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Responses to Modernism Essay

a) How does Levin characterize the art of the Modern era? List the various terms and phrases she uses to describe the Modern period. Levin characterizes the art of the Modern era with terms such as: style, form, scientific, experimental, method, logic, technological, purity, clarity, order, idealistic, optimistic, ideological, reductive, austere, puritanical, elitist, dogmatic, brutal, competitive, individualistic, materialistic, formal, abstract, repetitive, flattening, ordering, and literal.

Levin characterizes the art of the Modern era with phrases such as: “style-the invention of sets of forms-was a preoccupation of Modernism, as was originality. The Tradition of the New, Harold Rosenberg called it” “Modern art was scientific. It was based on faith in the technological future, on belief in progress and objective truth. It was experimental: the creation of new forms was its task” “It longed for perfection and demanded purity, clarity, order.

And it denied everything else, especially the past: idealistic, ideological and optimistic, Modernism was predicated on the glorious future, the new and improved. Like technology, it was based all along on the inventions of man-made forms, or, as Meyer Schapiro has said, “a thing made rather than a scene represented. ” “Conceptualism came out of the closet; and art became documentation. In a sense, it was the ultimate godlike act of Modernism: creating a work out of nothing. In another sense, it was obvious that something was over,”

“Modernism, toward the end of its reign, came to be seen as reductive and austere. Its purity came to seen puritanical. It was in the terminology – in a word, Formalism – which implied not only the logical structures of Modernist invention but also the structures of rigid adherence of established forms. “There is no other democracy than the respect for forms”, one of the new French philosophers, Bernard-Henry Levy, has remarked. Like democracy, Modernist art is now being reinterpreted in terms of its insistence on forms and laws rather than in terms of liberty and freedom.

The Modernist vision may have had democratic aims – a progressive emancipation of the individual from authority in an age of unlimited possibilities, as Schapiro has noted–but in practice it was elitist: the public never understood abstract art. It was as specialized as modern science. And emphasis on structure rather than substance is what we came to see in it. Like science, Modernist art has begun to seem dogmatic and brutal. ” “competitive and individualistic, it saw everything in terms of risk. Like capitalism, it was materialistic.

From its collage scraps and fur-lined teacup to its laden brushstrokes, I-beams, and Campbell’s soupcans, modernist art insisted increasingly on being an object in a world of objects. What started as radical physicality turned into commodity; the desire for newness led to a voracious appetite for novelty. ” “the artist as godlike Creator was the leitmotif of Modernism” b) How does Levin characterize the art of Postmodernism? List the various terms and phrases she uses to describe the Postmodern period.

Levin characterizes the art of Postmodernism with terms such as: hybrid impurity, illusionistic theatricality, narrative insinuations, counterrevolutionary contradictions, disillusionment, distrust, survival, natural substances, ongoing processes, photographic images, language, real-time systems, nature, demolition, natural, temporality, psychological, narrational, personal, lifelike contexts, subjective facts, subversive, protesting, impure, quotes, scavenges, ransacks, recycles, synthesis, confession, fiction, irony, whimsy, disbelief, intimate, metamorphosis.

Levin characterizes the art of Postmoderism with phrases like: “Style has become a voluntary option, to be scavenged and recycled, to be quoted, paraphrased, parodied – to be used as a language” “It could be argued that the precise moment of its demise was signaled a few months earlier by the revelation of Duchamp’s Etant Donnes – with all its hybrid impurity, illusionistic theatricality, narrative insinuations, and counterrevolutionary contradictions – opening a peephole into the magical natural world as if predicting the concerns of postmodern art. ”

“Returning materials to their natural stage, subjecting them to natural forces, sending art back to the land or internalizing it within the body, they were evidence that time and/or place were becoming crucial, clearing the way for the psychological and the narrational, for personal content, lifelike contexts, and subjective facts. The feeling against style and objectivity proved more subversive than the antipathy toward objects and form: post-modernism arose out of Conceptualist premises – that art is information -while protesting its Modernist aridity. ” “Post-modernism is impure. It knows about shortages.

It knows about inflation and devaluation. It is aware of the increased cost of objects. And so it quotes, scavenges, ransacks, recycles the past. Its method is synthesis rather than analysis. It is style-free and free-style. Playful and full of doubt, it denies nothing. Tolerant of ambiguity, contradiction, complexity, incoherence, it is eccentrically inclusive. It mimics life, accepts awkwardness and crudity, takes an amateur stance. Structured by time rather than form, concerned with context instead of style, it uses memory, research, confession, fiction – with irony, whimsy, and disbelief.

Subjective and intimate, it blurs the boundaries between the world and the self. It is about identity and behavior” “perhaps we should look to the self-awareness movements that became popular during the ‘70s for a terminology appropriate to the new art: based not on scientific reason and logic and the pretense of objectivity but on presence, subjective experience, behavior, on a weird kind of therapeutic revelation in which it is not necessary to believe or understand – it is enough if it works. ” c) What are the main points of contrast Levin describes between the art of the two periods?

The main points of contrast between modernism and postmodernism that Levin describes are: style as preoccupation vs. style as option, purity vs. hybrid impurity, man-made vs. the natural, adherence to forms vs. the tolerance of ambiguity, godlike vs. lifelike, objective vs. subjective, idealistic vs. realistic, and progressive understanding vs. the cyclical understanding. d) What symbols does Levin suggest would serve as iconic images for the two periods? For modernism, the grid is the suggested iconic image. For post-modernism, the map is the suggested iconic image.

e) Now, identify two of the art movements discussed by Levin. Find a representative artist who participated in each movement and has at least one artwork illustrated in your textbook. Write a compare-contrast between the two artworks. One of the art movements and representative artists should be identified by Levin as Modern, the other as Postmodern. Dadism: Rauschenberg-Bed(1955) Pop Art: Andy Warhol-Marilyn Monroe f) Start by identifying the two artists and their artworks as fully as possible. Rauschenberg was an American artist who became famous during the transition from abstract-expressionism to pop-art.

He is famous for his white, black and red paintings. With his white paintings, he sought to reduce painting to its essential nature so that the possibility of pure experience could be created and appreciated. With his black paintings, Rauschenberg mixed paper with newspaper to create the effect of appearance and disappearance. With his red paintings, Rauschenberg created what would be fore-runners of his combine series. They used complex materials so that the surface was disturbed from the impression of being flat or two-dimensional.

Certainly a transitional painter, he worked within the gap between modernism and post-modernism. Through mistakes he developed his imaginative creativity into meaningful formations that explored new ways and mediums of creating art, by processes like photography, silk-screen, and multimedia juxtaposition. g) Describe both works in detail Rauschenberg’s artwork, Bed(1955) was created with Rauschenberg covered a shallow wooden frame with a worn quilt, that is alternately splashed and splattered with paint.

While it uses everyday materials and can be said to celebrate them by transforming them from something disposable to something that is to be preserved, it is also a Dada-esque assertion of anti-art. f) Andrew Warhol was a prominent figure in the pop-art movement who was known for his diverse friends and came up with the concept of “fifteen-minutes of fame. ” A celebrity in his own right, he is characteristically known for his paintings of luminaries like Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor.

When he switched to silk-screen, Andrew Warhol minimized his own hand so much as he tried to follow his intention to be “a machine. ” His silk-screen was made serially and mass-produced the mass-produced, including the iconic Campbell’s Soup Can. Shot in 1968, by a fringe member of his Factory Scene ‘clique,’ Warhol barely survived and spent much of his later life as a more subdued “business-artist. ” A man who loved plastic, Warhol also aspired to be plastic, at once superficial and commercial but also in possession of an odd aura of glamour.

g) Andy Warhol’s artwork, “Marilyn,” was created so that it could personify mass-production and the glamorous aura of ‘celebrity. ’ Warhol accomplished this with his stenciling technique where ink and paint was applied to silk-screen images. An effect that was also realized was that of two disparities. In “Marilyn” the public image and the private image are attached but wrestle against each other so that both have a characteristic of ambiguity and not quite holding very well. h) How are they Similar? They incorporate different mediums, and deal with disparities. They both wrestle with the private and the public.

“Bed” turns a private item into a public presentation and “Marilyn” deals with the clash between the private person and the public personification. i) How are they Different? “Bed” deals more with the ordinary and the relatively mundane. “Marilyn” deals with the exceptional and the aura of celebrity. “Bed” appears to have been created quite carelessly, “Marilyn” appears to have been created deliberately. “Bed” somehow congeals and appears finished although in a more careless kind of way. “Marilyn” seems somehow undone and there is the feeling that a missing element should be there.

It feels unfinished and never quite complete. j) Finally, do they seem to illustrate Levin’s points about Modernism and Postmodernism—or not? Yes, they do seem to. “Bed” deals with the man-made, the quilt is a man-made object that is also a machine-made object. “Marilyn” has a strange kind of living existence as it deals with the natural, the organic, as well as, the complex human form in all its frailty. There is a quality of decomposition to it that makes it very odd but makes it portray the organic in a strong way. “Bed” is godlike because it does create something out of nothing.

It turns what is “nothing,” an old quilt, into something quite extraordinary, so extraordinary that it will be displayed in museums as a monument of sorts. “Marilyn” is deeply personal and subjective, it is an intimate rendering of someone who lived who cannot really be known except through subjective interpretations. “Bed” is much more elitist and it takes a lot of erudite clarifications before a lot of people can ‘get it. ’ “Marilyn” is not incorporative of any great interplay of the theoretical and can be appreciated much more easily because it deals with such popular content matter.


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