the desires and the spirit of the populace.
Take a look through this list of twelve examples of bizarre modern art and attempt, if you dare, to understand their deeper meanings.
12. Marcel Duchamp – “Fountain”
Modern art usually holds a deep meaning for its creator. “Fountain” is no different. At first glance, it appears to be a urinal turned on its side, on a pedestal. But on second glance, well… It’s still a urinal placed on its side on a pedestal, however, it can speak volumes about society, or so its creator thought.
Marcel Duchamp put his piece up for exhibition in 1917, but it was rejected by the directors. Despite its rejection, it has inspired many other artists due to its deeper meaning. What is that meaning? That any object, even utilitarian ones, can be made unusable and into pure works of art.
11. Dr Gunther von Hagens – Body Worlds
Many may of heard of the Body World exhibit, but seeing it in the flesh is a different experience entirely. These real human bodies are preserved and put on display using a process called “plastination.” They are then put into various poses.
For obvious reasons, Dr. Gunther von Hagens’ work has been controversial, but that seems to be part of the criteria for great art, right?
10. Berndnaut Smilde – Nimbus Sankt Peter
This example of modern art has become very well-known, as it’s inarguably beautiful. The artist creates clouds in buildings and photographs them. Of course, a cloud is one of the last things someone would expect to see inside such a building, which adds to the originality and charm of the piece. As with all modern art, the viewer is free to read into it what they please. This one? Perhaps something about how nature can never be contained for long by humanity?
9. Jana Vanitas – Flesh Dress for an Albino Anorectic
The above dress is made entirely of meat. And while that may make some think of Lady Gaga’s wardrobe, Vanitas’ work is intended to bring something entirely different to mind. A Canadian artist, Vanitas has a fascination with social issues, and explores these through creating art through meat. This particular piece, she says, speaks to sexuality and control.
8. Jeff Koons – Puppy
This list wouldn’t be complete without Jeff Koons. Also famous for his giant “balloon” animals, Puppy is one of his pieces that at first appears to make no sense.
It is a giant puppy that has its own internal irrigation system to keep the plants used in its construction alive. It was created when modern artists were intent on using varied media for their art, and, whatever you think about is deeper meaning, it certainly makes a statement. And it’s adorable.
7. Troy Emery – Woolly Woofer
Troy Emery’s work looks bizarre. He uses a mash-up of animal forms to create his “fake taxidermy,” as he calls it. The animals become art – decorations – and no longer represent something living. While colourful and bright, there is also something undeniably creepy about the creations. Perhaps it’s the fact that they do not appear living in the least; there is no face and no distinct features remaining on his animals.
6. Louise Bourgeois – Maman
This giant spider is just a little bit unnerving. Its long, almost skeletal legs seem as if they could come alive at any moment. But the egg sac is probably the strangest part of the piece.
The spider is supposed to represent motherhood, hence the eggs. So, despite how gigantic and perhaps creepy the sculpture appears, there’s always some kind of deeper message to be gained from it, if you can stomach gazing at it for long enough.
This stroller certainly attracts attention. Featuring a grotesque cyclops head and exposed brain, it is just one of many in Presslee’s nightmarish collection. The child who rides in it is even able to grab the front piece of the stroller, which makes it appear as though the skin of the eye is being lifted upward by its occupant. The bizarre juxtaposition between the sweet and innocent baby driver and the horrific vehicle is bound to mean something, we’re just not quite sure what…
This sculpture of a black dog is 24 feet tall. It appears to be “urinating” on the wall next to it with yellow paint. It is also, ahem, anatomically correct. Like so many examples of modern art, this one proved wildly controversial, but most bypassers take it in their stride. Many think of it as some kind of joke, but there are others who view it as a genuine statement art piece.
3. Vinicius Quesada – Human Blood Paintings
Quesada only uses his own blood for the paintings, which is a long process. In addition, he also uses urine to create his masterpieces. Most of his art shows apocalyptic scenes, the message of which intensifies when the medium is discovered.
His art may not be for everyone, particularity those who are squeamish, but it does cause one to stop and think about the condition of the human being. Or maybe not.
2. Robert Rauschenberg – Monogram
This piece may not seem that bizarre at first glance, but believe us – it is. It is the combination of a real goat… and a tire. Taking the processes of taxidermy, painting, and sculpting and melding them together produces this interesting result. The title of the artwork is called “Monogram” because it reminds the artist of the letters of a monogram weaving together.
1. Andres Serrano – Piss Christ
This piece may be one of the most controversial examples of modern art there is. It is a photograph of a crucifix submerged into a container of Serrano’s own urine.
Understandably, many Christians have taken offense to the piece over the years, but Serrano himself, who identifies as a Christian, does not seem to mind. Actually, he wanted his art to make people upset just as, he says, the crucifix itself should. One group of people were so enraged that, in 2011, they took a hammer to the picture when it was being moved at a museum in France – assaulting the guard in the process.