10 Cutting-Edge Artists of the 21st Century

21st century artists cutting edge art

When you think of the word cutting edge what comes to mind? How about innovative, boundary-pushing, and risk-taking? The dictionary defines cutting edge as “the leading position in any field” or at the “forefront.” Today, we take a look at 10 artists who are all of these qualities and more.

These inspiring individuals can take everyday materials, like a book or a bicycle chain, and spin it on its head. They can elevate an old art form, or they can magically conjure up modern masterpieces. While each uses a different material, these 21st century artists are all bound by a burning desire to test their own creative limits – changing, refining and shifting their technique any chance they get.These famous 21st century artists vary widely in their technique—from paper art and land art to 3D sculpture and installation art—but their genius in the contemporary art world is unparalleled.

Here's our list of the top 10 21st century visual artists who are bringing us cutting edge art.

1. Kumi Yamashita: Shadow Art
artists of the 21st century kumi yamashita

Though there are many skilled artists who work with light and shadows, such as British artists Tim Noble and Sue Webster or Dutch artist Diet Wiegman, Japanese artist Kumi Yamashita is the only one whose complete artwork is comprised of both the material she uses and the immaterial she creates.

Solid objects like carved wood or aluminum numbers are hit by a single light source to reveal an inner being, a person patiently waiting to be revealed on the other side. Yamashita is also skilled at creating portraits using a single, unbroken piece of thread or by utilizing unexpected materials like a credit card or a shoe. A master of light and dark, this New York-based artist has exhibited all over the world, no doubt casting her magical spell on everyone who comes across her work.


2. Guy Laramee: Carved Book Landscapes
Guy Laramee famous sculpture artists 21st century

Like Brian Dettmer, Guy Laramee has a fascination with books. Using a sandblaster, the Montreal-based contemporary artist carefully carves out huge chunks of both covers and pages until he creates undulating landscapes.

Mountains, caves and waves slowly emerge as old books, like dictionaries and encyclopedias, take on new lives. Always one to push his own creative boundaries, Laramee's sculptural works always excite, as the viewer is left wondering just what type of natural landscape he'll take on next with his fantastical sculpture.


3. Cornelia Konrads: Land Art
Cornelia Konrads famous 21st century artists

As far as contemporary land artists go, there seems to be one who stands out from all the rest. German-based Cornelia Konrads creates gravity-defying works using natural materials surrounding her like rocks and branches.

Whether she's suspending a pile of stones in front of a cave in Korea or creating a passageway of floating branches in Germany, Konrads can conjure up magic all around her. Amongst a series of work she calls Piles, Konrads created Pile of Wishes, a conical accumulation of stones that lift up, break free from the group and fly high in the air.


4. Riusuke Fukahori: 3D Illusion Sculptures
3d sculptors 21st century art

Japanese artist Riusuke Fukahori creates art that you would swear was actually alive. He first caught the attention of the art world with his acrylic paint and resin works that are built up, layer by layer, until what looks like goldfish are swimming in a bowl. The cutting edge art technique begins with just a container and clear resin that gets poured in thin layers.

As each layer dries, the next horizontal slice of the creature is painted and then dried before another layer is added on top. Other artists like Singaporean Keng Lye has already started to build on this technique, adding 3D materials to enhance the already incredible illusion.


5. Felice Varini: Anamorphic Illusions
felice varini cutting edge art anamorphic art

Swiss artist Felice Varini disrupts environments with his anamorphic art. His large geometric perspective paintings take up huge architectural spaces like sides of buildings, walls and streets challenging the viewer to find the exact spot to stand in order to see his works snap into place.

Most recently, Varini took over the historic Gran Palais in Paris, where he added an orange polka dot pattern to its classical facade. Created by a combination of stencils and projectors, the monumental work was entitled Dynamo.


6. Daniel Arsham: Architecture Installations
installation art 21st century visual artists

Cleveland-born contemporary artist Daniel Arsham creates works that blur the line between art, architecture and performance. Though he's best known for Snarkitecture, a collaborative practice between Arsham and architect Alex Mustonen where they take existing architecture and “make it perform the unexpected,” Arsham is a cutting-edge artist in and of himself who isn't afraid to work in different dimensions.

His 3D sculptures are particularly provocative in that he uses unexpected materials, like shattered glass, or creates mysterious figures that appear wrapped underneath a wall's surface.


7. Bruce Munro: Light Art
bruce munro famous 21st century artists

Bruce Munro is an installation artist that's crazy about light. Though he's skilled at creating sparkling chandeliers, it's his large-scale installations that set him apart from the rest. For the last 29 years, he's been illuminating the world, overtaking gardens or creating fields that illuminate at night.

For his latest exhibit, at the Cheekwood Botanical Gardens in Nashville, Tennessee, Munro presents Light, the 2012 show he first debuted at Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania that drew nearly 300,000 visitors. At Cheekwood, Munro presents seven large-scale outdoor installations including one that consists of 40 monumental towers made from over 10,000 recycled water bottles that change colors to the sound of music. This exhibition will be at the Cheekwood location from now untill November 10, 2013.


8. Yulia Brodskaya: Paper Illustrations
paper art unusual art mediums

Moscow-born, UK-based artist Yulia Brodskaya uses an old technique called quilling, modernizes it and and takes it to the next level. Using strips of paper, she rolls, shapes and then glues them to a background to create highly detailed designs.

These three dimensional works offer multiple views depending on the angle of perception and the intensity of light. This is particularly apparent in her colorful, portrait-style works.


9. Young-Deok Seo: Bicycle Chain Sculptures
Young-Deok Seo cutting edge artists

Though Korean artist Young-Deok Seo mainly works with one material, what he can do with it is highly impressive. He creates figurative sculptures using miles and miles of old bicycle chains.

The Seoul-based artist takes the cold, hard metal material and transforms it into shapes of the human face or rather their complex emotions. Woven stitch by stitch, Seo's sculptures wrap bodies with fragments of chains until they appear like skin. Though they are smooth on the surface, they are empty inside.


10. Yayoi Kusama: Polka Dot Installations
Yayoi Kusama 21st century artists

How could we create a list of cutting-edge artists and not include Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama? The eccentric artist started painting using polka dots when she was just ten and has since made a name for herself using the fun pattern.

Though she works in a wide variety of mediums, Kusama is currently known for her pop art installations or for her partnership with French fashion house Louis Vuitton. Now considered the most important living Japanese artist, Kusama also holds the record for the most expensive work sold by a living female artist, auctioned for $5.1 million dollars by Christie's.

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