Postmodern Art

Postmodern art often blurs the traditional distinctions between painting, sculpture, film, performance, architecture, and dance.

Postmodern art is not a movement, a style or a school of art. It is a comprehensive, wide ranging philosophical term. From the mid-20th century, postmodern, also referred to as Postmodernism, helps describe and explain aspects of contemporary art.

Postmodern art is often considered a reaction against modern art. Postmodern is a cross-disciplinary, philosophical term that includes drawings, paintings, installations, videos, photographs, documentation and ephemera of conceptual and performance art.

In “Art Speak,” Robert Atkins explains that postmodernism represents a return to pre-modern art styles and genres (18th century and before). These include, “landscape and history painting, which had been rejected by many modernists in favor of abstraction” and other modern movements. He adds that an aspect of this trend “is the dissolution of traditional categories,” explaining that divisions no longer exist between art, popular culture and the media.

Hybrid Art Forms

Postmodern art often blurs the traditional distinctions between painting, sculpture, film, performance, architecture, and dance. These comprehensive artworks can also include other disciplines as natural and physical sciences, industry, technology, popular culture, words, literature and poetry.

One postmodern hybrid art form is installation art. An installation can fill up a room and often includes several different media, such as painting, photography, film and technology. An example is Christo’s “The Gates,” erected in New York City in 2005. The installation had 7,503 vinyl gates, with saffron colored fabric hung from each gate, along 23 miles in Central Park.

Another example is a 636-foot-long photomural/installation erected in Laguna Beach in 1989. Called The Tell, it included construction, photography, painting, sculpture, collage, assemblage, environmental and performance art. It might have been in the Guinness Book of Records if its creators had time to count its photos. It was covered by major media including Life magazine and CNN.

Postmodern Culture

Fredric Jameson wrote in “The Anti-Aesthetic, Essays on Postmodern Culture,” “The concept of postmodernism is not widely accepted or even understood today.” He adds that the theory strives to replace older modern movements. In doing so, it erodes the distinctions between high and popular culture. “This is perhaps the most distressing development of all from an academic standpoint, which has traditionally had a vested interest in preserving a realm of high or elite culture.” Understanding the objectives of postmodern art can be liberating. It gives us the freedom to create as we want without restrictions in form, style or materials.

Postmodern artists often “appropriate,” or adopt, borrow, steal, or recycle styles from earlier modern and classical works. They combine or alter these images to create new, contemporary pieces. Many postmodernists fill their works with a strong sense of self-awareness, whether they refer to themselves as postmodern or not.

Marcus Antonius Jansen is a postmodern artist because of the time in which he paints, the fine and lowbrow subject matter incorporated into his paintings, and his use of appropriation. His techniques rejected include formal purity, medium specificity and art for art’s sake. Jansen’s painting, “Surreal,” on this page, appropriates images from Picasso’s, “Guernica,” 1937, which depicts that town’s bombing during the Spanish Civil War. By borrowing this image, Jansen compares the plight of urban black people to the victims of Guernica.

Emerging Latin American Artist

Luis Cornejo is an emerging Latin American artist, who could also be called postmodern. (Many Latin American artists appropriate images from European impressionists, modern artists and others to create new works, often with distinctly Latin flair). He expresses outrage at the superfluous values of contemporary society by appropriating magazine shots of fashion models and working in a Disney style of drawing. His painting, “Fading Away,” on this page, appropriates fashion images and then mocks those images.

Movements within postmodern art include conceptualism, graffiti, installation art, minimalism, neo-expressionism, performance, photo-realism, video and animation. (See also Postmodernism.)

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