Tate Modern and Contemporary Art - Part 2

Roy Lichtenstein's Whaam! (1963) 
I think the following article demonstrates in a very good way the contradictions of Modernism/ Postmodernism and the state of contemporary culture. It is one of the best articles that make up The Tate Modern Handbook and provides a very good basis for further argumentation.  

"Postmodernism describes a broad range of cultural tendencies that emerged as a reaction to modernism during the second half of the twentieth century. The term 'Modernism' itself is applied to a vast and diverse group of art and artists, many with competing or contradictory characteristics, and this is equally true of postmodernism.

Yet there are important differences, and perhaps architectural history provides the clearest illustration of the transition between the two eras. In 1966, the American architect Robert Venturi poked fun at the modernist motto 'Less is more' shorthand for the clean lines and unadorned architecture of the Modern Style - with the phrase 'Less is a bore'. His comment was meant more as a witty epigram than a call to arms, but it helps to point out many of the cultural changes that were brewing at the time.

Jeff Koons' Three Ball [...] (1985)
While modernism could be partly characterised by utopian ambitions, high seriousness and a deep concern with form, postmodernism revels in a broadly pluralist approach, celebrating outmoded genres, art-historical parody surface decoration and up-front social commentary. Postmodernism's playful approach to tradition and art history is fuelled in part by scepticism about cultural progress, a tendency that has led some critics to accuse postmodern artists of relinquishing culture to the capitalists 

Many postmodern artists, moreover, set out to collapse the distinction between high and low culture. Pop art, with its love of consumerism and tawdry everyday things, could perhaps be seen as the first form of postmodernism, and emerged in New York at about the same time as Minimalism, which might be called the last gasp of modernism. Roy
Lichtenstein's Whaam! (1963) revels in the vivid graphics of American comics and is one example of how postmodernist art assailed the highbrow aims of modernism. Other artists who practised what might now be considered a precursor
to postmodernism are the Americans Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg and Cy Twombly, who reacted to the high seriousness of Abstract Expressionism with work that was witty, socially engaged and called upon abroad range of references, from recent history to ancient poetry.

During the 1970s and 1980s, many American artists including Barbara Kruger, Richard Prince, The Guerrilla Girls and Jenny Holzer created art that was socially and politically demanding. Yet an element of celebration was also important to postmodernism, and many artists, such as Jeff Koons, pursued kitsch and consumerism in their work. In Three Ball Total Equilbrum Tank Two Dr J Silver Series, Spalding NBA Tip-off (1985), Koons suspended a trio of commercial basketballs in an aquarium as if they were precious relics. In the 1980s, painters David Salle and Julian Schnabel combined layered imagery with bombastic themes, 
and their work has become synonymous with 1980s postmodernism in New York. In the late 1970s, Cindy Sherman and Jeff Wall have explored the area between
Fiona Rae's Night Vision (1998)
documentary and fiction in photography,and their work has become enormously influential. Bruce Nauman's Double No (1988), a looped video installation of two clowns bouncing on pogo sticks - with one television placed upside down on top of the other so that the clowns seem to be banging heads - is just one example of video art, a medium that became increasingly popular with postmodernist artists at the end of the twentieth Century.

Contemporary art continues to be touched by a postmodernist ethos. Fiona Rae's Night Vision (1998), for instance, blends elements of hard-edge geometric abstraction reminiscent of modernism with expressive smears of pigment that disrupt the flat surface of the painting as if the artist were 'sampling', like a DJ, the 
history of abstract art. Christian Marclay's Video Quartet (2002) samples footage from Hollywood films to create a structure that is fractured, with a collage of seemingly discordant sounds and images, and yet creates a coherent whole from this diverse range of found material."

Source: Tate Modern: The Handbook
Tate Gallery Publishing, 2012
entry on Postmodernism, written by Craig Burnett.

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