When looking at the creative thinking process employed by some of the world’s most groundbreaking artists, it amplifies the narrative revealing what artists do best— unrestrained innovation— with not only their conceptual subject matter, but sometimes with the very materials or formats being utilised. Unsurprisingly, the most interesting ideas come from the artist’s forte with thinking outside the box, which often leads to a literal translation of that saying. Perhaps that is where the saying originated.
The best part about artwork that breaks physical boundaries with its media is that it leads the viewer to subsequently break boundaries in their own minds, opening up worlds of fresh connections and vital understandings, even if only abstract. We discover the pleasure of an element of beauty in our surroundings that was previously hidden, maybe even in plain sight, and furthermore get to experience a resonance with the diversity of tactile impressions made on us from both the outside and inner world.
The most well known perhaps with this sort of blazingly new methodology is of course Christo, who seems to effortlessly crash through the walls of even what we think of as art. Christo and his wife Jeanne-Claude realized such a powerfully iconic and dynamic vision that they have almost become the face and name representing art innovation in contemporary time. Their sculptures of wrapped buildings, landforms and objects seem to manifest an entirely new region of sensation in the mind, calling attention to the beauty of nature or human construction, brushing elbows with politics, ecology, biology or even love in a way that is dismantlingly inspiring. A seemingly simple concept is steeped with emotion, making open-ended references to anything the viewer is experiencing. This signed print Surrounded Islands, Biscayne Bay, Greater Miami is amongst their most emblematic.
Frank Stella – Sinjerli Variation I, offset lithograph 2006
Frank Stella is one of the original abstract artists who was a genre-defining frontrunner in the 1960s with the evolution of the shaped canvas, his ideology experimenting with his interest in the painting as an object. His canvases in this vein were often in shapes like L, N, U or T, and later progressed into more elaborate designs with his Irregular Polygon series. This classic piece Sinjerli Variation I of that series features his clear talent with the grace of geometry and the appreciation of things unsquare.
"Unsurprisingly, the most interesting ideas come from the artist’s forte with thinking outside the box, which often leads to a literal translation of that saying."
Robert Rauschenberg – Quarry, offset lithograph 1968
And another important player bending the definitions of art process and creation is, resoundingly, Rauschenberg, who invented the term combines in an effort to describe the kind of work he was making. Blurring the lines between painting, sculpture and printmaking, to name just a few, his highly original and distinctive voice gives new light to old objects and reinvents the actual involvement of process in the work itself. His works are not merely finished pictures but rather more like evidence of his free spirited visions as they unfold. One of the early pioneers with silkscreen, his work has so much charisma and variation that it is difficult to focus on just one aspect. This piece Quarry shows how he is using a stylized photograph almost as a blunt printing object to create near abstract masses for elements of design, merely one point amidst a veritable jungle of techniques.
Barbara Kruger – Untitled (Stamps), offset lithograph 2013
Barbara Kruger gives us a conceptual art piece that is not just an image of postage stamps but a sheet of actual stamps, printed on kiss-cut adhesive paper and created as a special artwork for East of Borneo, the well known Los Angeles art magazine, in a signed limited edition of only 35. The nine individual images of Untitled (Stamps), repeating in a 3 x 3 grid, read the words Happy, Sad, Awake, Asleep, Hopeful, Doubtful, Relaxed, Tense and Alive. Paired with the image of the stopwatch and presented in the repetitive manner as such, the commentary is easy to discern.
Vik Muniz – Roland Garros French Open, offset lithograph 2017
In a poster for the Roland Garros French Open artist Vik Muniz is playfully interlacing the medium of tennis court clay as a drawing tool with the imagery of the court itself and the shadows made by light. The result could perhaps be put in the category of trompe-l'œil as a photograph, though in reality it is a sculpture— or more accurately, shifts between definitions of a sculpture and a three dimensional illustration. Whichever way you look at it, it is certainly mind-bending in concept, succinct in realization and full of lyricism.
Marcel Duchamp – 50 cc of Paris Air, on Pink, stone lithograph 1986
And where would we be without everyone’s favorite original art critic artist, Marcel Duchamp, inventor of the high art gallery toilet, reminding viewers everywhere to not take art so seriously sometimes— an extraordinarily valuable contribution to the discussion as a whole. This piece 50 cc of Paris Air, on Pink is of the glass ornament that was a 1919 gift from Duchamp to his friend and patron Walter Arensburg upon Duchamp's return from Paris to New York. His combination of humor, wit and mastery with innovative thinking were revolutionary at the time, and still ring one-of-a-kind even now.