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Post modernism, does it exist? If it does so what does it mean? Is it a practice or just a concept?
Knowing more or less what modern means than we are able to tell what post-modern means when modern and post prefixed together. Beyond modern. Post modernism is difficult to describe as its explosion of art with numerous different mediums. The overall impression of postmodern art is one of pastiche and appropriation, often promoting parody or irony. First we have to identify what is postmodernism is or what is post modernism isn't. There is not a one way of answering the question of what is post modernism as it could be answered in more than one way, in fact variety of ways. To some it's a name of the era, at the same time it's a philosophy to some or a new way of thinking, beyond a way beyond the modernist movements, the name of a new term. For some of the writers year 1943 was the year that modernism has come to an end in that times rules of modernism was broken, everything that is made in the name of science,tehnic, art, social freedom had the common purpose of freeing us humans.
Forms of modernist art theory in the field of postmodernism debate and allegedly breaking a series of practical mediums, identifying a cultural architecture, literature, pictures, etc... Areas began as the signs of new postmodern cultural forms. Ethical touchstone of postmodernism is called relativism which is the belief that no society or culture is more important than any other.
There was an explosion of varies art movements, schools, which through many contemporary artists came breaking traditional boundaries.
Great Art historian Erwin Panofsky once said," there is no substitute for information"( From expressionism to postmodernism, styles and movements in 20th century western Art, Edited by Jane Turner) as I would like to say for now days there is no substitute for why, how, where and what form the art is.
1960's and after architecture and the arts, that what post-modernism term is used to characterize developments in these areas. First time the term was used by Spanish writer Federico de Onis around 1934, from then on it wasn't used until 'A study of history, 1938' by Arnold Toynbee, which was published right after the II. World War.
Tonybee and some others looked at post-modern phenomenon mainly in a negative terms, they thought that post-modernism was an irrational reaction to modernist rationalism. Post - modern term later took hold in the painting, around mid 1980's.Unlike Arnold Toynbee and others, declaration of Claes Oldenburg in 1961 "I am for an art that is political, erotical, mystical...I am for an art that embroils itself with everyday crab and still comes out on top" (From expressionism to postmodernism, styles and movements in 20th century western Art, Edited by Jane Turner), embraces the post-modern art.
Post modernism developed after coming against all of the elements of modernism, architecture, art, politics, education, society. Early rejection of modernism came in most noticeably in the United States of America around the 1960's by the work of Robert Venturi and Aldo Rossi in Europe. Venturi's irrational and contradictive style in architecture (1966) was attacking the international style of corporate modernism. Examples Guild House retirement home 1960-62, Philadelphia, also Vanna Venturi House (1962) chesnut hill.
More and more European artists started to lean towards abstract art due to a combination of circumstances in the years towards World War 1. Artists were encouraged to be free from conventional methods by opening of ethnographic museums and also interest in different cultures and civilization's art.
What does post modern art intend to do is to focus on the emotions that arouses in the observer by observing the artefact.
Art critique Maurice Denis once said "it is well to remember that a picture, before being a battle horse, a nude woman or some anecdote, is essentially a flat surface covered with colours assembled in a certain order".
Examples from the mainstream |American post-modernists are as follows;
Works of Robert A.M. Stern, Charles W. Moore, Michael Graves.
Moore's Whimsical collage like Piazza d, itaira (1977-8)
Grave's abstract painterly composition for the public services building (1978-82)
Marcel Duchamp's typewriter cover, urinal, bicycle Wheel replica 1963.
Andy Warhol, Mao 1972.
Andy Warhol, Do it yourself (landscape) 1962
What makes this an art piece? Is it because it's showcased in a gallery space or is it because the artists' purpose behind it all. is it just a big old joke that teasing us viewers, to see as long as its offered by a well know name from the world of art, we will except it as a piece of art. Somehow it's hard not to wonder if the artists are intentionally pushing the viewer to see how far they will go. Will they accept anything and everything without a question just as long as it's signed by an important name in the world of art and finally is the joke is on us! My answer to this is that, what make art meaning full is not only the aesthetics but as well as the content behind the aesthetics. Some times less is more.
Why choose black and white when you can have the rainbow! My point is to experiment with new way, new subjects as much as possible so that one will come to know who one's self is as an artist and what better way to achieve that through a post modern take.
Many traditional art critiques does describe the postmodernism as' empty and meaningless', I can understand this to a certain extend but it should not be prosecuted because there is less aesthetics but more content and also making of the work should not always be valued because of the hours that was put in to make just because it is a readymade object that show cases as an installation piece that does not make this less arty. But Duchamp's ready-mades' had already showed that the difference between the art and nonart not securely experienced, was conventionalised difference. It also shows that condition of being art was not necessarily an honorific one. The notion of art proves to mean, not only skilful making but an act of mental distancing. The fascination of it all is more cultural, historical and theoretical than its aesthetics.
In Post modernism art is not valued because it is timeless or universal but for being accessible, disposable and aesthetically imperfect.
Movement encourages the mixer of different ideas, forms and Medias to create parody, humour and irony. Post-modern allows artists to be freer, it allows them to be diverse, at the same time rejecting hierarchy, also enables them to be rebellion against the well-ordered structures of the classical art. Now we have freedom, freedom of having been able to experiment with new technologies, with abstraction and with non traditional materials. All of this is the rebellion of modern artists, through it freeing themselves from the traditional ways, having the freedom of expressing in their own unique visions. Interventions are an outgrowth of art that refuses to obey the rules of conventional practises. It's a freedom of expression.
Post-modernism also explores power and the way social and economic forces exert that power by shaping the identities of individuals and of their culture.
Unlike how the unconscious plays a big part in modernism, in post-modernism there is a little faith or almost no faith at all put in a unconscious as a source of creative and personal authenticity. It's all been well thought through, gets done by intentionally.
Post modernists has often been criticised for being pessimist but how can one be optimist when for example trying to create an awareness of mass consumption, as we live in a consumers society. One of the leading examples of post-modern take on mass consumption is the works of 'Andy Warhol'.
His works on commercial culture showcases the random play of a consciousness. Its displays the conflicts between the marketing and art.
I want to talk about Andy Warhol's response when given at an interview with G.R. Swenson in year 1963, he said; "I want everybody to think alike" and also "I think everybody should be a machine". What he was actually trying to exploit was that American Consumer culture. He was trying to point out the difference between the abundantly satisfied capitalist West and the deprivation of communist East."Russia is doing it under strict government. It's happening here all by itself ...Everybody looks alike and acts a like and we are getting more and more the same way". (Modern Art in the common culture by Thomas Crow). His most famous portrait series that of Marilyn Monroe falls in to this category, his interpretation of women's reduction to a mass-commodity fetish.
Post-modernism and Consumer society
Even today concept of postmodernism still is not accepted widely or even understood. Its maybe that some of the hesitance to it comes from the lack of knowledge to works that it covers. We can list numbers of varieties that can be called post modernism which can be found in all the arts, for example; pop buildings by Robert Venturi, poetry by John Ashbery, pop art by Andy Warhol, in music john cage, in film Godard...ext through this list there are two important points to make, most of the postmodernism that I mentioned on the list, we could say that they are specific reactions against the forms of high modernism of which conquered the university, art gallery, foundations and museums and we can say that postmodernism seeks to displace modernism. Second key point is the disappearance of the older distinction between high culture and mass-popular culture. It seems it's increasingly difficult to draw the line between the high art and commercial forms.
One of the most significant practices in postmodernism is Pastiche. Both pastiche and parody involved to imitate and made mimicry of other styles. Parody banks on the uniqueness of those styles, seizes on their eccentricities and produces an imitation that mocks the original piece. Even though, great parodist should have some sort of secret sympathy for the original, just to be able to put themselves in the place of the person imitated but still regardless of whether in sympathy or with malice that the parody is taken place, general effect of it is to cast ridicule on the nature of those styles, excessiveness and their eccentricity. In a way pastiche is the blank parody that has lost its sense of humour, modern practice of blank irony.
Why classical modernism is the thing of the past and why postmodernism has taken its place because it's the end of individualism. As great modernism were the finger print of individuals, but now individualism and personal identity is the thing of the past, in fact there are two positions to all of this, the first one is, in the past, where classic age of competitive capitalism, emergence of the bourgeoisie as the hegemonic social class, in the heyday of the nuclear family there was individualism as individual subjects but now in the age of corporate capitalism that older bourgeois individual subject no longer exists.
The second position to this is that there was no bourgeois individual subject of the past, it never really existed in the first place, rather it is merely a philosophical and cultural mystification which sought to persuade people to believe that they had individual subjects and possessed this unique personal identity.
Importance is not to decide which of these positions is correct, that is not the point, the point is that we have to acknowledge from this is rather an aesthetic dilemma, if the ideology of the unique self is an experience and the ideology that informed the practice of classical modernism that is over and done with, then it makes it that is no longer clear what artists and writers of the present are suppose to be doing. Only thing is clear that the older models like PICASSO, PROUST and T. S. ELIOT, since no one has that kind of unique style and world to express than What is the odds of artists and writers of the present day inventing new worlds and styles that haven't been invented before, as the most unique ones already have been though, only a limited number of combinations are possible.
So that a new stylistic innovation is no longer possible, all that is left to pastiche dead styles. This means that the postmodern or contemporary art is to be about art itself, so that one of its essential messages will include necessary failure of art and the aesthetics.
Now let's look in to the works of and the man its self so called the "Leonardo" and procreative "Grandpa" of postmodernism, authoritative source of postmodern art, Marcel Duchamp. Marcel Duchamp has inspired younger artists in their critique of Greebergian modernism and the modernist institution of art.
Here are some of the sayings about the artist himself;
"Marcel Duchamp is all but impossible to write about. Anything you mat say about him is at the same time untrue, but when I think of him I get a sweet taste in my body". (Robert Rauschenberg, 1973)
"In 1915 he arrived in New York...to invent the future of American art...The more he insisted his choices were made for amusement, without sense, without meaning or significance, the more it -became necessary to explain him. The more he has been explained, the more inexplicable he becomes". (Kim Levin 1977)
"And then there is that one-man movement, Marcel Duchamp...a movement for each person and open for everybody". (Willem De Kooning 1951)
(Postmodernism and the en-gendering of Marcel Duchamp by Amelia Jones)
Judging by the quotations above Duchamp has been the obsessive object of desire for the art writers and the artists in the United States of America.
Here is the Duchamp's own Quotation about his readymade works;"This Neo-dada...is an easy way out, and lives on what dada did. When I discovered ready-mades I thought to discourage aesthetics. In Neo-dada they have taken my ready-mades and found aesthetic beauty in them" (Marcel Duchamp 1962, Postmodernism and the en-gendering of Marcel Duchamp by Amelia Jones)
Barbara Kruger is another important name that gives one of the good examples of postmodern art, in her work she was addressing the issues of relations between women and the patriarchy, feminism and also alienating blandishments of the consumer world. Barbara Kruger's work also become a touchstone for many feminists throughout the 1980s
One of the artist's work called 'your comfort is my silence' she leaves up to the viewer to decode the gender identifications of the pronouns "your" and "my" marks out, self consciously. So the possibilities are that male with the hat in the image talking to a female or male viewer or the other way around the viewer male or female speaking back to the image, it recognizes that viewer needs both gender and the politics in order to confront it all.
Barbara Kruger,' Your comfort is my silence', 1981 Photograph with added text
56x40" (140x100cm) Private collection
"Barbara Kruger exhibition 1991" Mary Boone gallery
Last but not least I would like to give examples of the 21st century contemporary artists that their work falls in to the postmodern practice; works of Matthew Barney is intriguing, disturbing and hilarious at the same time and the works and writings of Matthew Collings. Their work influences not only me but also many contemporary artists to be freer and be a risk taker.
The Sacred Cows of Art
by Matthew Collings
Saying by Matthew Collings;"Art has knowledge and skills, and to come to know them is to be implicitly against a culture that is against knowledge - today's mass culture, which aims to produce a lot of consuming morons".
(Matthew Collings, http://quote.robertgenn.com/auth_search.php?authid=616)
Matthew Barney, Cremaster 3, 2002
Canadian critic Bruce High Russell says "Barney's work evokes the crisis of his generation from the perspective of a presumably heterosexual male artist in an era obsessed by identity politics...its success addresses our own problems," (Art today by Brandon Taylor)
Throughout this report I have tried to pin point the two sides of the argument, being mainly on the defensive side of postmodernism, I am still not dismissive about the methods of the past. Keep focusing on being open minded, So to speak being plural about it. There is a way in which postmodernism reproduces, replicates or even reinforces the logics of consumer capitalism but then are we not safe to say also in a way it resists that logic just by showcasing the irony of it all!
I agree with most aspects of the postmodern critique of modernity and its theories, but are not ready either to dismiss all the other theories and methods of the past or even to give up on modernity altogether. I am not an advocator or celebrant of the discourse of the postmodern, nor am I solely dismissive. Instead, I am exceptive of its demands and critiques, while not convinced of some of its overemphasis and ostentatiousness.