Postmodern art

Postmodern art

Postmodern art is a term used to describe art which is thought to be in contradiction to some aspect of modernism, or to have emerged or developed in its aftermath. In general movements such as Intermedia, Installation art, Conceptual Art and Multimedia, particularly involving video are described as postmodern. The traits associated with the use of the term postmodern in art include bricolage, use of words prominently as the central artistic element, collage, simplification, appropriation, depiction of consumer or popular culture and Performance art.

Use of the term

The predominant term for art produced since the 1950s is "contemporary art". Not all art labelled as contemporary art is postmodern, and the broader term encompasses both artists who continue to work in modernist and late modernist traditions, as well as artists who reject postmodernism for other reasons. Arthur Danto argues that "contemporary" is the broader term, and that postmodern objects represent a "subsector" of the contemporary movement. ["After the End of Art: Contemporary Art and the Pale of History" Arthur C. Danto] Some postmodern artists have made a more distinctive break from the ideas of modern art and there is no consensus as to what is "late-modern" and what is "post-modern." Ideas rejected by the modern aesthetic have been reestablished. In painting, postmodernism reintroduced representation. [Wendy Steiner, "Venus in Exile: The Rejection of Beauty in 20th-Century Art", New York: The Free Press, 2001, ISBN 0684857812] Traditional techniques and subject matter have returned in art. It has even been argued that much of what is called postmodern today, the latest avant-gardism, should still be classified as modern art. ["Post-Modernism: The New Classicism in Art and Architecture" Charles Jencks]

As well as describing certain tendencies of contemporary art, postmodern has also been used to denote a phase of modern art. This position is adopted by both defenders of modernism such as Clement Greenberg [ [ Clement Greenberg: Modernism and Postmodernism] , 1979. URL accessed on June 26, 2007] , as well as radical opponents of modernism such as Felix Guattari, who calls it modernism's "last gasp.".Felix Guattari, "the Postmodern Impasse" in "The Guattari Reader", Blackwell Publishing, 1996, pp109-113. ISBN 0631197087] The neo-conservative Hilton Kramer describes postmodernism as "a creation of modernism at the end of its tether." [Quoted in Oliver Bennett, "Cultural Pessimism: Narratives of Decline in the Postmodern World", Edinburgh University Press, 2001, p131. ISBN 0748609369 ] Jean-François Lyotard, in Frederic Jameson's analysis, does not hold that there is a postmodern stage radically different from the period of high modernism; instead, postmodern discontent with this or that high modernist style is part of the experimentation of high modernism, giving birth to new modernisms. [Frederic Jameson, "Foreword" to Jean-François Lyotard, "The Postmodern Condition", Manchester University Press, 1997, pxvi. ISBN 0719014506] In the context of aesthetics and art, Jean-François Lyotard is a major philosopher of postmodernism.

Many critics hold that postmodern art emerges out of modern art. Suggested dates for the shift from modern to postmodern include 1914 in Europe, and 1962or 1968 in America. James Elkins, commenting on discussions about the exact date of the transition from modernism to postmodernism, compares it to the discussion in the 1960s about the exact span of Mannerism and whether it should begin directly after the High Renaissance or later in the century. He makes the point that these debates go on all the time with respect to art movements and periods, which is not to say that they aren't important.James Elkins, "Stories of Art", Routledge, 2002, p16. ISBN 0415939429] The close of the period of postmodern art has been dated to the end of the 1980s, when the word postmodernism lost much of its critical resonance, and art practices began to address the impact of globalization and new media. [Zoya Kocur and Simon Leung, "Theory in Contemporary Art Since 1985", Blackwell Publishing, 2005, pp2-3. ISBN 0631228675 ] Yet most artists and critics believe we are still in the postmodern era and that this era is primarily defined by its "pluralism and diversity." [Michael Woods: Art of the Western World, Summit Books, 1989, p323. ISBN 0-671-67007-7]

American Marxist philosopher Frederic Jameson argues that the condition of life and production will be reflected in all activity, including the making of art.

Jean Baudrillard has had a significant influence on postmodern-inspired art and has emphasised the possibilities of new forms of creativity. [Nicholas Zurbrugg, Jean Baudrillard, "Jean Baudrillard: Art and Artefact", Sage Publications, 1997, p150. ISBN 0761955801] The artist Peter Halley describes his day-glo colours as "hyperrealization of real color", and acknowledges Baudrillard as an influence.Gary Genosko, "Baudrillard and Signs: Signification Ablaze", Routledge, 1994, p154. ISBN 0415112567] Baudrillard himself, since 1984, was fairly consistent in his view that contemporary art, and postmodern art in particular, was inferior to the modernist art of the post World War II period, while Jean-François Lyotard praised Contemporary painting and remarked on its evolution from Modern art. [Grebowicz, Margaret, "Gender After Lyotard", State University of New York Press, 2007. ISBN 978-0-7914-6956-9] Major Women artists in the Twentieth Century are associated with postmodern art since much theoretical articulation of their work emerged from French psychoanalysis and Feminist Theory that is strongly related to post modern philosophy. [de Zegher, Catherine (ed.) "Inside the Visible", MIT Press, 1996] [Armstrong, Carol and de Zegher, Catherine, "Women Artists at the Millennium", October Books / The MIT Press, 2006, ISBN 978-0-262-01226-3]

As with all uses of the term postmodern there are critics of its application. Kirk Varnedoe, for instance, stated that there is no such thing as postmodernism, and that the possibilities of modernism have not yet been exhausted. [William R. Everdell, "The First Moderns: Profiles in the Origins of Twentieth-century Thought", University of Chicago Press, 1997, p4. ISBN 0226224805 ] Though the usage of the term as a kind of shorthand to designate the work of certain Post-war "schools" employing relatively specific material and genreic techniques has become conventional since the mid-1980s, the theoretical underpinnings of Postmodernism as an epochal or epistemic division are still very much in controversy. ["The Citadel of Modernism Falls to Deconstructionists," - 1992 critical essay, The Triumph of Modernism, 2006, Hilton Kramer, pp218-221.]

Defining postmodern art

Postmodernism describes movements which both arise from, and react against or reject, trends in modernism. [The Originality of the Avant Garde and Other Modernist Myths Rosalind E. Krauss, Publisher: The MIT Press; Reprint edition (July 9, 1986), "Part I, "Modernist Myths," pp.8-171] Specific trends of modernism that are generally cited are formal purity, medium specificity, art for art's sake, authenticity, universality, originality and revolutionary or reactionary tendency, i.e. the avant-garde. However, paradox is probably the most important modernist idea against which postmodernism reacts. Paradox was central to the modernist enterprise, having been introduced by Manet. Manet's various violations of representational art brought to prominence the supposed mutual exclusiveness of reality and representation, design and representation, abstraction and reality, and so on. The incorporation of paradox was highly stimulating from Manet to the conceptualists.

The status of the avant-garde is particularly controversial: many institutions argue that being visionary, forward-looking, cutting-edge, and progressive are crucial to the mission of art in the present, and therefore postmodern art contradicts the value of "art of our times". Postmodernism rejects the notion of advancement or progress in art per se, and thus aims to overturn the "myth of the avant-garde". Rosalind Krauss was one of the important enunciators of the view that avant-gardism was over, and that the new artistic era is post-liberal and post-progress. [The Originality of the Avant Garde and Other Modernist Myths Rosalind E. Krauss, Publisher: The MIT Press; Reprint edition (July 9, 1986), "Part I, "Modernist Myths," pp.8-171, Part II, "Toward Post-modernism," pp. 196-291.] Griselda Pollock studied and confronted the avant-garde and modern art in a series of groundbreaking books, reviewing modern art at the same time as redefining postmodern art. [ Fred Orton and Griselda Pollock, "Avant-Gardes and Partisans reviewed". Manchester University Press, 1996. ISBN 0-7190-4399-9.] [ Griselda Pollock, "Differencing the Canon". Routledge, London & N.Y., 1999. ISBN 0-415-06700-6.] [ Griselda Pollock, "Generations and Geographies in the Visual Arts". Routledge, London, 1996. ISBN 0-415-14128-1.]

One characteristic of postmodern art is its conflation of the distinction between high and low culture through the use of industrial materials and pop culture imagery. The use of low forms of art were a part of modernist experimentation as well, as documented in Kirk Vanedoe and Adam Gopnik's 1990-91 show "High and Low: Popular Culture and Modern Art" at New York's Museum of Modern Art, [Maria DiBattista and Lucy McDiarmid, "High and Low Moderns: literature and culture, 1889-1939", Oxford University Press, 1996, pp6-7. ISBN 0195082664] an exhibition that was universally panned at the time as the only event that could bring Douglas Crimp and Hilton Kramer together in a chorus of scorn. [ [ "Kirk Varnedoe, 1946-2003" - Front Page - Obituary - "Art in America", Oct, 2003 by Marcia E. Vetrocq] ]

Fredrick Jameson suggests that postmodern works abjure any claim to spontaneity and directness of expression, making use instead of pastiche and discontinuity. Charles Harrison and Paul Wood, "Art in Theory, 1900-2000: An Anthology of Changing Ideas", Blackwell Publishing, 1992, p1014. ISBN 0631227083] Against this definition Charles Harrison and Paul Wood maintain that pastiche and discontinuity are endemic to modernist art, and are deployed effectively by modern artists such as Manet and Picasso.

One compact definition is that postmodernism rejects modernism's grand narratives of artistic direction, eradicating the boundaries between high and low forms of art, and disrupting genre's conventions with collision, collage, and fragmentation. Postmodern art holds that all stances are unstable and insincere, and therefore irony, parody, and humor are the only positions that cannot be overturned by critique or revision.

Avant-garde precursors

Radical movements and trends regarded as influential and potentially as precursors to postmodernism emerged around World War I and particularly in its aftermath. With the introduction of the use of industrial artifacts in art and techniques such as collage, avant-garde movements such as Cubism, Dada and Surrealism questioned the nature and value of art. These movements were influenced by new artforms such as cinema and the rise of reproduction as a means of creating artworks. The ignition point for the definition of modernism, Clement Greenberg's essay, "Avant-Garde and Kitsch", first published in "Partisan Review" in 1939, is a defence of the avant-garde in the face of popular culture. [" [ Avant-Garde and Kitsch] "] Later, Peter Bürger would make a distinction between the historical avant-garde and modernism, and critics such as Krauss, Huyssen, and Douglas Crimp, following Bürger, identified the historical avant-garde as a precursor to postmodernism. Krauss, for example, describes Pablo Picasso's use of collage as an avant-garde practice that anticipates postmodern art with its emphasis on language at the expense of autobiography. [Rosalind E. Krauss, "In the Name of Picasso" in "The Originality of the Avant-Garde and other Modernist Myths", MIT Press, 1985, p39. ISBN 0262610469] Another point of view is that avant-garde and modernist artists used similar strategies and that postmodernism repudiates both. [John P. McGowan, "Postmodernism and its Critics", Cornell University Press, 1991, p10. ISBN 0801424941]


In the early 20th century Marcel Duchamp exhibited a urinal as a sculpture. His point was to have people look at the urinal as if it were a work of art, because he said it was a work of art. He referred to his work as "Readymades." The "Fountain", was a urinal signed with the pseudonym R. Mutt, that shocked the art world in 1917. This and Duchamp's other works are generally labelled as Dada. Duchamp can be seen as a precursor to conceptual art. It is questionable, to some, whether Duchamp--whose obsession with paradox is well known--can be called postmodernist on only the grounds that he eschews any specific medium, since paradox is not medium-specific, although it arose first in Manet's paintings.

Dadaism can be viewed as part of the modernist propensity to challenge established styles and forms, along with Surrealism, Futurism and Abstract Expressionism. [Simon Malpas, "The Postmodern", Routledge, 2005. p17. ISBN 0415280648 ] From a chronological point of view Dada is located solidly within modernism, however a number of critics have held that it anticipates postmodernism, while others, such as Ihab Hassan and Steven Connor, consider it a possible changeover point between modernism and postmodernism. [Mark A. Pegrum, "Challenging Modernity: Dada Between Modern and Postmodern", Berghahn Books, 2000, pp2-3. ISBN 1571811303 ] For example, according to McEvilly, postmodernism begins with the realization that one no longer believes in the myth of progress, and that Duchamp sensed this in 1914 when he changed his modernist practice to a postmodernist one, "abjuring aesthetic delectation, transcendent ambition, and tour de force demonstrations of formal agility in favor of aesthetic indifference, acknowledgement of the ordinary world, and the found object or readymade."Thomas McEvilly in Richard Roth, Jean Dubuffet, Susan King, "Beauty Is Nowhere: Ethical Issues in Art and Design", Routledge, 1998. p27. ISBN 9057013118 ]

Radical movements in modern art

In general Pop Art and Minimalism began as modernist movements: a paradigm shift and philosophical split between formalism and anti-formalism in the early 1970s caused those movements to be viewed by some as precursors or transitional postmodern art. Other modern movements cited as influential to postmodern art are conceptual art and the use of techniques such as assemblage, montage, bricolage, and appropriation.

Jackson Pollock and abstract expressionism

During the late 1940s and early 1950s Pollock's radical approach to painting revolutionized the potential for all Contemporary art that followed him. To some extent Pollock realized that the journey toward making a work of art was as important as the work of art itself. Like Pablo Picasso's innovative reinventions of painting and sculpture near the turn of the century via Cubism and constructed sculpture, Pollock redefined the way art gets made at the mid-century point. Pollock's move - away from easel painting and conventionality - was a liberating signal to his contemporaneous artists and to all that came after. Artists realized that Jackson Pollock's process - working on the floor, unstretched raw canvas, from all four sides, using artist materials, industrial materials, imagery, non-imagery, throwing linear skeins of paint, dripping, drawing, staining, brushing, essentially blasted artmaking beyond any prior boundary. Abstract expressionism in general expanded and developed the definitions and possibilities that artists had available for the creation of new works of art. In a sense the innovations of Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Mark Rothko, Philip Guston, Hans Hofmann, Clyfford Still, Barnett Newman, Ad Reinhardt and others opened the floodgates to the diversity and scope of all the art that followed them.

After abstract expressionism

In abstract painting during the 1950s and 1960s several new directions like Hard-edge painting and other forms of Geometric abstraction, as a reaction against the subjectivism of Abstract expressionism began to appear in artist studios and in radical avant-garde circles. Clement Greenberg became the voice of "Post-painterly abstraction;" by curating an influential exhibition of new painting that toured important art museums throughout the United States in 1964. Color field painting, Hard-edge painting and Lyrical Abstraction [Aldrich, Larry. Young Lyrical Painters, Art in America, v.57, n6, November-December 1969, pp.104-113.] emerged as radical new directions.

By the late 1960s however, Postminimalism, Process Art and Arte Povera ["Movers and Shakers, New York", "Leaving C&M", by Sarah Douglas, Art and Auction, March 2007, V.XXXNo7.] also emerged as revolutionary concepts and movements that encompassed both painting and sculpture, via Lyrical Abstraction and the Postminimalist movement, and in early Conceptual Art. ["Movers and Shakers, New York", "Leaving C&M", by Sarah Douglas, Art and Auction, March 2007, V.XXXNo7.] Process art as inspired by Pollock enabled artists to experiment with and make use of a diverse encyclopedia of style, content, material, placement, sense of time, and plastic and real space. Nancy Graves, Ronald Davis, Howard Hodgkin, Larry Poons, Jannis Kounellis, Brice Marden, Bruce Nauman, Richard Tuttle, Alan Saret, Walter Darby Bannard, Lynda Benglis, Dan Christensen, Larry Zox, Ronnie Landfield, Eva Hesse, Keith Sonnier, Richard Serra, Sam Gilliam, Mario Merz, Peter Reginato were some of the younger artists who emerged during the era of late modernism that spawned the heyday of the art of the late 1960s. [Martin, Ann Ray, and Howard Junker. The New Art: It's Way, Way Out, Newsweek 29 July 1968: pp.3,55-63.]

Performance art and happenings

160pxDuring the late 1950s and 1960s artists with a wide range of interests began to push the boundaries of Contemporary art. Yves Klein in France, and Carolee Schneemann, Yayoi Kusama, Charlotte Moorman, and Yoko Ono in New York City were pioneers of performance based works of art. Groups like The Living Theater with Julian Beck and Judith Malina collaborated with sculptors and painters creating environments; radically changing the relationship between audience and performer especially in their piece "Paradise Now". The Judson Dance Theater located at the Judson Memorial Church, New York, and the Judson dancers, notably Yvonne Rainer, Trisha Brown, Elaine Summers, Sally Gross, Simonne Forti, Deborah Hay, Lucinda Childs, Steve Paxton and others collaborated with artists Robert Morris, Robert Whitman, John Cage, Robert Rauschenberg, and engineers like Billy Klüver. These performances were often designed to be the creation of a new art form, combining sculpture, dance, and music or sound, often with audience participation. The works were characterized by the reductive philosophies of minimalism, and the spontaneous improvisation, and expressivity of Abstract expressionism.

During the same period - the late 1950s through the mid 1960s various avant-garde artists created Happenings. Happenings were mysterious and often spontaneous and unscripted gatherings of artists and their friends and relatives in varied specified locations. Often incorporating exercises in absurdity, physical exercise, costumes, spontaneous nudity, and various random and seemingly disconnected acts. Allan Kaprow, Claes Oldenburg, Jim Dine, Red Grooms, and Robert Whitman among others were notable creators of Happenings.

Assemblage art

Related to Abstract expressionism was the emergence of combined manufactured items - with artist materials, moving away from previous conventions of painting and sculpture. This trend in art is exemplified by the work of Robert Rauschenberg, whose "combines" in the 1950s were forerunners of Pop Art and Installation art, and made use of the assemblage of large physical objects, including stuffed animals, birds and commercial photography.

Leo Steinberg uses the term postmodernism in 1969 to describe Rauschenberg's "flatbed" picture plane, containing a range of cultural images and artifacts that had not been compatible with the pictorial field of premodernist and modernist painting. [Douglas Crimp in Hal Foster (ed), "Postmodern Culture", Pluto Press, 1985 (first published as "The Anti-Aesthetic", 1983). p44. ISBN 0745300030 ] Craig Owens goes further, identifying the significance of Rauschenberg's work not as a representation of, in Steinberg's view, "the shift from nature to culture", but as a demonstration of the impossibility of accepting their opposition. [Craig Owens, "Beyond Recognition: Representation, Power, and Culture", London and Berkeley: University of California Press (1992), pp74-75.]

Steven Best and Douglas Kellner identify Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns as part of the transitional phase, influenced by Marcel Duchamp, between modernism and postmodernism. Both used images of ordinary objects, or the objects themselves, in their work, while retaining the abstraction and painterly gestures of high modernism. [Steven Best, Douglas Kellner, "The Postmodern Turn", Guilford Press, 1997, p174. ISBN 1572302216 ]

Pop art

The term "Pop Art" was used by Lawrence Alloway to describe paintings that celebrated consumerism of the post World War II era. This movement rejected Abstract expressionism and its focus on the hermeneutic and psychological interior, in favor of art which depicted, and often celebrated material consumer culture, advertising, and iconography of the mass production age. The early works of David Hockney and the works of Richard Hamilton, John McHale, and Eduardo Paolozzi were considered seminal examples in the movement. While later American examples include the bulk of the careers of Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein and his use of Benday dots, a technique used in commercial reproduction. There is a clear connection between the radical works of Duchamp, the rebellious Dadaist - with a sense of humor; and Pop Artists like Claes Oldenburg, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and the others.

Thomas McEvilly, agreeing with Dave Hickey, says that U.S postmodernism in the visual arts began with the first exhibitions of pop art in 1962, "though it took about twenty years before postmodernism became a dominant attitude in the visual arts." Thomas McEvilly in Richard Roth, Jean Dubuffet, Susan King, "Beauty Is Nowhere: Ethical Issues in Art and Design", Routledge, 1998. p29. ISBN 9057013118 ] Frederic Jameson, too, considers pop art to be postmodern. [Frederick Jameson in Hal Foster, "Postmodern Culture", Pluto Press, 1985 (first published as "The Anti-Aesthetic", 1983). p111. ISBN 0745300030 ]

One way that Pop art is postmodern is that it breaks down what Andreas Huyssen calls the "Great Divide" between high art and popular culture. [Simon Malpas, "The Postmodern", Routledge, 2005. p20. ISBN 0415280648] Postmodernism emerges out of a "generational refusal of the categorical certainties of high modernism." [Stuart Sim, "The Routledge Companion to Postmodernism", Routledge, 2001. p148. ISBN 0415243076 ]


Fluxus was named and loosely organized in 1962 by George Maciunas (1931-78), a Lithuanian-born American artist. Fluxus traces its beginnings to John Cage's 1957 to 1959 Experimental Composition classes at the New School for Social Research in New York City. Many of his students were artists working in other media with little or no background in music. Cage's students included Fluxus founding members Jackson Mac Low, Al Hansen, George Brecht and Dick Higgins.Fluxus encouraged a do it yourself aesthetic, and valued simplicity over complexity. Like Dada before it, Fluxus included a strong current of anti-commercialism and an anti-art sensibility, disparaging the conventional market-driven art world in favor of an artist-centered creative practice. Fluxus artists preferred to work with whatever materials were at hand, and either created their own work or collaborated in the creation process with their colleagues.

Fluxus can be viewed as part of the first phase of postmodernism, along with Rauschenberg, Johns, Warhol and the Situationist International. [Richard Sheppard, "Modernism-Dada-Postmodernism", Northwestern UniversityPress, 2000. p359. ISBN 0810114925 ] Andreas Huyssen criticises attempts to claim Fluxus for postmodernism as, "either the master-code of postmodernism or the ultimately unrepresentable art movement – as it were, postmodernism's sublime." Instead he sees Fluxus as a major Neo-Dadaist phenomena within the avant-garde tradition. It did not represent a major advance in the development of artistic strategies, though it did express a rebellion against, "the administered culture of the 1950s, in which a moderate, domesticated modernism served as ideological prop to the Cold War." [Andreas Huyssen, "Twilight Memories: Marking Time in a Culture of Amnesia", Routledge, 1995. p192,p196. ISBN 0415909341]


By the early 1960s Minimalism emerged as an abstract movement in art (with roots in geometric abstraction via Malevich, the Bauhaus and Mondrian) which rejected the idea of relational, and subjective painting, the complexity of Abstract expressionist surfaces, and the emotional zeitgeist and polemics present in the arena of Action painting. Minimalism argued that extreme simplicity could capture all of the sublime representation needed in art. Associated with painters such as Frank Stella, minimalism in painting, as opposed to other areas, is a modernist movement and depending on the context can be construed as a precursor to the postmodern movement.

Hal Foster, in his essay "The Crux of Minimalism", examines the extent to which Donald Judd and Robert Morris both acknowledge and exceed Greenbergian modernism in their published definitions of minimalism. [Hal Foster, "The Return of the Real: The Avant-garde at the End of the Century", MIT Press, 1996, pp44-53. ISBN 0262561077] He argues that minimalism is not a "dead end" of modernism, but a "paradigm shift toward postmodern practices that continue to be elaborated today."


The term Post-minimalism was coined by Robert Pincus-Witten in 1977 to describe minimalist derived art which had content and contextual overtones which minimalism rejected. His use of the term covered the period 1966 - 1976 and was applied to the work of Eva Hesse, Keith Sonnier, Richard Serra and new work by former minimalists Robert Smithson, Robert Morris, Sol Lewitt, and Barry Le Va, and others. ["Movers and Shakers, New York", "Leaving C&M", by Sarah Douglas, Art and Auction, March 2007, V.XXXNo7.] Process art and anti-form art are other terms used to describe this work determined by the space it occupies and the process by which it is made. [Erika Doss, "Twentieth-Century American Art", Oxford University Press, 2002, p174. ISBN 0192842390]

Rosalind Krauss argues that by 1968 artists such as Morris, LeWitt, Smithson and Serra had "entered a situation the logical conditions of which can no longer be described as modernist."The Originality of the Avant Garde and Other Modernist Myths Rosalind E. Krauss, Publisher: The MIT Press; Reprint edition (July 9, 1986), "Sculpture in the Expanded Field" pp.287] The expansion of the category of sculpture to include land art and architecture, "brought about the shift into postmodernism." [The Originality of the Avant Garde and Other Modernist Myths Rosalind E. Krauss, Publisher: The MIT Press; Reprint edition (July 9, 1986), "Sculpture in the Expanded Field" (1979). pp.290]

Minimalists like Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, Carl Andre, Agnes Martin, John McCracken and others continued to produce their late modernist paintings and sculpture for the remainder of their careers.

Movements in postmodern art

New Classicism

The clear distinction between what defines modern art, with its constant reinvention, and the return to classical painting and sculpture is a central movement in postmodernism. Chief among the proponents of this aspect of postmodernism is the Art Renewal Center with its staunch rejection of all art it perceives to be modern. This movement is often referred to as classical realism.

Conceptual art

Conceptual art is sometimes labelled as postmodern because it is expressly involved in deconstruction of what makes a work of art, "art". Conceptual art, because it is often designed to confront, offend or attack notions held by many of the people who view it, is regarded with particular controversy.

Precursors to conceptual art include the work of Duchamp, John Cage's 4' 33" which is four minutes and thirty three seconds of silence and Rauschenberg's "Erased De Kooning Drawing". Many conceptual works take the position that art is created by the viewer viewing an object or act as art, not from the intrinsic qualities of the work itself. Thus, because "Fountain" was exhibited, it was a sculpture.

Installation art

An important series of movements in art which have consistently been described as postmodern involved installation art and creation of artifacts that are conceptual in nature. One example being the signs of Jenny Holtzer which use the devices of art to convey specific messages, such as "Protect Me From What I Want". Installation Art has been important in determining the spaces selected for museums of contemporary art in order to be able to hold the large works which are composed of vast collages of manufactured and found objects. These installations and collages are often electrified, with moving parts and lights.

They are often designed to create environmental effects, as Christo and Jeanne-Claude's "Iron Curtain" which was a row of barrels intended to create a traffic jam.

Lowbrow art

Lowbrow is a widespread populist art movement with origins in the underground comix world, punk music, hot-rod street culture, and other California subcultures. It is also often known by the name pop surrealism. Lowbrow art highlights a central theme in postmodernism in that the distinction between "high" and "low" art are no longer recognized.

Performance art

Intermedia and multi-media

Another trend in art which has been associated with the term postmodern is the use of a number of different media together. Intermedia, a term coined by Dick Higgins and meant to convey new artforms along the lines of Fluxus, Concrete Poetry, Found objects, Performance art, and Computer art. Higgins was the publisher of the Something Else Press, a Concrete poet, married to artist Alison Knowles and an admirer of Marcel Duchamp. Ihab Hassan includes, "Intermedia, the fusion of forms, the confusion of realms," in his list of the characteristics of postmodern art. [Ihab Hassan in Lawrence E. Cahoone, "From Modernism to Postmodernism: An Anthology", Blackwell Publishing, 2003. p13. ISBN 0631232133 ] One of the most common forms of "multi-media art" is the use of video-tape and CRT monitors, termed Video art. While the theory of combining multiple arts into one art is quite old, and has been revived periodically, the postmodern manifestation is often in combination with performance art, where the dramatic subtext is removed, and what is left is the specific statements of the artist in question or the conceptual statement of their action.Higgin's conception of Intermedia is connected to the growth of multimedia digital practice such as immersive virtual reality, digital art and computer art.

Appropriation art and neo-conceptual art

In his 1980 essay "The Allegorical Impulse: Toward a Theory of Postmodernism," Craig Owens identifies the re-emergence of an allegorical impulse as characteristic of postmodern art. This impulse can be seen in the appropriation art of artists such as Sherrie Levine and Robert Longo because, "Allegorical imagery is appropriated imagery." [Craig Owens, "Beyond Recognition: Representation, Power, and Culture", London and Berkeley: University of California Press (1992), p54] Appropriation art debunks modernist notions of artistic genius and originality and is more ambivalent and contradictory than modern art, simultaneously installing and subverting ideologies, "being both critical and complicit." [Steven Best and Douglas Kellner, "The Postmodern Turn", Guilford Press, 1997. p186. ISBN 1572302216 ]

Neo-expressionism and painting

The return to the traditional art forms of sculpture and painting in the late 1970s and early 1980s seen in the work of Neo-expressionist artists such as Georg Baselitz and Julian Schnabel has been described as a postmodern tendency, [Tim Woods, "Beginning Postmodernism", Manchester University Press, 1999. p125. ISBN 0719052114 ] and one of the first coherent movements to emerge in the postmodern era. [Fred S. Kleiner, Christin J. Mamiya, "Gardner's Art Through the Ages: The Western Perspective", Thomson Wadsworth, 2006, p842. ISBN 0495004804 ] Its strong links with the commercial art market has raised questions, however, both about its status as a postmodern movement and the definition of postmodernism itself. Hal Foster states that neo-expressionism was complicit with the conservative cultural politics of the Reagan-Bush era in the U.S.Hal Foster, "The Return of the Real: The Avant-garde at the End of the Century", MIT Press, 1996, p36. ISBN 0262561077] Felix Guattari disregards the "large promotional operations dubbed 'neo-expressionism' in Germany," (an example of a "fad that maintains itself by means of publicity") as a too easy way for him "to demonstrate that postmodernism is nothing but the last gasp of modernism." These critiques of neo-expressionism reveal that money and public relations really sustained contemporary art world credibility in America during the same period that conceptual artists, and practices of women artists including painters and feminist theorists like Griselda Pollock [Griselda Pollock & Penny Florence, "Looking Back to the Future: Essays by Griselda Pollock from the 1990s". New York: G&B New Arts Press, 2001. ISBN 90-5701-132-8 ] [Griselda Pollock, "Generations and Geographies in the Visual Arts", Routledge, London, 1996. ISBN 0-415-14128-1 ] , were systematically reevaluating modern art. [Erika Doss, "Twentieth-Century American Art", Oxford University Press, 2002, p210. ISBN 0192842390 ] [Lyotard, Jean-François (1993), "Scriptures: Diffracted Traces", reprinted in: "Theory, Culture and Society, Volume 21 Number 1", 2004. ISSN 0263-2764 ] [Pollock, Griselda, "Inscriptions in the Feminine", in: de Zegher, Catherine, Ed.) "Inside the Visible". Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1996] Brian Massumi claims that Deleuze and Guattari open the horizon of new definitions of Beauty in postmodern art. [Massumi, Brian (ed.), "A Shock to Thought: Expression after Deleuze and Guattari". London: Routledge, 2002. ISBN 0-415-23804-8] For Jean-François Lyotard, it was painting of the artists Valerio Adami, Daniel Buren, Marcel Duchamp, Bracha Ettinger, and Barnett Newman that, after the avant-garde's time and the painting of Paul Cézanne and Wassili Kandinsky, was the vehicle for new ideas of the sublime in contemporary art. [Buci-Glucksmann, Christine, "Le differend de l'art". In: "Jean-François Lyotard: L'exercise du differend". Paris: PUF, 2001. ISBN 2-13-051056-6 ] [ Lyotard, Jean-François, "L'anamnese". In: "Doctor and Patient: Memory and Amnesia". Porin Taidemuseo,1996. ISBN 951-9355-55-3. Reprinted as: Lyotard, Jean-François, "Anamnesis: Of the Visible." In: "Theory, Culture and Society, Vol. 21(1)", 2004. 0263-2764]

Institutional critique

Critiques on the institutions of art (principally museums and galleries) are made in the work of Marcel Broodthaers, Daniel Buren and Hans Haacke.

ee also

* Computer art
* Digital art
* Electronic art
* New Media art
* Experiments in Art and Technology



*"The Triumph of Modernism": The Art World, 1985-2005, Hilton Kramer, 2006, ISBN 0 1-56663-708
*"Pictures of Nothing: Abstract Art since Pollock" (A.W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts), Kirk Varnedoe, 2003
*"Art of the Postmodern Era": From the Late 1960s to the Early 1990s, Irving Sandler
*"Postmodernism (Movements in Modern Art)" Eleanor Heartney
*"Sculpture in the Age of Doubt" Thomas McEvilley 1999

ee also

*Postmodern music
*Classificatory disputes about art
*Modernist project
*Late Modernism

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