In order to comprehend modernism and postmodernism, it is important to know where the ideas, values and events during these paradigmatic shifts. Basically, the context of modernism and postmodernism, its ideals and moral imperatives, should be seen in the context that precedes it. This paper seeks to explain the shift from modernity to post-modernity in art and literature by understanding the ideals and imperatives that existed throughout these periods.
A premise for understanding these paradigms in art and literature is to comprehend the paradigm that it toppled, and present how historical context offers the reasoning behind the changes that happened.
The paper is divided into 3 major sections, initially of which is a description of the romantic, pre-modernist period and why artists collectively shifted to modernity. Second of all, the utopian suitables and moral imperatives of modernist schools of art and thought are rediscovered. Finally, the shift to the postmodernist paradigm is checked out through the works throughout the shifts between modernism and postmodernism.
Romanticism to Modernism is probably an action to the paradigms that precede it, namely Romanticism. Romanticism in art and literature started at the early 19th century as a reaction to the wars and belief systems during the time. The moral imperatives during the time are concerned with religious iconography in relation to the shout of states for self-reliance. The imageries in art and literature instill these perfects. Art is concerned with propagating virtues that are marital relationships of the concepts of state and religion.
Nationalism, fact and faith are just few of the functions of art and literature.
Fundamentally, art and literature is packed with significances of greatness and goodness such that nature, radical notions of flexibility and equality, truth and reason. Morality is seen as an artist’s virtue. The individual’s subjective experience is at the pedestal of art and literature. The trend is exemplified in Delacroix’s (1830) Liberty Leading the People. It is a lucid presentation of war where the significance of liberty is a lady bring a flag.
It is realist in its depiction and shows contrasting imageries of death, destruction and oblivion, on one hand, and of liberty, greatness and collective action of a people for a common good, on the other hand. What became the impetus for change in the prevailing romantic trend in art and literature? The stability of industrial revolution’s growth is not perpetual. Moral imperatives concerned with virtues of truth and spirituality, and the utopian ideals of freedom and equality were challenged by an undercurrent. There is a growing collective restlessness brought by ideas that challenged the status quo.
The well-known of these ideas is in the theory of evolution by Charles Darwin that negated the dominant religious thought. Marx also came as a tour de force when he criticized the industrial revolution as fundamentally flawed. State and religion as social forces that are reflected in art and literature were overthrown with the anti-spiritual evolutionism and the anti-industrial/capitalist socialism. Modernism and its Ideals Modernism rose as a challenge to the status quo of romantic art and literature. It is despondent of the prevailing ideals and morals.
In reality, modernism is a collective term for rises and falls of different genres of art and literature. Industrial revolution continued but its reflections in art and literature are marred and asymmetrical as opposed to the romantic acceptance of reality during the era that came before it. Industrial revolution is characterized by different emerging philosophies, innovations and scientific discoveries. Art during this time showed that new art styles and movements emerged and sank into oblivion at a moment’s pace. Deliberately, art and literature sought to render the moral imperatives of the status quo as sacrilegious. Artelino (n.
d. ) wrote: “The history of modern art started with Impressionism. It all began in Paris as a reaction to a very formal and rigid style of painting – done inside studios and set by traditional institutions. ” At first, the meanings and symbolisms of artworks were critiques to the status quo. However, the evolution of techniques and art genres became a sporadic phenomenon across Europe. Soon enough, the formal rigid styles were overthrown by non-formal and unconventional styles in art and literature. Modern art is quintessentially a movement coming from different vantage points that are experiencing similar historical contexts.
In France, the creative process in the studio is scrapped for the environment. This is seen in the impressionist movement started by Claude Monet. Fauvism, using wild colors and taking impressionism to its limits, was championed by Henri Matisse (1905) in his Woman with a Hat. The industrial revolution is also characterized by mass production and consumption. The French developed an art genre that became a critique to mass production itself. Art Nouveau, French for ‘new art’, featured elegance and highly decorative styles and a dedication to natural forms. Artelino (n. d. ) describes that “(It) was an International art movement.
The Germans called it Jugendstil, the Italians Liberty, the Austrians Sezessionsstil and the Spanish Arte joven. Art Nouveau was not restricted to painting or printmaking. It covered all forms of art – architecture, furniture, jewelry, glass and illustration. ” Because of Art Nouveau’s high-priced artifacts it is difficult to be mass produced, making it a critique to mass production itself. One example is Horta’s (1898) museum which features Art Nouveau architecture. Victorian influences are overtures of the architecture, which is evidence that modernism is a two-fold response to its historical milieu.
On one hand, a critique of the moral imperatives of a modern industrial economic-political system, and also an attempt to look back to more traditional art forms of the previous era. Modernism’s ideals posit a challenge to conventionality and rigidity, form and function of art during the genres that precede it and interestingly, genres within modernism clash and overthrow each other as the dominant art style. One example is art nouveau and art deco’s moral imperatives. While mass production is criticized in art nouveau by going back to fundamentals and looking forward to extravagance, art deco deemed that art must be mass produced.
Art deco is simplified and easily mass produced form of art nouveau. Cubism as a modernist genre also criticizes the predominant trend in social institutions and modes of production by drawing influences from African art. This movement is spearheaded by Pablo Picasso (1921) as seen in Three Musicians. While drawing influences on African art, the painting also portrays hints of impressionism, and this is the reason why cubism is also considered as a post-impressionist art genre. This art form also paved the way for minimalism because of its principle of reducing complexities into simpler geometrical representations.
Developments in psychology also paved way for surrealism, which is focused on interpreting the subconscious. Surrealist artwork is characterized by a dream-like ambience. Another critique towards modern art is its elite nature. Modern art is characterized by high art, art that is appealing to the elites in the society. Within modernism in art are evaluations to itself. Abstract art is a high art that does not appeal to a majority of people but is critically acclaimed by the high society. During this time, a new movement in modernism took art and mainstreamed it to the masses.
This emerging response to abstract art and other forms of high art during modernism is popular art. Pop art challenges the principles of conventional art since it is something that the masses can relate to. Using common icons and symbols are prominent in the works of Andy Warhol (1962) such as Campbell’s Soup series. Pop art embraced advertising and marketing art as fine art, which makes it generally acceptable to everyone. The ethical consideration of pop art is that it is something that must not be monopolized by the high society.
It is for everyone and it is seeing art in things that are common. From criticizing industrialization and the issues concerning the modern man, modernist art is also an anti-thesis unto itself. When different genres collide within modernism, new art forms and techniques emerge. Such is the makings of modern art that it spawned groundbreaking genres. Sensibilities of people also reflect the changes that occurred in societies at the time of modern art. Response to Modernism: The Rise of Postmodernism? Postmodernist art is considered a response to modernism.
While modernism is about negating tradition and “discovering radically new ways to make art” (Wikipedia 2007), “postmodernism describes movements which both arise from, and react against or reject, trends in modernism” (Krauss, 1986). Postmodernism is making use of “pastiche and discontinuity” instead of taking reference of spontaneity and direct expression (Harrison and Wood, 1992). Postmodernist art divorces itself from moral imperatives and ideals per se. It is intrinsically questioning both variables in art itself. Postmodernism destroys boundaries of high art and low art while at the same time challenging the notion of what art is.
Wikipedia (2007) describes postmodernist art as: “one that rejects modernism’s grand narratives of artistic direction, eradicating the boundaries between high and low forms of art, and disrupting genre’s conventions with collision, collage, and fragmentation. Postmodern art holds that all stances are unstable and insincere, and therefore irony, parody, and humor are the only positions that cannot be overturned by critique or revision. ” Surprisingly, the boundary between late modernism and postmodernism is a grey area where post modern art are sometimes considered late modern, and vice versa.
Post modern art believes that there is nothing new or avant garde, and it debunks artistic genius and beauty itself. It confuses, because the objective is subjective and subjectivity is confusing itself. It promotes ideologies while debunking it altogether. Conclusion The shift from modernity to postmodernism is reflective of the changes that occurred in post-conflict, post-industrial, post-ideological world we live in. It represents globalization in its redefinition of identities and its ideals are far from utopian. Moral imperatives are thrown altogether in so far as art and its traditions are concerned.
Moreover, it does not conform to black and white, good and evil or beautiful and ugly distinctions that were features of art itself. But post modern art is not devoid of moral imperatives and ideals. The ideals and morality within postmodernism is a realization of the non-existence of such notions of utopia and grandeur.
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