A History of Aesthetic Theory: Modernism and Postmodernism


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Cited from Terry Barrett's Theory and Art Criticism chapter in the book titled Criticizing Art: Understanding the Contemporary, this presentation is an overview for art educators to use in teaching.

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A History of Aesthetic Theory: Modernism and Postmodernism

  1. 1. Thursday, November 21, 13
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  12. 12. •Postmodernists do not merely follow modernists chronologically but also critique them. •Postmodernists are generally content to borrow from the past and are challenged by putting old information into new contexts. •Postmodernist critics and artists embrace a much wider array of art making activities and projects. •Postmodernists tend to be eclectic regarding media and freely gather imagery, techniques, and inspiration from a wide variety of sources, much of it from popular culture. •Postmodernists are skeptical and critical of their times; and when it comes to activist art, some postmodernist artists are socially and politically active. Thursday, November 21, 13
  13. 13. • Feminists and postmodernists have much in common: dialogue is about discovery, expansion, new ideas and deconstructing old worn out ideas. • Images as part of discourse: they very much need to be deconstructed, taken apart and dismantled. • Purposely, images are made problematic by Feminists in order to show what society takes for granted and to try to make explicit that which is implicit and hidden in language and images. • The history of feminism is older than some of us may realize: 1949: Simone de Beauvoir‘s The Second Sex 1963: Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique 1970: Kate Millet's Sexual Politics 1971: Germaine Greer's The Female Eunuchin. 1972: Gloria Steinem founded Ms. Magazine Thursday, November 21, 13
  14. 14. DEFINITION: • Multiculturalist Postmodernism asks serious questions about why certain objects have been selected, who made these choices, why, who is best served by the choices, and which objects were not selected and why. • Postmodernist critics and artists in a pluralistic American society are asserting in words and artworks that there are many repertoires of knowledge, several traditions, and different shapes of consciousness-despite the fact that only certain modes of consciousness are given institutional credence. • Within a pluralistic democracy, diversity of expression, unpopular viewpoints, and minority rights are supposed to be protected and respected. Critics, scholars, and artists working to increase multiculturalist sensibilities are fighting the assumption that the Western European tradition of male superiority is of greater value than other traditions. Thursday, November 21, 13
  15. 15. DEFINITION: • All sexuality, is socially constructed meaning, sexuality is something that we ourselves create. • Appropriation art, in which the artist forgoes the claim to original creation by appropriating already-existing images and objects, has been to show that the 'unique' individual is a kind of fiction, that our very selves are socially and historically constructed through preexisting images, discourses, and events. • What counts in activist art is its propaganda effect; stealing the procedures of other artists is part of the plan-if it works, we use it." • Gay activist artists don't claim invention of their style or the techniques; they want others to use their graphics as well as make their own. • Michel Foucault, the late French historian of ideas is an important influence on postmodernist criticism and particularly on gay activist art and criticism. . Thursday, November 21, 13
  16. 16. DEFINITION: • Scholars of art education, assert that the postmodernist goal is to "keep things open, to demystify the realities we create.” Postmodern work is "evocative rather than didactic, inviting possibilities rather than closure." • Thursday, November 21, 13 Support alternates between two views of “The Canon of Art History”: Either “pro” or “con” as part of the debate for high culture and the cultivation of an appreciation of its masterworks.
  17. 17. • The “Pro” Canon approach to art focuses on those Western masters one would expect in a typical art appreciation course and is "thoroughly conventional" - that is, modernist. There are 4 beliefs: (1) There is a tradition of great art that is worth preserving and transmitting; (2) There are people (artists, historians, critics, educators) who care about this tradition and whose judgments are the best guides to artistic excellence that we have; (3) Works of high culture are inestimable sources of intense enjoyment, gratification, and humanistic insight; (4) Such works are significant constituents of national pride and unity. Thursday, November 21, 13
  18. 18. The “Con” Canon approach to art • • Thursday, November 21, 13 Opponents of the canon consider it too narrow in scope and hold it to be legitimating only certain types of art, while implicitly denigrating other types. At issue is the concept of quality: "What is in question is the way the word is used to compare, select and sort out art and artists.”