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What is Postmodern Art?

Meaning and Definition of Postmodern Art

Postmodern art is an art movement that is typically described as arising after or in response to modern art.

Although this term is in widespread use, there is disagreement among critics as to whether postmodern art actually exists as a distinct movement or is simply a later phase of modern art.

Dates that have been proposed to mark the beginning of the postmodern movement include 1914 in Europe and 1962 or 1968 in the United States. Postmodern art trends include pastiche, appropriation, and the use of ironic effect.

Critical definitions of postmodern art differ as to whether postmodernism, if it exists at all, is a historical condition or an intentional movement.

It can be considered as the set of characteristics of the current time, as in the first definition, or as art that reacts and challenges modernism in the second. Thematically, artworks classified as postmodern typically address consumer culture, popular culture, globalization, the juxtaposition of high and low art, and the role and value of art in society.

Marcel Duchamp’s sculpture titled The Fountain is sometimes cited as an early example of postmodern art. This work was first featured at an art exhibition in New York City in 1917, where it sparked a controversy about the nature of art. Duchamp, who was a member of the Dadaist movement, bought an ordinary urinal and signed it with the pseudonym “R. Mutt”.

According to Duchamp, the urinal became art when he chose to call it art, meaning that an object’s status as a work of art depends on context and perception.

Movements that fall under the umbrella of postmodern art include installation, multimedia, and conceptual art. Hybridization of forms and media is common, as in the work of Jenny Holzer.

She is known for her installations, in which original or appropriated texts are displayed using a variety of media, including screens and electronic projections. These pieces demonstrate a fusion of electronic art with literature and design.

Eclecticism, juxtaposition, and globalization are common threads in postmodernism. In the wake of multiculturalism and feminist theory, postmodern art tends to deconstruct traditional narratives of race, gender, nationality, and family.

By refusing to acknowledge the distinctions between high and low art – for example, comic book illustration or graffiti art – postmodern artists further break down class distinctions in the hierarchy of art criticism.

Postmodern art rejects the high valuation of authenticity and originality in modernism, asserting instead that there can be no further innovation or progress in art. Thus, according to postmodernists, the use of techniques such as pastiche, collage and parody are the only authentic ways of producing art.

By appropriating history, pop culture, and traditional forms or techniques, postmodern artists manipulate existing symbols and narratives.

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