What I think

Generation Z has a distinct aesthetic sense

The Generation Z is united by a brand new aesthetic sensibility that, without a doubt, will shape the long run of art. Here’s how they differ.

Shifts in a generation are significant. And the same is true of art. As Generation Z (Zoomers) reach the age of twenty-four, their ideas will undoubtedly become significant new aesthetic themes. Previous generations might not understand or appreciate the new aesthetic and will dismiss it as childish, naive, or foolish, but it exists and dominates the visual world of the Zoomers.  Long-term collectors will find plenty of opportunities here, as the Zoomer art market is currently profoundly undervalued, and masterpieces of their aesthetic are available to the astute.

St. Pigde Rising, 2020, painted by Lori Nelson

Generation Z was born after 1996 and was raised on computers; they have never known a world without bright screens, instant access to distant relatives, and instant information. Their aesthetics have been shaped by their tablets, phones, and virtual reality headsets, as has their understanding of beauty. They’ve come to see their world as a digitally mediated place, and they want to bring the realm of beauty they’ve discovered there into their reality.

What differs Generation Z from prior generations? According to a Pew Research Center report on American Zoomers, they are more racially and ethnically diverse than any previous generation in history, and they are more supportive of gay marriage than any previous generation in history. Zoomers favor cautious environmental policy over bellicose foreign policy. They anticipate that their government will address societal issues. They believe in their governments.

Zoomers avoid alcohol in favor of less-harmful psychedelics, pharmaceuticals, and marijuana, and their art reflects the aesthetic influence of these entheogens. Zoomers lack the sense of freedom that previous generations felt with their automobiles, and many learn to drive after the age of eighteen because they find escape and community at home, where they frequently live with their parents. Zoomers, despite reaching puberty at a young age, are late sexual bloomers. They are also known as “Ace” (Asexual) or “Puriteens” (abstinent). They’re highly vulnerable to algorithmic fashion feedback loops. Despite their university educations, they do not read long-form texts, although fan fiction is a popular form of self-expression. They have no memory of the events of 9/11.

Tala Madani, Untitled, presented by Pilar Corrias at Art Basel Miami Beach 2019

As the first of them begin to build their own homes, the appearance of their familiar computer-generated art has had a profound influence on the paintings and prints they choose for their walls. This is a generation of gamers who have always appreciated the elegant graphic design and fantastic three-dimensional compositions, and whose formative stories include Harry Potter, The Hobbit, and Marvel. Their work is frequently colorful, exaggerated and simplified, highly imaginative, and visionary in scope. They are completely at ease with science fiction and fantasy imagery, witches and wizards, androgyny, and characters who are ambiguously gendered.

Their art is distinct from twentieth-century modernism and avant-gardism retains tastes of Boomer pop art’s superficiality and capitalist glee, and some of Gen X’s punk millenarianism, and shares much of Millennials’ slick smoothness, bright hyper-realism, and reflective surfaces.

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