Monday, January 18, 2016

(Re-Introducing Modernism (and Postmodernism)

Very Simply Stated:
(dates prove tricky! but most agree that good reasons point to the mid-19th to mid-20th century bounding Modernism in visual art) 

with "The Painter of Modern Life," 1863, poet, essayist, revolutionary Charles Baudelaire called for an artist who would shed the conventions that painting had carried for all of the Early Modern Period. He sought an artist who would turn to the world around, rather than to the stories of myth and history, for material. Modernism might learn from history, and take from it what it found useful, but Modernism, above all, rejected tradition and took the poet Ezra Pound's fiat: "Make it new!" as its central tenet. Thus, Modernism holds its umbrella above a shower of new movements in art, the Rain of -Isms, the Reign of -Isms. 

 Modernist Traits:
… artworks include qualities of protest against the industrialized, capitalistic, militaristic, and technological modern world; philosophical, intellectual,
… artists defy rules and traditions, searching for new perspectives, content, points of view, materials, form and style;
… interest in the subconscious mind, individual subjectivity, the internal life, self-consciousness, seriousness, emphasis on flatness (against illusionism), tendency toward abstraction and self-reflection, 

Subjects include: everyday life, dreams, emotions, lived experience, search for meaning and truth

movements associated with modernism include Realism, Impressionism, post-impressionism, Dadaism, Expressionism, Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism….
Mordernism is marked by:

Rejection of tradition


Edouard Manet, Olumpia, 1863, Modernism
Claude Monet, Haystacks, 1890, Impressionism
Vincent Van Gogh, Starry Night, 1888, Post-Impressionism
Pablo Picasso, Les Demoiselles D'Avignon, 1907
The Kiss - Gustav Klimt
Gustav Klimt, The Kiss, 1907, Art Nouveau

Abstract Expressionism (loosely interpreted) (and Modern, not contemporary!)

Mark Rothko

Jackson Pollock

Georgia O'keefe

Helen Frankenthaler

Willem de Kooning

Joseph Alpers

Arthur Dove

Postmodernism: A broad term encompassing literature, theater, film, art, philosophy, architecture, fiction, and criticism, among others. Where Modernism built on the foundational principle that scientific, emotional, and  other Truths might help explain lived experience, Postmodernism refused any overarching narrative... my truth is my truth, and yours is yours. Skepticism, irony, and doubt dominate Postmodern thinking, and any claim that suggests it might govern all cultures, faiths, traditions might well receive mockery. By this time, the "Death of the Author," has occurred, and authority rests with interpretation (reading) as much as with authorship.

Postmodernism doesn't come at the end of Modernism (because many artists continue to work in a modernist mode), but it denies its validity. The idea that there could be any original, much less that it would express a truth, broadly speaking, seems ridiculous to postmodernists.

By its very nature, postmodern art looks very different in the hands of different artists. Artists work with a wide range of materials, in some cases without any materials other than their bodies or minds.

Terms associated with postmodernism:
Pastiche, assemblage, collage, montage, commodity
appropriation, repetition, reproduction, re-presentation, simulation
irony, humor, cynicism, ridicule
multiculturalism, multiplicity, fragmentation
all mark postmodernism.
high and low culture merge

depthlessness-- beyond flatness
against Meta-Narrative

Choose three artists to read about; consider what qualities of their work seem modern, what postmodern. What sets the artist apart? 

Not all artists working during the postmodern period were postmodern. 
Gerhard Richter, ‘Elizabeth I’ 1966
Gerhard Richter, Elizabeth 1, 1966
Gerhard Richter, Betty, 
Gerhard Richter, Abstract Painting, 1990

Vija Celmins, To Fix the Memory in my Mind, 1980
Vija Celmins,  untitled Ocean, 

Folk Art

Henry Darger. I recommend that you view Jessica Yu's remarkable documentary In the Realms of the Unreal,  2004

James Hampton, Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations' Millenium General Assembly, found materials, 1950-1964, now in the smithsonian

And some artists remain very much inside a postmodern style today.... meaning?
Patricia Piccinini, starting point, including her 'altered vespa sculptures' (my term) here

Ron Mueck, photo credit here, start with Mueck here.

Some say we are now in the period of Post-Medium Condition

Cai Guo-Qiang (fireworks, gunpowder drawings, and taxidermy installations), photo credit here, start with Art 21 Episode about Cai Guo-Qiang .
Mark Dion When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (Toys R U.S.) 1995 mixed media installation Courtesy Skarstedt Fine Art
Mark Dion, installations, mostly based on natural objects altered by humans,

Dawoud Bey, photo credit here. start here.

Lorna Simpson, start here.


Philip Johnson start here. high modernism

Frank Gehry. Start here. postmodernism

Frank Lloyd Wright start here. high modernism

Richard Bofill, United Airlines Headquarters,

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