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ArtSpectra presents 109 basic elements of visual language within 11 categories – each reflecting a unique spectrum of creative expression, offering 11 ways to explore wide-ranging works of art. This art navigator will soon feature works by living artists as well as great works from the past. We welcome your suggestions. To begin with, we have posted brief descriptions of the stylistic elements.

We hope to contribute to a growing recognition that the basic elements of art do not belong to particular artists or historical periods, but that each is a timeless, essential part of visual language, belonging equally to all artists.

Late 19th and 20th century culture celebrated the exploration of visual language, but it performed a detrimental process of elimination, in which one stylistic element after another was assigned to an artist or group of artists, as if they owned inevitable aspects of visual expression. Imagine if the art world had celebrated the ongoing expansion of visual language rather than setting a series of expiration dates. Instead of restricting stylistic elements to particular artists/groups/time periods, what if the full scope of expression became the cultural ideal? Perhaps this mindset is finally taking hold. Judging by the diversity of contemporary art, last century's academic assumptions regarding style seem to be losing sway. We see a new valuation developing that recognizes this generation's creative need to draw on all the elements of visual language to fully express itself. If, once upon a time, a particular constellation of stylistic elements could capture the spirit of a certain societal moment, for now and for the foreseeable future, the awareness of the complexity and diversity of our culture/time requires that we use every tool of expression to reflect who we are.

Those who are still attached to 20th century notions of innovation need not worry that free exploration of visual language will lead to derivative art. It's easy enough to see when an artist mimics a past master or period – trying to repeat all the same subtleties of that artist or era. Originality lies in the countless choices artists make while working within a set of parameters and can only be enhanced when all sets of parameters are available to them. A simple website like our Art Style Generator can predict more than 48 billion unique combinations of stylistic elements, but given any one set of elements, genuine artists would each create something unique.

Stay tuned as we offer new ways to navigate museum and contemporary pieces. Discover the ways in which all facets of visual language are being brought into the present, renewed by interplay with other elements and by the sensibilities of living artists.