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Post-modernism

2. Other arts

Source: Oxford University Press

Oldenburg’s dictum of 1961 (see §1 above) characterized the ambience in which Pop art returned to the figure, historical allusion and a dialogue with mass culture. It provided models for a break away from modernist principles in architecture as well as art, to which, curiously, the label ‘Post-modern’ was not attached until somewhat later. As in architecture, it began as anti-modernism, reacting against the formalism exemplified in the writings of the contemporary American critic Clement Greenberg, and it was reinforced by the anti-formalist stance of feminist artists and critics in the early 1970s. The emergence of German Neo-Expressionist painters, for example Georg Baselitz, Jörg Immendorff and A. R. Penck, and the Italian ‘Bad Boys’, Francesco Clemente, Enzo Cucchi and Sandro Chia, brought the rediscovery of the pleasures of sensual oil paint. The subsequent overnight successes of American Neo-Expressionists, including Julian Schnabel, prompted charges of ‘hype’, thus setting the stage for the more critical stance of Post-modernist art in the mid-1980s. The transition can be represented by Mark Tansey’s ironic painting Triumph of the New York School (1984), in which Clement Greenberg accepts the surrender of the Ecole de Paris on a World War II battlefield as various artists and critics look on.

The movement was centred around artist-run galleries in Manhattan and took much from feminism, performance art, Post-structuralism and deconstruction, calling ‘meaning’ itself into question. Cindy Sherman dressed and posed herself in photographs modelled self-consciously on film-stills; Troy Brauntuch used images of war atrocities in shadowy pencil drawings on black paper; Robert Longo juxtaposed low-reliefs based on clothing advertisements with pencil portraits of writhing dancers; Sherrie Levine confronted the hopelessness of original representation, rephotographing works by other artists. As in architecture, the growing range of motivations tended to outgrow the Post-modern label, except insofar as all polemic arguments united to gainsay the hypocrisies of the modernist position.

Julian Bell
From Grove Art Online

© 2009 Oxford University Press

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