“American Gothic Comes to the City,” by Steve A. Furman

“American Gothic Comes to the City,” by Steve A. Furman

“American Gothic Comes to the City,” by Steve A. Furman

Postmodernism refers to art, architecture, literature, politics, social philosophy and several other aspects of contemporary society.

Postmodernism, as it relates to art and architecture, represents a reaction against earlier modernist styles and principles.

Postmodernism also re-introduces traditional/classical styles. In the book, "Art Speak," © 1990, Robert Atkins explains that postmodernism also represents a return to pre-modern art styles and genres (19th 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.

With postmodernism or Postmodern Art, the defining line between painting and sculpture is blurred, technology has helped expand its tools and mediums, while the works explore conceptual, political, social and other cerebral ideas.

Postmodern 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. Many fill their works with a strong sense of self-awareness. They also work with scientific, technological, media and digital elements.

Exploring Daily Life

In the online news source,, 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 artwork 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," Benz writes, "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." He adds that modernism celebrates profound, timeless meanings in the work; while postmodernism also embraces cultural influences as well as a continual process of re-creation.

Steve Furman writes in his blog, Expedient MEANS, "Postmodernists look at modernism and say, 'This could be done more effectively.' A postmodernist recycles, borrows and rebuilds older models and styles into newer ones that can be more easily understood today. Postmodernism's birth occurred approximately when technology and especially computers took a quantum leap forward.

“Postmodernists 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."

Understanding Postmodernism

Michelle Marder Kamhi wrote in her blog in 2012, Postmodernist work has been more aptly referred to as anti-art, even by critics who praise it. Its anti-art nature is especially evident in the recurring emphasis on blurring the very boundary between art and life. The influential early postmodernist Allan Kaprow (1927-2006) wrote whole essays on that subject. He also invented "Happenings"--the precursors for installation and performance "art."…In fact, Kaprow himself admitted that he was "not so sure" whether what he was doing was "art" or, as he put it, "something not quite art."

Similar doubts were expressed by Henry Flynt (b. 1940), the postmodernist who first wrote about "concept art," later termed conceptual art. He claimed that "concept art is a (new) kind of art of which the material is language." Yet he observed that his notion of such a new form in the realm of visual art was rather contradictory. He even suggested that it might be better to recognize such work as "an independent, new activity, irrelevant to art"… In truth, so-called conceptual art—later defined as forms "in which the idea for a work is considered more important than the finished product, if any"—eliminates art altogether.

What matters in genuine art is precisely the finished product…As observed by Thomas McEvilley in “The Triumph of Anti-Art,” countless works in the "conceptual" and "performance" genres over the years have been made to "render foolish" attempts at interpretation and to defy normal understanding. In his words, much of it has been deliberately "unaccountable"—that is, inexplicable and unintelligible. Many recent practitioners in these categories, however, aspire to make work that is meaningful. But by their very nature, these anti-art genres obscure their makers' intentions.
Understanding Contemporary Art.

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