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Q: Modern "alienation" examples. ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   2 Comments )
Subject: Modern "alienation" examples.
Category: Arts and Entertainment > Visual Arts
Asked by: brutsid-ga
List Price: $10.00
Posted: 09 May 2002 03:28 PDT
Expires: 08 Jun 2002 03:28 PDT
Question ID: 13937
(Sorry, I couldn't think of a better word than alienation.)

What are some good examples of art depicting the failure of modern
society to provide happiness?  Hopper is good, but I'm looking for
something that has a slight technological bent (not Escher or Giger,
please!)... More like a modern version of Daumier's "Third Class
Subject: Re: Modern "alienation" examples.
Answered By: musashidam-ga on 09 May 2002 12:11 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Thanks for your inquiry!

Themes of alienation and disconnection are rampant in contemporary
art, especially with advent of the 'moden world' and its various
dehumanizing influences.

Perhaps one of the most powerful examples of alienation and dispair in
the modern world is the work of painter Francis Bacon. Bacon's often
horrific paintings many times seem like cries from the darkest corners
of the human soul. Bacon had a fascination with carcasses and used
them as references in many of his works, many of which dealt with
religious themes stemming from his pessimistic attitudes and staunch
athiesm. If you are looking for examples of alienation in modern art,
I highly suggest that you take a look at his work.

A nice sketch of Bacon's career and motivations can be found at ( The
Paris WebMuseum also has a small online gallery of his works

Painter Laurie Hogin paints canvasses of classical style painting
twisted through the lens of moden culture.

"The animal monstrosities that populate my canvases and the
languishing allegorical environments they inhabit are narratives of a
warped world, and the world I refer to here is the one of my
perception, not my imagination. The strangeness represents real agents
of monstrosity: environmental degradation, sexism, extreme narcissism,
self-inflicted disease, the imperatives of consumerism, among other
things. My monsters are intended, with their gross-out humor and
tendentious horror, to point to the apparatus of meaning that
comprises the topography of our culture."

Quote from "DeCordova Musuem: Terrors and Wonders: Monsters in
Contemporary Art"

A nice gallery of Hogin's work (with such titles as "Allegory of the
Triumph of Nationalism" and "The Effects of Substances on the
Environment: Frosted Cherry") exists at:

An essay of her work entitled 'Laurie Hogin: The Hole in the Wood' can
be found at:

If you want to see an entire magazine devoted to the concept of the
inability of modern life to provide happiness, you should take a look
at Adbusters magazine. Their website is jam-packed with imagery and
art specifically describing the alienation brought on by modern life.
In particular, their Spoof Ads page (
is an entire gallery of advertising lampooning a whole slew of
corporate interests. Well worth a look.

The late George Segal was another artist whose work described themes
of  the lonliness and isolation brought on by modern civilization. His
sculptures of white, blank human figures in familiar situations were
powerful illustrations of how banal modern life is, and its easy to
look at his work and imagine yourself in the place of any of his sad

George Segal, a Retrospective

Post-war America gave rise to a number of abstract expressionist
painters who sought to describe the crushing ennui of modern
existence. Jackson Pollock is perhaps the most famous, and most
radical, of these painters. At his most abstract, Pollock's canvassas
were gigantic chaotic explosions...he painted using a unique style in
which he would often times throw paint at the canvas, foregoing the
use of brushes altogether.

NGA Online Exhibit on Jackson Pollock

Another post-war abstract expressionist is Mark Rothko. Rothko's work,
particularly the his later paintings, were very abstract and dark, at
times displaying pure expression rather than form. Like Pollock, who
died in an automobile accident at the age of 44, Mark Rothko likewise
met an untimely demise. Depressed and physically ill, Rothko committed
suicide in 1970.

National Gallery of Art, Washington - Mark Rothko

Less abstract is Arthur Robins, whose nightmarish portraits of New
York and religious imagery conjure some very dark portraits of the
human condition. You can view Robins' work online at his official
website at:

I hope this answers your inquiry!

Take care - musashidam - ga

Search terms used:
alienation modern life art
art themes alienation
brutsid-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
This is exactly what I was looking for!  Just enough depth to give me
something of an understanding, and plenty of links.  Arthur Robbins is
exactly what I wanted, particularly the Subway series.  Thanks.

Subject: Re: Modern "alienation" examples.
From: seedy-ga on 09 May 2002 07:10 PDT
Hi Brudsid-ga:
While I don't pretend to be an educated art critic, I am of the school
of "I know what I like".  The following writing is more to that point
than to any academic analysis.

Edward Munch comes to mind, "The Scream",

but I would point to Maurizio Catalan on the contemporary scene as one
who has a reputation as a jokester but his pieces show so much of the
failure of society (to me).
One of his most reproduced pieces is shown as:

I particularly like his elephant piece in which he constructed a
figure of an immature elephant covered with a piece of cloth (you must
assume it is an elephant because you can see the legs, the trunk, and
(if you lie down and look up under the cloth) you can see some of the
body of the elephant and you can see the eyes though holes in the
cloth but you never glimpse the whole figure. It suggests everything
while revealing little. This piece of his (he is very prolific) was
exhibited in NYC in the last year or so but I can't find a picture of
it on the web.

Although Donald Judd can be looked upon in a technical sense, his
aluminum box series at Marfa is so rich in content but sterile in
execution somewhat mirroring an alienation from everything that
technology should provide.  The pictures of the permanent exhibit at
Marfa do not begin to reproduce the feeling and power of this
wonderful magic place.

It is easy to contrast Judd's work with Dan Flavin's florescent lights
which are imminently likeable and uplifting and then see John
Chamberlain's iconographic construction looking like our contempoary
versions of Catholic Church martyr statuary.

A google search "alienation" + "modern art" brings us several essays
on the subject:
Quote: "Put briefly, modern art mirrors the bewilderment that has
overcome the mind and psyche of modern man."

Quote: "...But art reveals also the dark side of the technological

Quote: "To see the great period of Modernism in the first 30 years of
this century or the late 1960s as cultural high points is not to say
art is in terminal decline, just that it thrives on discontent."

With regard to an exhibit by George Segal:
Quote:  "His works, which juxtapose individuals and their
surroundings, emanate an eerie feeling of alienation. In addition to
representing the banality of modern life, Segal has created sculptural
portraits, depictions of intimate activities like bathing and
dressing, as well as overtly political subjects."

Sorry if I've gone on too long but the subject facinates me and I
thank you for asking the question.
Subject: Re: Modern "alienation" examples.
From: wiserd-ga on 09 May 2002 16:10 PDT
The cyberpunk genre seems particularly targeted to this theme. i.e.
Blade Runner, Snow Crash, etc. Of course, this includes all forms of
art; writing, video and stillframe

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