November 11, 2011 through April 2, 2012

Wonder World brings together thirty-three contemporary works by established, mid-career, and emerging artists from Crystal Bridges’ collection in a special exhibition organized around the themes of perception, representation, illusion, nature, and history.

All art is contemporary when it is made. The art of our time is often reflective of a globalized world with diverse and competing cultural centers—a networked world steeped in twenty-four-hour-a-day, real-time information. Contemporary art, like contemporary society, is complex and contradictory, evolving in an ever-changing dialogue between tradition and innovation.

Many contemporary artists find inspiration in tradition—rethinking and updating accepted materials and forms for our time. Others thrive on experimentation and innovation, continually searching for new ideas and means of communication or expression.

One of the oldest conventions of art is representation. Several of the older generation of artists in Wonder World are figurative artists who managed to thrive in an era dominated by abstraction. Many of the mid-career artists draw from the tradition of American Realism to create works that revitalize narrative art for our time. Others explore a style of hyper-realism that relies on the mediation of the camera lens or explores materials and conceptual approaches that stretch our understanding of the term Realism.

For centuries artists have delighted in perceptual tricks that activate our senses through metaphor and sheer playfulness. Craft materials such as glass, fiber, and wood are the chosen medium for artists who are seduced by the magic of illusionism while reaching beyond the usual limits of these simple materials. Technology—old, new, and recycled—is an inspiration for many contemporary artists whose engagement spans the age of television to new technologies such as holography and digital reproduction.

Contemporary artists continue to rethink our relationship to and representation of nature and history, perception and illusion, representation and abstraction. Many of the works in Wonder World spill over into two or more of these descriptive categories. It is this in-between-ness, this sense of indeterminacy and complexity that defines the allure of much contemporary art.

Although far from comprehensive, Wonder World invites us to explore this moment with a range of works in the unfolding story of contemporary art at Crystal Bridges