Can art change the world? The answer, of course, is yes—but not often in the way that artists expect it to. In fact, sometimes artworks change the world so manifestly and with such widespread resonance that we forget artists had anything to do with them in the first place.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve been keeping a back-of-the-mind tally of artworks like these that took on a larger life, or wormed their way into our consciousness so deeply that that they ceased to be artworks and instead became simple facts of everyday life.
Here are several things (or concepts) that emerged from the artist’s studio to conquer the world. Some are inspiring, some are fun, and some are just reminders that you never know how far an outrageous idea is going to go, or what unexpected audiences it might find.
In the psychedelic 1960s, when bands wanted to add a little visual oomph to their shows, they teamed up with artists… and the concert light show was born. Among the pioneers was Bill Ham, who earned a BFA from the University of Houston in 1954, moving to San Francisco in 1959 to become an artist.
These days, Ham mentions many precedents, including the Dada filmmaker Hans Richter and Bauhaus guru László Moholy-Nagy, but he began making live painting by smearing colors on an overhead projector with more painterly ideas.
“The small works of Wols, as well as Klee and Kandinsky, are similar in scale to the working surface of the overhead projector,” he writes on his website. “And at the same time, the scale of immensity developed by Pollock, Kline, and others was further extended by the properties of projection to allow for large surfaces of instant art.” Read more