Contemporary artists are those who create contemporary artworks. Contemporary art is an umbrella term that can include art that has either been produced since World War II or art that has been created within 20 years of the present date. The types of media used or the artwork created by contemporary artists can vary widely. These artists can include those working with virtual reality, video and digital media, graffiti, sound art, installation and earthworks, performance and interactive art, as well as more traditional media like painting, sculpture, and drawing.
Since the 1950s, there have been more than 50 movements in the art world that fall under the overall umbrella of contemporary art. Each art movement incorporates a different set of rules and aesthetics. Art movements vary from abstract expressionism to minimalism, and from pop art to electronic art. Both world events and advances in technology have influenced the types of work these artists create.
The term modern art is often used synonymously with contemporary art. Modern art, however, is artwork created from the 1880s to the mid-20th century, including the movements known as impressionism, cubism, and surrealism. Contemporary art, while it may overlap slightly with modern art, usually seeks out new technologies and new forms of expression. Overall, there is no one set of rules that determines what type of artwork contemporary artists create.
Contemporary artists in the 1960s discovered new uses for an acrylic polymer previously used only by scientists. Through their experimentation, they popularized what would become the acrylic paint medium. In the 1970s, these artists adopted new video technology and began creating performance videos. The 1980s brought digital artwork to the forefront with the onset of personal computers. The 1990s pushed the digital aspect even further to create interactive and Internet-based art.
At the same time, there were contemporary artists reacting to these new technologies in different ways by making works of art that utilized the waste or byproducts created by the onset of newer technologies. As one example, artist Ed Rossbach began weaving baskets out of plastic discards. Other artists, such as installation artist and sculptor Andy Goldsworthy, went in the opposite direction in a reaction against newer technologies by diving back into more traditional forms of art making. Today's artists have the luxury of working in any medium available, whether it be technology-based, traditional, or some combination of the two.