Let's start with a given.
There are more than a handful of living artists who are "crushing it" on a daily basis. In fact, they've been killing it for a long time now. Pardon the slang, but we are contemporary. Are we not?
For several years, I've been thinking about the Old Masters and their accomplishments and contributions to the art world that we enjoy today. Caravaggio, Rembrandt and many others laid the foundation and set the standards. Each time I see their work, I'm stunned and delighted. They're not called, "Old Masters" for nothing.
Yet, we're also in the “here and now.” We're living in our own time. This is fantastic because we can tip our hats to the past and even continue to hold ceremonies and exhibition openings that salute the greats who've come before us. Isn't that how it should be? Even if you haven't achieved "master" status in your life, you still want to be remembered for something. No?
While I've been pondering the Old Masters, I've also been thinking about the art greats who are alive today yet remain unsung. Isn't it best that we salute the people who inspire us while they're alive to hear and appreciate our appreciation?
It's so easy to applaud and praise the dead and famous who've already been canonized. There’s no adventure or risk in that. That’s the safe road of convention and uniformity. Given that, what about our living and striving art greats? Are we supposed to wait for someone to make a proclamation or sign an affidavit? We could be sitting here for the balance of our lives waiting for someone to go out on a limb and make an educated estimation.
The very same God who gifted the Old Masters has also gifted many others. His actions and their work set the stage for overwhelming abundance. Back then, our cups runneth over and today, they remain like flowing fountains.
This may be ignorance or arrogance on my part. Yes, those fraternal twins are rearing their ugly heads again, but I'm going to do it. I'm going to stand up - alone, as usual - and voice my enthusiasm after years of careful consideration and scrutiny.
ArtBookGuy is naming the artists who are without question, "Contemporary Art Masters." These are living artists whose work and art practice are living extensions of the traditions set forth by the Old Masters. Color, line, composition, balance, age, experience, narrative, motivation, their application of art history, absolute command and mastery of subject matter and materials, technical skill combined with vision and my interviews with them are among the things taken into consideration.
To use contemporary, pop culture terms that most folks might recognize, these artists could be dubbed, the "Jedi Masters" or the "Yodas" of contemporary art. They've mastered their own processes and continue to create work that's clearly beyond proficient; it's profound, prolific and seemingly supernaturally-inspired.
In short, even though these artists are very human and well-grounded, they live and work high above the art fray where they’re floating around in their own celestial bubbles of artistic beautification. Smile.
ArtBookGuy's "Contemporary Art Masters" isn't about sparking narrow-minded debate about one individual’s choices. Art is profoundly subjective. To this day, the Old Masters - despite their "Demi-God" status - still have their critics. Ultimately, the goal is to jump start dialogue about contemporary art that's beyond excellent and above reproach. The purpose is to shed the spotlight - once again - on these artists who are literally kicking ass and taking names not only on the art scene, but the future world stage. The crucial element here is that their work transcends mere artistic considerations and rises to the level of cultural and historical iconography.
Some of these artists are known, some are not. Some may be well-to-do, but most are not. That's life. However, I can no longer be silent about something I've wanted to do for years. No, I am not an art historian or scholar. I love art historians and scholars. However, even highly-educated, art professionals bow to the subjectivity of art. You may not like, agree with or understand what “rocks my world” and vice versa.
However, let's resist debate, lift our vision as these artists do and celebrate choice. Let’s honor these gifted artists who deserve our respect. I've done the research.
It's my ultimate hope that ArtBookGuy's "Contemporary Art Masters" will refocus society's attention on the living, breathing and hardworking, gifted ones among us. In fact, they're far more than mere talents. These are human beings who've devoted much of their lives to beauty, excellence and profundity that even Da Vinci himself might applaud.
There are questionably many more “Contemporary Art Masters” out there. I am naming those familiar to me and with whom I’ve conducted in-depth interviews. While this is an “elite” group, this assemblage is not based on elitism, nor is it a ranking and politics played no role whatsoever in this project. It’s 100% based on their talent and my human assessment.
One final note ...
I am fully aware that producing this type of project is not without its pitfalls and critics. Early in 2014, I emailed hundreds of art world types and artists in an attempt to pick their brains about “Old Masters” and “Contemporary Art Masters.”
I did not receive a single response. This is a controversial topic and very few art world people – including the so-called, “Power 100” are willing to stick their necks out. The Old Masters are “Demi-Gods” of the art world – even today - and no one wants to even suggest that there are living artists who might potentially be nearly as gifted.
However, controversy is my specialty. I think Caravaggio himself would be delighted to know that for all of his sometimes arrogant struggles, his rugged life was not in vain because his legacy is awash in worthy descendants.
Let’s push the “masters” dialogue forward, shall we?
With great pleasure and much relief, here are ArtBookGuy's "50 Contemporary Art Masters."