Jean-Michel Basquiat, Cindy Sherman, Gerhard Richter, Yayoi Kusama, Anselm Kiefer, Kara Walker

10 Art Painters in the Contemporary Art Era (1970s - Present)

In the ever-evolving realm of contemporary art, the period from the 1970s to the present day has witnessed an explosion of creativity and innovation. Artists have delved into a wide array of styles, themes, and techniques, producing works that challenge traditional notions of art. This article introduces 10 prominent art painters from this era, shedding light on their distinctive styles and showcasing two of their most renowned artworks.

1. Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960 - 1988)

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Jean-Michel Basquiat rose to prominence with his raw and expressive painting style. His works often featured a fusion of text, symbols, and vibrant colors.

Notable Paintings:

  1. "Untitled" (1981) - This painting exemplifies Basquiat's iconic style, with bold brushstrokes, scribbled words, and abstract imagery, creating a powerful visual narrative.
  2. "Boy and Dog in a Johnnypump" (1982) - Basquiat's fascination with street culture is evident in this artwork, where he combines primitive figures with layered text, providing commentary on urban life.

2. Cindy Sherman (1954 - Present)

Cindy Sherman, a pioneering figure in contemporary photography and painting, is known for her self-portraits that challenge notions of identity and representation.

Notable Paintings:

  1. "Untitled Film Stills" (1977-1980) - In this series, Sherman masquerades as various archetypal female characters from film and popular culture, deconstructing the concept of femininity and narrative.
  2. "History Portraits" (1988-1990) - Sherman's reinterpretations of historical portraits highlight the constructed nature of identity, using elaborate costumes and backdrops to provoke thought on societal roles.

3. Gerhard Richter (1932 - Present)

Hailing from Germany, Gerhard Richter has traversed multiple artistic styles, from photorealism to abstraction, demonstrating his versatile approach.

Notable Paintings:

  1. "Betty" (1988) - Richter's daughter is the subject of this intimate yet enigmatic portrait, capturing a moment of contemplation through blurred brushwork.
  2. "Abstract Painting" (1992) - Demonstrating his abstract phase, Richter's intricate layering of colors and textures challenges viewers to explore the boundaries of perception.

4. Jenny Saville (1970 - Present)

Jenny Saville, a British artist, is celebrated for her profound exploration of the human body and her mastery of figurative painting, delving into the complexities of identity and form.

Notable Paintings:

  1. "Brutal" (2009) - In 'Brutal,' Saville's skillful use of paint unveils the rawness of the human flesh, inviting viewers to confront the physicality of the body and the emotional weight it carries.
  2. "Mother and Child" (1995) - This painting captures the tenderness and vulnerability of the maternal bond, showcasing Saville's ability to convey deep emotion through her rich and textured brushwork."

5. Anselm Kiefer (1945 - Present)

German artist Anselm Kiefer is known for his monumental and emotionally charged paintings, often exploring themes of history, mythology, and spirituality.

Notable Paintings:

  1. "To the Unknown Painter" (1983) - Kiefer's incorporation of thick layers of impasto, mixed media, and fragmented imagery creates a tactile and complex composition that delves into the mysteries of creation.
  2. "Ages of the World" (2014) - This large-scale work features Kiefer's signature combination of textured materials and symbolic elements, reflecting on the cyclical nature of existence.

6. Kara Walker (1969 - Present)

Renowned for her silhouette-style artwork, Kara Walker's pieces delve into issues of race, gender, and power dynamics through historical narratives.

Notable Paintings:

  1. "Gone: An Historical Romance of a Civil War as It Occurred b'tween the Dusky Thighs of One Young Negress and Her Heart" (1994) - Walker's provocative title sets the tone for this series that uses silhouettes to challenge the romanticized view of history and depict its harsh realities.
  2. "The Means to an End...A Shadow Drama in Five Acts" (1995) - This multi-panel artwork employs silhouettes to create a visual narrative that confronts the complexity of human relationships and societal constructs.

7. Ai Weiwei (1957 - Present)

A prominent Chinese artist and activist, Ai Weiwei's work often blurs the line between art and politics, addressing issues of human rights and freedom of expression.

Notable Paintings:

  1. "Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn" (1995) - This triptych captures Ai's provocative act of dropping a valuable ancient urn, challenging notions of tradition, authenticity, and iconoclasm.
  2. "Study of Perspective" (1995-present) - In this ongoing series of photographs, Ai flips the middle finger to various iconic sites, commenting on authority and the individual's relationship to power.

8. Julie Mehretu (1970 - Present)

Julie Mehretu's abstract paintings are intricate maps of layered lines, shapes, and colors, inviting viewers to contemplate themes of globalization and urbanity.

Notable Paintings:

  1. "Dispersion" (2002) - Mehretu's monumental canvas combines architectural blueprints, graffiti, and abstract marks to explore the complexities of urban landscapes and the dispersion of populations.
  2. "Mogamma (A Painting in Four Parts)" (2012) - Named after a government building in Cairo's Tahrir Square, this work reflects the energy and turbulence of political movements through its dynamic layers.

9. Peter Doig (1959 - Present)

A Scottish painter, Peter Doig is celebrated for his dreamlike landscapes and evocative use of color, often drawing inspiration from personal memories and popular culture.

Notable Paintings:

  1. "Canoe-Lake" (1997) - Doig's painting portrays a serene yet enigmatic scene, merging realism and abstraction to create a nostalgic and dreamy atmosphere.
  2. "100 Years Ago" (2001) - This work, rich in color and texture, reflects Doig's interest in how images can trigger memory and emotion, blurring the line between reality and imagination.

10. Kehinde Wiley (1977 - Present)

Kehinde Wiley's vibrant portraits challenge traditional representations of power and identity, often featuring African American subjects in poses inspired by historical paintings.

Notable Paintings:

  1. "Napoleon Leading the Army over the Alps" (2005) - Wiley's reimagining of Jacques-Louis David's iconic painting replaces the historical figure with a contemporary Black man, confronting the lack of diversity in classical art.
  2. "Equestrian Portrait of King Philip II (Michael Jackson)" (2010) - By depicting pop culture icons in grand historical poses, Wiley provokes conversations about race, celebrity, and cultural appropriation.


The contemporary art era from the 1970s to the present has yielded an eclectic mix of painters who have pushed the boundaries of creativity, challenging conventional norms and inviting viewers to question societal constructs. Through their diverse styles, themes, and techniques, these artists have left an indelible mark on the art world, influencing the trajectory of artistic expression in myriad ways.


Shop with us

Back to blog