5 Art Trends in 2012

by Hrag Vartanian on December 20, 2012


Clockwise from top: GIF, Amy Feldman’s “Ever After” (2010), Jayson Musson’s “On Some Faraway Beach” (2012), and Angela Washko’s “WDWMW (Women Dying While Men Watch)” (2012).

We hate to discuss art trends because it makes art sound like fashion, but, alas, they’re real and they happen. Remember that whole “paintings propped up on objects” trend last year, well, we spotted a few things in the last twelve months we wanted to point out as the year comes to a close.

Screenshots from Video Games

Sometimes this is done really really well, like Justin Berry’s works earlier this year at Interstate Projects, but everyone seems to be doing it and it’s becoming way too common. We should mention that art video games (think Zach Gage and Pippin Barr) are also a growing thing too, but those haven’t even hit their peak yet.

Sloppy Abstract Painting

Raphael Rubinstein calls it “Provisional Painting” and Sharon Butler calls it the New Casualists. Whatever you call it, it’s friggin’ everywhere. And we’re not using the word “sloppy” as a bad thing, as Butler explains:

The idea is to cast aside the neat but rigid fundamentals learned in art school and embrace everything that seems to lend itself to visual intrigue — including failure. The painters take a meta approach that refers not just to earlier art historical styles, but back to the process of painting itself. These self-amused but not unserious painters have abandoned the rigorously structured propositions and serial strategies of previous generations in favor of playful, unpredictable encounters.

Unpredictable? Sharon, we predict that we won’t be able to escape it.

Making Fun of Art PR

It’s a cheap shot and we were one of the first to start it back in 2009, but honestly, we get it … The intern wrote it, or someone who doesn’t speak English as their first language did, or someone’s heart wasn’t into it … it happens, but everyone wants to criticize them. So that thing called International Art English, it’s not real, it’s just academic speak. Ok, we may poke fun at it again, because it’s funny, but there was a lot of it this year.

Cosby Sweaters

Oh boy, they’re everywhere. I personally blame Bushwick painter Paul Gagnon, who had a painting of one in his studio in 2011, and the Cosby Sweater Project that also began in 2011. This year I saw Cosby sweaters, Coogi sweaters, and things that look like both a hell of a lot of places, including Jayson Musson’s (aka Hennessey Youngman) art show and even our Ugly Sweater holiday party. VICE even published a video interview with the “creator” of the Cosby Sweater last month. Is it time for a Cosby Show remake?

Total GIF Takeover

AFC declared 2010 the Year of the GIF, but I think 2012 made 2010 look like a quaint almost GIF-free era by comparison. Powered by Tumblr, Buzzfeed, and other GIF-loving entities, the GIF crept into discussions of Presidential debates, TV shows, art email blasts, art shows, everywhere! Hell, we’re even creating Holiday GIF Guides nowadays.

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  • And what about theoretical quantum attitudinal transformational art?

  • I’m getting tired of seeing painters make their work about failure. It’s become an unoriginal cop out. Time for something else.

  • Kate Rhoades

    Love them ALL!

  • If 2012 was about making fun of Art PR, then 2013 is about embracing it as poetry

  • Brendan

    Too true. Here’s my 2012 art/pr experience- the inimitable Olaf Olsson riffing on e-flux:
    (Hint: his talks are amazing)

  • like many of you, and them, I was ahead of the curve in so many ways – what makes someone stick with one of these “trends”? Taste, I suppose. Motivated art is the same as concept art, but with its own power source. I forget when I made this, does it matter? No, I answer my own question.
    Your Universal Adversary.

  • Cat Weaver

    lightboxes, richterisms, 3D, more comix (but less animé)…

  • Not to quibble, but I’d say 2011 was a bigger GIF year, (though, yes, I did identify 2010 as the Year of the GIF two years ago). We’re seeing a lot more GIFs now, but it’s hard to imagine a bigger event for many artists than the introduction of Google+. This platform handles much larger file sizes and makes sharing easier. Sadly, Google+ recently shrunk their column width—not exactly a step forward for these artists—and there’s a little less activity on the platform. I doubt that’s indicative of anything past an inevitable leveling off of frantic sharing, but in the future, I’ll be choosing my “year ofs” around major platform changes rather than a flurry of news stories and tumblr use, as I did in 2010.

    • Really? Bigger than Buzzfeed’s totally giffification of every news story in the world this year? I mean … remember the Olympics!? I think I only watched them this year through gifs.

      • Well, I guess I’d make a distinction between Buzzfeed’s GIFs and the GIFs being made with the intention of being art. Otherwise I feel like we’re doing the equivalent of lauding photojournalism as though it were made with the same spirit and intention as artists taking photos for the gallery. Nothing wrong with either, they’re just different worlds.

        • True, but I wouldn’t call that photojournalism either … HA! I do think since many artists using pop culture in their work the proliferation of GIFs in pop culture enters art from that channel as well.

        • I was think about your G+ comment and I’m actually not sure why you think that was significant. It didn’t do anything Tumblr hadn’t already done.

          • Google+ allows users to post much larger file sizes. That’s a game changer.

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