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Postmodern art is a term used to describe an art movement which was 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, a return to traditional
themes and techniques as a rejection of modernism, 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 labeled 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.[1] 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.[2]
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.[3]
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,[4] as well as radical
opponents of modernism such as Flix Guattari, who calls it modernism's "last
gasp".[5] The neo-conservative Hilton Kramer describes postmodernism as "a
creation of modernism at the end of its tether."[6] Jean-Franois Lyotard, in
Fredric 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.[7] In the context of aesthetics
and art, Jean-Franois 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, [8] and
1962[9] or 1968[10] 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 are not important.[11]
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.[12]
American Marxist philosopher Fredric 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.[13] The artist Peter
Halley describes his day-glo colours as "hyperrealization of real color", and
acknowledges Baudrillard as an influence.[14] 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,[14]
while Jean-Franois Lyotard praised Contemporary painting and remarked on its
evolution from Modern art. [15] 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. [16][17]
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.[18]
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 generic
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.[19]
[edit] Defining postmodern art
Postmodernism describes movements which both arise from, and react against
or reject, trends in modernism.[20] 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.[21] 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. [22][23][24]
One characteristic of postmodern art is its conflation of 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 Varnedoe and Adam Gopnik's 1990-91 show High and Low: Popular
Culture and Modern Art at New York's Museum of Modern Art, [25] 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.[26]
Fredric Jameson suggests that postmodern works abjure any claim to
spontaneity and directness of expression, making use instead of pastiche and
discontinuity. 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.[27]
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. "Pluralism and diversity" are other defining
features.[28]
[edit] 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.

[29] Later, Peter Brger would make a distinction between the historical avantgarde and modernism, and critics such as Krauss, Huyssen, and Douglas
Crimp, following Brger, 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.[30] Another point of view is that
avant-garde and modernist artists used similar strategies and that
postmodernism repudiates both. [31]
[edit] Dada
Main article: Dada
Marcel Duchamp, Fountain, 1917. Photograph by Alfred Steiglitz
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 Duchampwhose obsession with paradox is well knowncan
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.[32] 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.[33] 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."[8]