Postmodernism is a philosophical term referring to art, literature, politics, social philosophy and other aspects of contemporary society. While the word has been used in only the last 50 years or so, long before then many creative people lived and worked according to the principles of postmodernism and postmodern art.
Postmodernism, as it relates to art, architecture and literature, represents a reaction against earlier modernist styles and principles. Postmodernism also tends toward the reintroduction of traditional/classical styles.
Blurred Defining Line
As explained in the Definition page, "The defining line between painting and sculpture is blurred, technology has helped expand its tools and mediums, while the works explore conceptual, political and other cerebral ideas.
"Postmodern and contemporary artists often adopt, borrow, steal, recycle and/or sample from earlier modern and classical works. They combine or alter these images to create new, contemporary pieces. And many fill their works with a strong sense of self-awareness." They also work with scientific, technological, media and digital elements.
Two Historic (Postmodern) Artists
Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) was an Italian writer, as well as a painter, sculptor, architect, engineer, mathematician, musician, set designer and philosopher. He experimented with the helicopter and the idea of flying. He also performed autopsies and studied optics from the scientific and artistic points of view.
Louis Daguerre (1787-1851), French, known for the invention of the daguerreotype process of photography, was originally an artist, scientist, architect, theater designer, panoramic painter and inventor of the Diorama.
Two Contemporary Postmodernists
Steve Furman is from Western Illinois and lives near Chicago. As creator of the blog Expedient MEANS, he explains, "My serious interests in art, society, media and technology led me naturally to the web… I write observations about this rapid convergence and invite comments...this weblog...is a useful framework for explaining complex designs and interactions, as well as helping one understand human behavior."
Mark Chamberlain is from Eastern Iowa and lives in Laguna Beach. He is an artist, curator, designer, mentor, creator of large multimedia events, and inventor of unusual devices. As a self-described "arteologist," he uses a variety of tools and tactics to address social concerns, many of these at his fine art photography gallery, BC Space. His own photographic artwork is in numerous public and private collections.
An article in The Examiner by Jim Benz theorizes that postmodernism explores daily life by whatever standards, materials or methods the artist prefers. Sometimes, that material does not actually exist within the art work itself, but instead is composed of social forces, including the role of the viewer, the museum or gallery, the means of production, or the specific site of display.
"Briefly stated, a postmodern work of art can oftentimes confound a viewer who might have neither the education nor the inclination to contemplate the full impact of its conceptual (and sometimes political) composition."
Steve Furman writes in his blog, "Postmodernists look at modernism and says, 'This could be done more effectively.' He explains that a postmodernist recycles, borrows and rebuilds older models and styles into newer ones that can be more easily understood today.
He adds that postmodernism’s birth occurred approximately when technology and especially computers took a quantum leap forward. Postmodernists today create, arrange and distribute methods, styles and data—whether it is artistic or technological—differently than people did a generation ago. If something can be digitized, then it will survive. If it can’t, then it is at risk for being lost forever. There is also a desire to connect with people and make introductions that might lead to something good for all parties involved."
Breaking New Ground
I spend hours each week reading about contemporary art (the style) and postmodernism (the philosophy explaining the style). I read about postmodern art breaking new ground while mirroring and organizing our confusing, ever evolving world.
Looking at contemporary art and especially at postmodernism often demands that we open our minds to a perspective far beyond our immediate world. I wrote about the artist David Trulli (in 2010, for Art Ltd. magazine), "He has created ominous works that depict a world too big to easily embrace. Beyond this foreboding, the artist seems to be telling viewers to look again at the world around them, and that if you think you know what’s going on, look again."
Jim Benz adds in his Examiner piece that modernism celebrates profound, timeless meanings in the work; while postmodernism also embraces cultural influences as well as a continual process of re-creation.
Pablo Picasso (who continually explored new artistic horizons) said, "What do you think an artist is? ...he is a political being, constantly aware of the heart breaking, passionate, or delightful things that happen in the world, shaping himself completely in their image. Painting is not done to decorate apartments..."
(See Contemporary Art Dialogue Sitemap for complete listing of pages on contemporary and modern art movements, styles, trends and artists.)Back to top