In the theory and critique of art, postmodernism remains a movement that was announced somewhere around the ’60s, was active in the ’70s, and the trajectory of which ended around the ’80s. In the discussion concerning the present, some historians and theorists have wondered which would be the appropriate title for the new movement which has developed over the last 25 years. The answer is long due only from the perspective of the theory of art, as the artists of these recent years have evolved with a remarkable dynamic and public receptivity. The artists of the last 25 years are present, they exist and express themselves by means of an efficacious dialogue with the media and the centres for promoting art.
Relevant for our discourse is the following remark: the art of the last 25 years contains a great number of artists based in London and beyond, that set the rhythm of the art situated after the postmodernist moment. The most illustrious representatives of the last 25 years in London question the work of art within the institutional context of the museum, creating actions and works of art which propose an approach in terms of the acts of socializing between the institution of the museum, the spectator and the artistic object. Thus, we can quote Carsten Höller regarding the tendency recorded as “experiential” art or – why not? – Tracey Emin. But London can be interesting from another aspect as well, that of the art galleries, of the distribution and exposure within a gallery of the artists which belong to the most representative figures in art over the last few years. The London galleries bring forth international artists and place them in the English artistic atmosphere: in this specific case, we speak of Aleah Chapin.
Reprising the evolution of postmodernism, we note the feminism imposed in the art of the ’70s. The feminine portrait takes on aspects of an explicit nudity, of the type of details which are linked to the evolution of the body: physical features, explicit images of the feminine body. By way of example, in art, the realistic portrait and sexuality, especially feminism, remain to this day landmarks of the international artistic atmosphere. Thus, we are set in the present and may indulge in a correlation between two Anglophone artists, the first of which opened a recent exhibition in London bearing the title Maiden, Mother, Child and Crone, whereas the second has a sometimes contested, yet acclaimed oeuvre, i.e. Tracey Emin.
Verifying one of the theories of the artists launched after the postmodernist movement, Tracey Emin is one of the characters that has caught the attention of the media and that has been elevated by precisely that attention. This is also the case of Aleah Chapin. The most recent exhibition benchmarks bring to our attention a young artist aged 28 that makes portraits in the form of realistic nudes of women at varied ages. The figures are captured whilst carrying out common, usual actions, which would not bring on their depiction as nudes. Thus, we speak of a series of exceptions. The action of the artist is based on a previous research of the details of the feminine body, a research which has as starting point the feminine body’s wrinkles from the most indecent areas and which culminates with tattoos and other forms of corporal individuality. For an adaptation of the woman’s body to the concrete, an adaptation which is as real as can be, the artist chooses the oversized portrait, realistic stances of the body which is exteriorized into a nude. The critics admit that the artist touches on the grotesque. She herself thinks that the interest for the different feminine ages and the natural depiction of the body without any clothes make out a theme that will continue to haunt her.
Punctually reprising the hypotheses of the new movement recorded after postmodernism, Tracey Emin can be associated with it, without it necessarily culminating with her inclusion in experiential art. We can place her in the realms of confessional art but within a trend that imposes the work of art in museums as an interaction between spectator, museum and the work of art. Her most renowned work, My Bed, exposes a fragment of the real life of the author, through the inclusion of her own bed – with ravaged sheets and cigarette stubs, bottles of booze, traces of her personal life. We want to add that she is the second woman to have represented Great Britain at the Venice Biennale, and she did it alongside the renowned British artist Damien Hirst. Tracey Emin has a surprising sexual history which she manifests in her works. Having been raped at the age of 13, her work questions and assumes feminine sexuality, which she conserves and depicts in a film called Tracey Emin’s CV Cunt Vernacular. Other titles that speak of sexual emancipation and femininity in society but especially in art are Why I Never Became a Dancer (1995), a work which is formulated like a creed of the first sexual experience or If I Could Just Go Back and Start Again (1995). The latter shows the nude representation of a woman, a theme which it exploits in a unique series through which the artist tries to realize a sort of journal of feminine sexual intimacy. Her collection presented at the Biennale is also represented by a work in neon entitled My Cunt Is Wet with Fear. Fear and wariness are aspects that have been investigated in the works of the two artists.
The naked body and feminine sexuality are transformed into objects of art. Tracey Emin and Aleah Chapin meet at the point where the confusion of society regarding the erotic act and the feminine body impose perceptions motivated by documentation (Aleah Chapin) and personal experience (Tracey Emin). The portrait’s highlight set on pubic hair or on a tattoo brings on a confession about the feminine nude whilst a neon work and a phrase like Every Part of Me’s Bleeding introduce the audience to an atmosphere of sensual intensity of the woman artist. Both artists are in a situation in which they do not raise too many questions but rather succumb to answers about the feminine sentiment and eroticism, sometimes lyricism in a society dictated by the intimate naturalness of the woman, explored by forms of understanding the feminine body and the pure, sometimes trivial, erotic act. The two artists investigate clichés and details offered by a new world of art, which is post-postmodernist and post-institutional. The result thus produced is propelled into the area of the most current art, with the most innovative conceptions on art.
The conclusion leads us directly towards a recognition of the newest researches on actual art: whatever the name that we give it, it makes its presence felt.