Postmodernism “Less is a bore.” -Robert Venturi, 1977
Postmodernism• The term postmodernism is challenging to define. It is by its very nature, undefinable.• Originally it developed within the discipline of architecture. – Technically, Postmodernism with upper case “P” will refer to this architectural style. • Postmodern architecture challenges modernism and its concept of less is more. • It welcomes decoration, eclecticism, and appropriation. – postmodernism with lower case “p” references a set of critical, strategic and rhetorical practices employing concepts such as difference, repetition, the trace, the simulacrum, and hyper- reality to destabilize other concepts such as presence, identity, historical progress, epistemic certainty, and the univocity of meaning.• Postmodernism at its very core, is a question of the nature of truth itself.
Postmodernism• Postmodernism at its very core, is a question of the nature of truth itself. – Modernism, as we have inherited it, has been a constant renegotiation of the relationship between the nature of truth and visual representation.• The term “postmodernism” first entered the philosophical lexicon in 1979, with the publication of The Postmodern Condition by Jean-François Lyotard.
Postmodernism• The term, postmodernism, suggests some relationship to modernism. – This is the ONLY unifying factor its artists share. – What that relationship is is open for debate; whether it is positive or negative, complementary of critical.• Any attempt to define or apply standards to postmodernism is against its critical nature.• Equally unfavorable is the attempt to identify the location or moment of its inception. (Still we do this however.)• It is generally thought to take modernism AS its subject.
The demolition of the Pruitt-Igoe housing project in St Louis, USA, 1972. The project wasdesigned in 1951 and built between 1952-1953, by architect Minoru Yamasaki. This event has been taken a graphic symbol of the end of modernist utopianism.
PostmodernismMarcel Duchamp (1887-1968)•Some critics credit MarcelDuchamp as being the first “true”postmodern artist with his piece,Three Standard Stoppages.•This piece questions our behaviorwithin society to base judgment onsome system of rules; he questionsthe codification of this set of rules Marcel Duchamp, Three Standardas he would argue it becomes Stoppages, 1913-14; assemblage of threesome “truth”. threads glued to three painted canvas strips, each mounted on glass panel; three wood slats, shaped along one edge to match the curves of the threads; all fitted into a wooden box, three painted canvas strips, each 5 ½” s 47 ¼”
PostmodernismRobert Charles Venturi, Jr. (b. 1925)• Along with his wife, Denise Scott Brown, Venturi founded one of the most influential architectural firms of the 20th century.• He is considered a counter- revolutionary because of his objection to the austerity of modern architecture defined by Walter Gropius and Le Corbusier.• Venturi’s objections to modern design were a launching pad for postmodernism. Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and John Rauch, Best Products Company building, 1977. Oxford Valley, PA
PostmodernismRobert Charles Venturi, Jr. (b. 1925)•1966 Venturi published his “gentlemanifesto,” titled Complexity andContradiction in Architecture. – It is considered the most important writing on architecture since Le Corbusier’s “Vers Une Architecture,” (1923)•With his wife, they sorted buildings aseither ducks or sheds. – The duck was the modernist building-as- symbol, a building type that had reached its creative apogee by the ’60s. – The shed was a plain building you could Representative of “the duck” from decorate with ornamentation and Venturi and Scott-Brown’s book, symbolism. Learning from Las Vegas, 1972.
PostmodernismRobert Charles Venturi, Jr. (b. 1925)•In 1972, Venturi and his wife began a studyof Las Vegas architecture-their effort was tocategorize and classify architecture.•Learning Las Vegas was a criticism oforthodox modernism and its elite style.•The project studied Las Vegas architectureand the role its signs played in creating theurban landscape. – It became a call to re-introduce symbolism into architectural design Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour, Physiognamy of a Typical Casino Sign, 1972. From Learning from Las Vegas, 1972.
Postmodernism• Postmodernism in the visual arts is a noticeable trend by the 1980s. – The shared zeitgeist leads artists, critics, and theorists to break with modernism and its aesthetic practices in order to question it.• Postmodernists shared a frustration with hegemony and its limited categories that marginalized a growing number of artists. – Postmodernists social, economic, historical, and political investigations into the patriarchy as part of its agenda.• Artists became suspicious of the art market and began to investigate the institution of art history-including its museums, galleries, the canon, and literature to reveal discriminatory practices. – Artists included modernism within these institutions.
The Death of the AuthorRoland Barthes (1915-1980)•In 1967, Barthes wrote his influential essay, “The Death of theAuthor.”•In what is the most famous quote from this pivotal articleBarthes writes, "the birth of the reader must be at the cost ofthe death of the author.” – This passage symbolically kills the author to empower the reader, it empowers the viewer in art, allows the spectator to complete the work of art, to determine its meaning. (This was an important moment in postmodernist art.)
The Pictures GenerationThe Pictures Generation•Represents a group of artists workingapproximately 1974-1985.•Barthes essay was a veritable call toaction for young artists coming of age inthe 1970s.•The Pictures Generation generally cameof age amidst a sea of visual imagery-movies, television, magazines, billboards,fashion, and music.•These artists are amongst the first toappropriate images from popular media Barbara Kruger, Untitled (Your Gazeto create their art. Hits the Side of My Face), 1981. Photograph, 60” x 40”. Collection•Their work is Conceptualist in nature. Vijak Mahdavi and Bernardo Nadal- Ginard.
The Pictures GenerationBarbara Kruger (b. 1945)•Artists like Kruger appropriate theimagery of the advertising andmagazine industry to create biting,sarcastic, and challenging images thatcomment on the social situation. – Kruger’s are especially focused on the plight of Woman and the space reserved for her in American culture. Barbara Kruger, Untitled (Your Gaze Hits the Side of My Face), 1981. Photograph, 60” x 40”. Collection Vijak Mahdavi and Bernardo Nadal-Ginard.
The Pictures Generation • Prior to becoming an artist, Kruger worked for Mademoiselle magazine. • Her artwork reflects the nature of that industry. – She appropriates the font, design and layout Barbara Kruger, of images, andUntitled (Your Gaze Hits suggestive messages the Side of My Face), the cover of magazines1981. Photograph, 60” have for the American x 40”. Collection Vijak public.Mahdavi and Bernardo Cover of the April 1983 issue Nadal-Ginard. of Mademoiselle magazine.
The Pictures GenerationBarbara Kruger (b. 1945)•Kruger uses her imagery tochallenge cultural stereotypesand assumptions of gender.•Borrowing the methods of theSituationist International, herimages are usually displayed asposters around metropolitanareas on billboards and thesides of buildings colossal inscale. Barbara Kruger, Untitled (Your Body is a Battleground), 1989. Photograph
The Pictures GenerationBarbara Kruger (b. 1945)"I have no complaints, except for theworld.” – Kruger’s witty phrases are a play on traditional sayings and conventions. – She uses them to deconstruct the true meanings behind the visual and literary messages conveyed by art, the media, and consumer imagery. Barbara Kruger, Untitled (We Won’t Play Nature to your Culture), 1983. Photograph.
The Pictures Generation Sherrie Levine (b. 1947) •Levine focuses on the iconic works of art history-the pieces that have come to represent modernism. Fountain, R. Mutt (Marcel •In the tradition of Duchamp, her work Duchamp), 1917/1964. appropriates readymade object. Readymade: porcelain urinal. 9.3”x 7.1”, height 23.6”. – Her pieces however focus on the work of Philadelphia Museum of Art, modern masters. PA. •Her images challenge the very core of modernism-its emphasis on originality, authenticity, and relationship between the image and its meaning.Sherrie Levine, Fountain (After Marcel Duchamp), 1991. Cast bronze on wood artists base, 26” x 15” x 14”. Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.
The Pictures GenerationSherrie Levine (b. 1947)•Levine’s series, After Edward Weston,first introduced in 1981 sent shockwavesthrough the art community.•On display were Levine’sunmanipulated “original” photographs ofEdward Weston’s own 1936 images ofthe Burroughs, a family of Depressionera sharecroppers in Alabama.•Kruger’s re-imaging of Weston’s workforces the viewer to confront the socialsituation of the subject, not theaesthetics of Weston’s original design. Sherrie Levine, from the series After Edward Weston, c. 1981. Gelatin silver print, approx. 8” x 10”. Paula Cooper Gallery.
The Pictures GenerationSherrie Levine (b. 1947)•Levine either painted orphotographed new “originals” ofrecognized artworks and made themher own.•In After Piet Mondrian Levine re-paints Mondrian’s design inwatercolor to add a feminine feel.•Her appropriation and redesign ofthe work makes it her own and at thesame time questions the position andlack of representation of female Sherrie Levine, After Pietartists in the canon of art history. Mondrian,1984. Watercolor and graphite on paper , 14” x 11”. Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
The Pictures GenerationRichard Prince (b. 1949)•Richard Prince extracts images fromMarlboro ads and re-presents themas large-scale art photographs.•Freed from the brand that borethem, the cowboy-scapes remaindeeply recognizable, the purifiediconography of a frontier that existsonly in fantasy.•His images deconstruct myths ofindividuality and auhenticity. – His photographs are copies of copies (the ad) of myth (the cowboy). Richard Prince, Untitled (Cowboy) from the Cowboy series, 1989. Chromogenic print, 50” x 70”. Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC.
The Pictures GenerationRichard Prince (b. 1949)•Prince’s early work consisted of aseries of cowboy imagesappropriated from Marlboro adsfrom 1980-1992. Photographer unknown, Original Marlboro advertisement, 1983.•Prince came to his subject byclipping images from magazines, re-photographing them then blurring,cropping, or enlarging them.•His images deconstruct the iconicAmerican cowboy and the myth ofthe American manhood. Richard Prince, Untitled (Cowboy), 1991-1992. Ektacolor photograph, 48” x 72”.
The Pictures GenerationCindy Sherman (b. 1954)•One of the better known artists of thisgeneration is Cindy Sherman.•Sherman uses her body as the focus of aseries of images perpetually left untitledin effort to deconstruct the category ofWoman.•She is both model and photographercarefully constructing her images. – Sherman builds her own sets, selects the wardrobe, does her own hair and makeup for the shot. Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still #35, 1979. Photograph, 10” x 8”. Metro Pictures, NY.
The Pictures GenerationCindy Sherman (b. 1954)•Sherman casts herself in acornucopia of characters, atonce recognizable but alwaysunknowable.•She borrows imagery frommovies, television, andmagazines images from the1950s-1960s.•These images exploit thegendered roles women performon a daily basis. Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still #35, 1978. Photograph.
The Pictures GenerationCindy Sherman (b. 1954)•In her later work Shermanintroduced color.•Here she borrows thecenterfold composition fromgirly magazines like Playboy.•Sold for $ 3.9 million atauction in May 2011, this is themost expensive photographever sold. Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still #96, 1981. Photograph, 2’ x 4’. Private Collection.
The Pictures GenerationCindy Sherman (b. 1954)•The late 1980s witnessedSherman’s work take a turn as herinvestigation focused on thejuncture of the social andpsychological nature of identity.•Influenced by Julia Kristeva and hertheory of abjection, Shermancreated her Disasters and HorrorSeries.•This series features the repulsive,those things banned by society Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still #175,things that are uncontrollable and 1987. From her Disgust Pictures Series.unmanageable. Color photograph, 47 ½” x 41 ½”. Metro Pictures, NY.
The Pictures GenerationCindy Sherman (b. 1954)•The years 1989 and 1990 saw theartist create a series of 35 largercolor photographs titled, TheHistory Portraits.•In this series Sherman, like Levine,takes on some of the most iconicimages of art history form theRenaissance and Baroque periods.•Sherman questions the history ofart we have inherited-questioningthe institution in itself. Cindy Sherman, Untitled 224, 1990. Photograph, 48” x 38”. Metro Pictures, NY.
Caravaggio, Self-Portrait (Sick Cindy Sherman, Untitled 224, 1990. Bacchus), 1593. Oil on canvas, 26.4” xPhotograph, 48” x 38”. Metro Pictures, 20.9”. Galleria Borghese, Rome. NY.
Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still #250, 1992. Chromogenic color print, 49 3/8” x 6’ 2 ½”. Museum of Modern Art, NYC. The Sex Series (1992) Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still #263, 1992. Chromogenic color print,40” x 60”. Museum of Modern Art, NYC.
The Pictures GenerationCindy Sherman (b. 1954)•In 1992, Sherman began her SexSeries.•This series was inspired by theNEA’s decision to revoke funding toartists Andres Serrano and RobertMapplethorpe because of their“lewd” imagery.•In a move of solidarity to combatcensorship in the art via funding,Sherman created her ownaggressive suggestive and sexualimages of very large scale images. Cindy Sherman, Untitled # 264, 1992. Chromogenic color print, 50” x 6’3”. Museum of Modern Art, NYC.
The Pictures GenerationJenny Holzer (b. 1950)•Appropriation artist Holzer focusedon the text in her work.•Like Kruger, Holzer’s truisms seemlike obvious and familiar statements.•To publish her truisms, the artist atfirst found alternative exhibitionspaces-T-shirts, billboards, etc.•She harnessed the power of media todeconstruct its destructive images andmessages forced onto the public. Jenny Holzer, Abuse of Power Comes as No Surprise, first printed c.1980. Multiple of screenprint on T-shirt. Publisher: the artist, New York. Printer: Artisan Silkscreen, New York. Edition: unlimited.
Jenney Holzer, Truism Series, 1982. Spectacolor Board, 20’ x 40’. Installation in Times Square, NYC. Sponsored by Public Art Fund, Inc. NY. • Alternative spaces included the Spectracolor Television in Manhattan’s Times Square. Jenney Holzer, A Survival sorozatból, Times Square, New York, 1985–86. SpectacolorBoard, 20’ x 40’. Installation in Times Square, NYC.
The Pictures GenerationJenny Holzer (b. 1950)•Like many artists in the 1980s, herwork had a post-structuralistemphasis, focusing on the nature oflanguage and its institutions.•Her work has been exhibited in andon museum walls.•Her 1989 exhibition criticizes thevery institutions that display herartwork.Jenny Holzer, Guggenheim Truisms, 1989. Interior phrase, “You are a victim of the rules you live by.” Guggenheim Museum, NY.
The Pictures GenerationAllan McCollum (b. 1944)•McCollum began his Surrogates Seriesin 1978.•Each panel is unique in size, all aremade from wood and museum board,glued and pressed together, and paintedall over with many coats of paint.•His work interrogate contemporary attitudetoward art from within the space of thegallery and museum.•Through its inconsistencies, the seriesquestions what is important in a work-the content of the work or the socialstatus afforded by art. Allan McCollum, 20 Plaster Surrogates, 1982-1985. Enamel on hydrastone, 20 parts, various
The Pictures GenerationMark Tansey (b. 1949)•Like his contemporaries, Tansey Matisse Duchamp Picassotook aim at the institution of arthistory, specifically modernism.• His paintings questionGreenberg’s formalism and theart-for-art’s sake credo of the NewYork School.•At the heart of his imagery istheory.•Here, in the change of the guard,Tansey includes modern mastersPicasso, Matisse, and Duchamp. Mark Tansey, Triumph of the New York School, 1984. Oil on canvas, 74” x 120”. Whitney Museum of American Art, NYC.
Mark Tansey, Triumph of the New York School, 1984. Oil on canvas, 74” x 120”. Whitney Museum of American Art, NYC.• In Triumph of the New York School, Tansey appropriates the painting of Spanish Baroque master, Velázquez capitalizing on the New York’s School’s position as the avant-garde and playing with the military term. Diego Velázquez, Las Lanzas (Surrender at Breda),before 1635. Oil on canvas, 10 ⅞" x 12 ½”. Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain.
The Pictures GenerationMark Tansey (b. 1949)•Tansey’s Action Painting II makesreference to the New York Schoolthrough title and pokes fun at thedemise of the movement whichhad become mannerist.•The image makes reference tothe plein air painting ofImpressionism linking the two anddeclaring Abstract Expressionisman academic style. Mark Tansey, Action Painting II, 1984. Oil on canvas, 76” x 110”. Musee de Beaux- Arts de Montreal.