How to fake it: What to say about Postmodern Art

In our How to Fake it series, we seek to simplify art topics into bite-sized nuggets to enable you with the tools to be an art conversationalist.

For this ‘How to Fake it’, we explore the world of Postmodern Art and how different it actually is from Modern Art. Let’s dive in and give you some tips on what to say when talking about Postmodern Art:

 

What is Postmodern Art?

Born as a reaction against modernism, Postmodernism fought against the idealism and reason that were the trademarks of Modern Art. While the marriage of fine art and popular culture were experimented in Modern Art, Postmodernism advocated it and believed that the best way to appreciate and react to reality is dependant on each individual’s experience. Where Modern Art simplified art, Postmodern artists created works that were complex and filled with contradictory meanings. It removed the boundary between art and daily life. Further enriched by technology, this form of art often pushed boundaries and provoked viewers.

 

Nam June Paik, Electronic Superhighway Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii, 1995 51 channel video installation, custom electronics, neon lighting, steel and wood, 457 x 1219 x 121 cm Source: theredlist.com

Nam June Paik,
Electronic Superhighway Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii, 1995
51 channel video installation, custom electronics, neon lighting, steel and wood,
457 x 1219 x 121 cm
Source: theredlist.com

 

What defines Postmodern Art?

One of the biggest defining factors of Postmodern art is its rejection of progress and the avant-garde. Filled with a disillusionment with life due to its birth during the aftermath of several global catastrophes such as the Great Depression, some critics saw Postmodernism as a general attitude more than just another art movement. Breaking the rules established by Modern art, it introduced free, humourous, tongue-in-cheek works. These works were also highly controversial and provocative, often challenging and daring viewers into responding. Despite it being seemingly vulgar and nonsensical, it reflected sophistication and deep cultural significance of its time. It democratized art and made all types of art valid, encouraging the thinking that art could be made out of anything.

Jackson Pollock Source: ministryofartisticaffairs.com/blog

Jackson Pollock
Source: ministryofartisticaffairs.com/blog

 

What did Postmodern Art do for the art world?

  • Education
    In collapsing the distinction between fine art and popular culture, Postmodernism catalysed the belief that art should be opened to the public and not limited to a few chosen elite. The notion that an artist should have necessary skills such as drawing or painting was considered regressive, and art schools began to embrace an individual’s ‘creativity’ rather than an amassing of craftsman skills.

    Marcel Duchamp, Fountain, 1917/1964. Source: woodlandshoppersparadise.blogspot.sg

    Marcel Duchamp
    Fountain, 1917/1964
    Source: woodlandshoppersparadise.blogspot.sg

  • Incorporated technology
    With the boom in technology and the new ideology, it further decreased the importance of drawing skills by paving a new way of creating imagery from the use of video and photography works.

    Bill Viola, "The Sleep of Reason," 1988 Video/sound installation Color video images projected on three walls of a carpeted room; wooden chest with black-and-white video image on small monitor, vase with white artificial roses, table lamp with black shade, digital clock; monitor, room lights, and projections controlled by random timer; amplified stereo sound and one channel of audio from monitor Continuously running Source: wsj.com

    Bill Viola, “The Sleep of Reason,” 1988
    Video/sound installation
    Color video images projected on three walls of a carpeted room; wooden chest with black-and-white video image on small monitor, vase with white artificial roses, table lamp with black shade, digital clock; monitor, room lights, and projections controlled by random timer; amplified stereo sound and one channel of audio from monitor
    Continuously running
    Source: wsj.com

  • Mixing up high culture and popular culture
    Often used by art critics, “high culture” referred to the Fine arts like paintings and sculpture, whereas “low culture” referred to mass produced imagery of magazines and television. But Postmodernism favoured art that was accessible to all, creating art out of ordinary consumer items that were well-known among the general public. Some even started to print their works on commonplace items like bags and t-shirts, further challenging the originality and authenticity that was glorified in Fine arts.

    Andy Warhol The Campbell’s Soup II Complete Portfolio Source: revolverwarholgallery.com

    Andy Warhol
    The Campbell’s Soup II Complete Portfolio
    Source: revolverwarholgallery.com

What art movements did Post-Modern Art create for the art world?

    • Pop Art
      Made famous by Andy Warhol, he mass produced ordinary images and turned them into fine art.

      ANDY WARHOL Reigning Queens – Queen Elizabeth II, 1985 Screen-print on Lenox Museum board 100.33 × 80.01 cm Source: avantgallery.com

      ANDY WARHOL
      Reigning Queens – Queen Elizabeth II, 1985
      Screen-print on Lenox Museum board
      100.33 × 80.01 cm
      Source: avantgallery.com

    • Conceptual art
      Pioneered by Yves Klein, conceptual art focused more on the idea of the work, than the end product.

      Klein and a model during the performance Anthropometry with Male & Female 1960 Source: theredlist.com

      Klein and a model during the performance Anthropometry with Male & Female 1960
      Source: theredlist.com

    • Performance art
      Initiated by artists like John Cage, Performance art often exaggerates acting and movement using the artist as the medium itself; the actual artwork being the artist’s actions. Often, Performance art is used by artists to drive home a social or political message.

      John Cage 4′33″ (1952) by John Cage Source: smartmusic.com

      John Cage
      4′33″ (1952) by John Cage
      Source: smartmusic.com

    • Installation art
      Allowing audiences to enter and at times interact with the space or its elements, Installation art is the placement of objects within a space such as a warehouse, the resulting artwork being the arrangement of these objects and the space that encompasses them.

      Yayoi Kusama’s ‘I Who Have Arrived In Heaven’ Exhibition 2013

      Yayoi Kusama’s ‘I Who Have Arrived In Heaven’ Exhibition
      2013

    • Photography
      More than capturing a realistic image of a subject, photography is used to capture the aesthetic impression that is vastly personal, evocative and atmospheric.

      Cindy Sherman Untitled Film Still #21 – 1977 Source: arthistoryarchive.com

      Cindy Sherman
      Untitled Film Still #21 – 1977
      Source: arthistoryarchive.com

    • Graffiti art
      Popularized by famous street artist Banksy and Jean-Michel Basquiat, these works tend to be site-specific and highly controversial as it sometimes can be considered vandalism.

      Jean Michel Basquiat Source: dashiusclay.com

      Jean Michel Basquiat
      Source: dashiusclay.com

We hope these pointers have helped you to better understand and engage in conversation about Post-modern Art. Check out the works we have up on our site, now that you can see them in a different light.

 


Check out these postmodern works available on Art Loft Asia, and see if you can spot the various styles we’ve mentioned above!

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