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Postmodernism

Postmodernism

Author: Ian McConnell
Description:

This lesson will explore the meaning of Postmodernism in art.

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Tutorial

An overview of Postmodernism.

Video Transcription

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Hello. I'd like to welcome you to this episode of Exploring Art History with Ian. My name is Ian McConnell. And today's lesson is about postmodernism. As you're watching the video, feel free to pause, move forward, or rewind as often as you feel is necessary. And as soon as you're ready, we can begin.

Today's objectives are listed below. By the end of the lesson today, you'll be able to identify and define today's key terms, describe the differences between modernism and postmodernism, and identify examples of postmodern art. Key terms, as always, are listed in yellow throughout the lesson. First key term is modernism, a 20th-century art movement that parts from past artistic traditions and does not adhere to any one style, having characteristics that include abstraction, order, minimalism, and rigid formalism.

Postmodernism-- a 20th-century philosophy and art movement characterized by qualities that include politics, appropriation, installation, and nontraditional materials. Appropriation-- an art-making process takes or "borrows" objects or images from everyday life and reassigns their context. Originality-- the idea of being unique, new, or inventive. Installation-- a technique of creating artwork in a space that creates an immersive experience. And institutional critique-- a process of formalized evaluation.

The big idea for today is that postmodernism questions the definition of a work of art through any type of art that either eliminates the art object or suggests a completely new way of thinking about the art object. The required art that we're looking at today is from 1991. But postmodern art dates from the mid century and originated sometime during the 1960s with the arrival of conceptual art.

And today, we'll travel to the Badger State, and my home state, of Wisconsin and the capital city of Madison, where Sherrie Levine earned her Master's of Fine Arts from the University of Wisconsin in 1973. Postmodernism genre is challenging, particularly because a line between modernism and postmodernism is not clearly defined. In fact, there remains some debate regarding whether or not postmodernism even exists, with some categorizing it as just a further extension of modernism given its heavy reliance upon modernism.

Now remember that modernism is art based on formal innovations. And there are distinct differences in the formal attributes that define certain movements, such as cubism versus regionalism, for example. Now one way I always thought about the difference between modernism and postmodernism is that modernism asked a question and then answered it, while postmodernism asks a question, may offer some suggestions, but leaves the answer open to interpretation.

Now all art has philosophical ties. But philosophical questions and ideas tend to carry more weight in postmodernism and in genres like conceptual art, where the idea is actually more important than what the artwork looks like. Another important aspect of postmodernism is in how it combines the old with the new. It recalls constructive universalism in this respect, in how constructive universalism created something new by borrowing elements from several different movements. For example, here's an example of a postmodern painting that was completed in part by the use of a robot-- the combination of old with the new.

Now the Dada movement was immeasurably influential on postmodernism. It was the first movement that really went beyond a simple reaction to previous movements and instead questioned the very essence of art itself. Now the Dada concepts of ready-made-- which is designating everyday objects as art-- and assemblage-- using objects that had a different original purpose and combining them as something new-- are important in postmodernism.

Now postmodernists question the definition of the work of art by creating works of art that either eliminate the art object or suggest a completely new way of thinking about the art object. And because of this fact, many of the art movements from the latter part of the 20th century are considered postmodern. Now the postmodernist also undermines the traditional role of the artist, mainly through the use of appropriation to question the originality of the work of art.

Now Sherrie Levine is an artist known for this approach. And one of her series called After Walker Evans was a series of photographs taken of photographs from the Depression-era photographer Walker Evans. Now this example called Fountain is an almost exact replica of the Dada artist Marcel Duchamp's Fountain, which was, itself, a urinal signed by the artist. Now in both examples, she's taken the idea of questioning art one step further. If the repurposing of an object can be considered art, what about the repurposing of art itself?

So that brings us to the end of this lesson. Let's take a look at our objectives to see if we met them. Now that you've seen the lesson, are you able to identify and define today's key terms? Can you describe the differences between modernism and postmodernism? And can you identify examples of postmodern art?

The big idea for today is that postmodernism questions the definition of a work of art through any type of art that either eliminates the art object or suggests a completely new way of thinking about the art object. And there you have it. Thank you very much for joining me today. I'll see you next time.

Notes on "Postmodernism"


Citations

Sherrie Levine, Fountain, Photo by Cea, Creative Commons, http://www.flickr.com/photos/centralasian/6967859284/; Image of Allie Mae Burroughs Public Domain http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Allie_Mae_Burroughs_print.jpg; Image of Fountain Public Domain http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Duchamp_Fountaine.jpg; Image of Assemblage Head Fair Use According to Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:MechanicalHead-Hausmann.jpg

 

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Postmodernism

    A 20th-century philosophy and art movement characterized by qualities that include politics, appropriation, installation, and non-traditional materials.

  • Modernism

    A 20th-century art movement that parts from past artistic traditions and does not adhere to any one style, having characteristics that include abstraction, order, minimalism, and rigid formalism.

  • Appropriation

    An artmaking process takes or “borrows” objects or images from everyday life and reassigns their context.

  • Originality

    The idea of being unique, new, or inventive.

  • Installation

    A technique of creating artwork in a space that creates an immersive experience.

  • Institutional Critique

    A process of formalized evaluation.