In 2011, artists pushed themselves and their work to new levels. Many of our artists were trying to say something beyond their art--looking to make a statement, raise awareness, or help those in need. Here is some of the art that we found to be Character Approved this year.
Ai WeiWei: This year, artist Ai WeiWei was arrested in China for using political subject matter in his work. He was beaten and his studio was destroyed. Eventually, the Chinese government released him and ordered him to pay a fine for tax issues. Through it all, he has remained fearless. [Image: Elisa Haberer]
Art in the Streets: For the past 30 years the art world has slowly been embracing graffiti as an art movement. However, it wasn't until this year that a major museum, newly led by gallerist Jeffrey Deitch, presented a full-scale retrospective. Complete with installations of the Fun Gallery and Street Market, the Museum of Contemporary Art in LA managed to cover graffiti and street art from all over the country. The crowds at the museum have never been bigger. [Image: MOCA]
Zevs: In remembrance of the 10th anniversary, Zevs painted glowing figures in the hotel room where the September 11th terrorists stayed the night before the attack. The figures in the Portland, Maine hotel room are only visible using UV light. We've found the piece has polarized some people, which means it's doing what it should: creating a dialogue. [Image: Zevs]
Lucian Freud: Lucian Freud died this past year at the age of 88. With his distorted and often confrontational portraits, he redefined figurative painting. He will be missed but his influence on the art world lives on. [Image: Art Observed]
Nan Goldin: Nan Goldin was given unprecedented access to the Louvre this year to photograph artwork to pair with her own photos. Partnering the Louvre with Nan Goldin is a stroke of genius that combines historic and often iconic artwork with that of an East Village artist whose body of work includes photographs of friends with AIDS, images of addiction, and physical abuse. What she found is that the ideas and imagery that moved her have been central to art for hundreds of years. [Image: Nan Goldin]
Mick Ebeling's Eyewriter: This innovation demonstrates that technology can be simple, affordable, and life-changing. Built for under $200, the Eyewriter uses open-source technology to allow people with paralysis to write using their eyes. Moved by the seeing artists who were literally captive in their own bodies, and by the insurance industry, Ebeling brought together a unique set of designers, graffiti writers, and technologies to make the Eyewriter accessible to everyone. [Image: Laughing Squid]
24M: Michael Kalish's 24M project recognized those with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) with beautiful sculptures made of license plates. Representing the 24 million people with COPD, this traveling exhibit raised awareness in a creative way. [Image: DRIVE4COPD]
Swoon in Haiti: In 2011 Swoon continued to leverage her success and her art to help those who needed it most--the people of Haiti. Her Konbit Shelter Project created structures that resist natural disasters and are sustainable, inexpensive, and dependable. Swoon sold prints to support the work and went to Haiti to help build and beautify the structures. [Image: Upper Playground]
Savage Beauty: Alexander McQueen's posthumous show at the Costume Institute with the Metropolitan Museum of Art was as powerful as his live runway shows. Drawing intense emotion and at times confusion from visitors, no one was left wondering why McQueen was such a revered designer. This show converted many art lovers into fashion lovers as they got to know the political, feminist, cinematic, and complex concepts behind McQueen's work. [Image: Met Museum]
MOMA Visitors With Disabilities: We applaud MoMA for their innovation in making the arts accessible to everyone. MoMA's programming includes creating a guide to engage individuals with dementia and Alzheimer's with art both in the Museum and at home. The Create Ability program is a hands-on workshop for individuals with learning and developmental disabilities and their families to explore different themes and artwork in the galleries and in the classroom. They also have programming and AV for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing including sign language, assistive technology, and transcripts for visitors of all ages. [Image: MOMA]
The Character Approved blog celebrates the people, places and things that are making a mark by positively influencing our cultural landscape.
They're Character Approved - recipients of USA Network's seal of approval. Join us daily as thought leaders in Art, Food, Music, Technology, Fashion and more discuss
the ideas and trends impacting the cultural landscape around us. In addition to this USA Character blog, USA Network honors Characters through Character Approved Awards.
These awards pay tribute, to the real characters who are changing the face of American culture. The 2010 honorees are innovators in their field who are influencing our opinions,
our style, and our view of the world. They're celebrated by their peers, and their fresh, authentic ideas both suprise and inspire us.