Art Styles: Postmodernism Art

Andy Warhol postmodernism screen print of "The Marilyns" Marilyn Monrow screenprintsPostmodernism was a late 20th century movement that opposed the Modernist preoccupation with purity of form and technique, and aimed to eradicate the divisions between art, popular culture, and the media. Postmodern artists employed influences from an array of past movements, applying them to modern forms. Postmodernists embraced diversity and rejected the distinction between "high" and "low" art. Ignoring genre boundaries, the movement encourages the mix of ideas, medias, and forms to promote parody, humor, and irony. The overall impression of postmodern art is one of pastiche and appropriation, often promoting parody or irony. It also aims to blur the boundaries between high art and low art.

Postmodernist art has been, since its beginnings in the movements of the 1960s, art that was inherently political and simultaneously engaged with and critical of commercial mass culture. All these movements are linked to the development of multimedia performance art and conceptual art, a term that designates art that is neither painting nor sculpture, art of the mind rather than art of the eye. The logical extension of this definition is that nearly anything, properly "framed" or designated as such, might be thought of as art. One of the most distinctive characteristics of postmodernist art is the dissolution of traditional categories of art and artworks, and the proliferation of new and hybrid forms that have broadened these categories to an unprecedented degree. Minimalism flourished in the 1960s and 1970s with Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, Carl Andre, Sol LeWitt and Robert Morris becoming the movement's most important innovators. We usually think of art as representing an aspect of the real world, a landscape, a person, or even a tin of soup or reflecting an experience such as an emotion or feeling. With Minimalism, no attempt is made to represent an outside reality, the artist wants the viewer to respond only to what is in front of them. The medium, from which it is made, and the form of the work is the reality.

Barbara Kruger postmodern art poster " I Shop Therefor I am"Andy Warhol (see above) is often considered a pop artist, but his work loudly speaks to the intentions of postmodernism as well. He is perhaps best known for his multi-colored and repetitive images. Warhol’s main objective in his art pieces was to mimic the pervasiveness of the media in culture, and demonstrate how the amount of cultural images produced is so overwhelming that there is tendency to feel affectless toward them. Because of this objective, Warhol appropriates iconic cultural images, of objects or of people, in his art which creates a very postmodern feel.

Postmodern art departs from modern art in its abandonment of political advocacy for a singular ideology. The modernist avant-garde viewed art as an agent of social change and even helped to shape many of the political movements of the twentieth century. Futurism aided in promoting Italian fascism with its aesthetic of the machine. By the nineteen-seventies, the political ideals that fueled modernism had given way to profound disillusionment with abhorrent wars such as Vietnam, ultra-utilitarian architecture, and academic minimalism. Artists began to use artistic styles independently of their original political agenda. This appropriation of historic styles irrespective of their original ideological contexts sets postmodern art apart from modern art.

Barbara Kruger (shown here) is an example of a postmodern artist. Kruger's magazine cutout-like pieces speak for issues of the self and identity. Kruger worked for a fashion magazine, and her art pieces incorporate appropriated media images with strong, pithy phrases that often relate to objectification of women and other cultural issues that women face. Postmodernists use a combination of style elements from the past, such as the classical and the baroque, and apply them to spare modern forms, often with ironic effect. Their slightly off-key familiarity creates a more immediate appeal than the strict severity of modernism. One characteristic of postmodern art is its conflation of high and low culture through the use of industrial materials and pop culture imagery.


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