The two examples above were both made in the last ten years. But are theyalso modern? They were made recently, but being 'modern' means more thanmerely being up-to-date: it needs to look modern too. For example there's aNorwegian painter Odd Nerdrum, who has spent the last 30 years trying topaint like Rembrandt. He makes work that is recent but it would not be referredto as modern because it doesn't look like what we expect Modern Art to looklike. Instead, it is deliberately old fashioned. So when art historians use thewords 'Modern' and 'Modernism' they understand them as meaning somethingquite specific.
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(a) From the point of view of a formalist, this piece would be examined in different perspectives such as the dark tones, shapes, and lines that the piece has, to the context and reasons of why Bacon decided to paint it as a re-modernization of the classical painting of Velasquez, exploring all the textures and dimensions of the painting to determine its art...
Can postmodern be identified in an equally agreed upon wayin any of the other arts? I haven't yet seen or heard the termapplied in earnest to anything in recent literature. It's comeup in connection with music, but haphazardly and with no agreementabout what it means there. And from what I can tell it comes uphardly at all in talk about the dance or the movies. Away fromarchitecture, it's in the area of painting and sculpture thatI've mostly heard and seen postmodern used -- but only by criticsand journalists, not by artists themselves.
Whetherwe conceive of the work of art on the model of a picture (art as a picture ofreality) or on the model of a statement (art as the statement of the artist),content still comes first.
Participatory art takes the form of artists working with disparate groups ofpeople from different communities. This is not only a way of generating worksof art, but is also part of the work itself. Here are three examples: Untitled 1992(Free), a working kitchen in a New York gallery set up by artist Rirkrit Tiravanija;Tenantspin, 1999, a TV channel for the elderly residents of a Liverpool housingestate set up by art collective Superflex; and Pimp my Irish Banger, 2009, acollaborative art project in which artist Terry Blake worked with young peoplefrom Dublin to paint car doors and bonnets that were later displayed in an outdoorspace at the National College of Art and Design, Dublin. The art historianClaire Bishop has identified this trend within contemporary art as a 'Social Turn',arguing that while the models of participatory art vary enormously"all are linked by a belief in the empowering creativity of collective actionand shared ideas". These are forms of art that ask questions about who isinvolved in the making and experience of art.
He took an ordinary article of life, placed it so that its useful significance disappeared under the new title and point of view – created a new thought for that object.”
Nighthawks, a modern piece of art, showcases a city location that seems empty and deserted, highlighting the loneliness of modern life.
But cast an eye over art magazines such as Artforum and Frieze expensivecolour publications packed with ads promoting the interests of thecommercial art scene and the difficulty of finding stable commonalities acrosswhat is celebrated is quite apparent. Such magazines will often introduce usto much that is overtly 'edgy': radical performance art that claims to questionmoral norms, for instance; or varieties of activist art that propose creativemodels of political resistance; or versions of installation and conceptual artthat confuse us as to what, and often where, the 'art' actually is. All seem to sitcomfortably side-by-side in such publications. Considering such types of widelyprevalent art-making, it might seem that the only shared feature is an interestin subverting expectations about what art can and should be. Such tendencieswould, of course, be true to a legacy of avant-gardism in the arts, and in oureffort to capture something of what is 'contemporary' in art we could choose toprioritise the continuation of a kind of rule-breaking spirit.
Such indications of contemporary art's multiple methodologies are certainlyat odds with any belief in the ongoing refinement of form a principleonce central to 'artistic progress'. For the philosopher and critic Arthur Danto,the innovations of art after the 'modernist' era have therefore brought about, ineffect, an 'end' of art. This does not mean, he argues, an end of people makingart, but rather an end of a particular way of understanding art that focused onthe constraints of certain disciplines and mediums. Since pop art, Danto suggests,"There is no special way works of art have to be". It is this plurality ofpossibilities which most obviously gives us clues as to what contemporary art'is' today. Yet how we choose to position ourselves in relation to this pluralityremains one of the most testing questions for those of us hoping to engagewith this era's most challenging 'contemporary' art.
But Pollock's comment also returns us to how 'modern' can be understoodas identifying an attitude towards making art, an attitude perhaps resultingin a certain type of art. Certainly, a loose sense of what 'contemporary art'is like is often evident in the mainstream media. Coverage of exhibitions suchas the annual Turner Prize show, for instance, will often be based on hostilepresumptions about the prevailing tendencies in art today, with artists regularlybeing characterised as pranksters or self-promoting provocateurs rather thanmasters of a recognisable medium. However accurate such pictures are, it is ofcourse essential to remember the vital role played not just by the media butalso by the art market in manufacturing particular versions of a contemporaryart 'world' (as has always been the case throughout the history of art), withcertain forms of art reaching prominence as a result of their marketability.
(i) Contemporary Whatever That Means
The tricky task of identifying a working definition of 'modern' is accompaniedby the equally testing challenge of defining the word 'contemporary'. Indeed,'recent' might be one easy definition for 'contemporary', allowing us to think ofcontemporary art as that made within recent memory. Another closely relatedand very straightforward meaning of 'contemporary', and one that is entirelytrue to the linguistic sources of the word, is 'with the times' (from the Latin'con', meaning 'with', plus 'temp' meaning 'time'). As such, to be contemporaryis to be alert to the conditions of a particular moment in time, to be movingwith the tides of living history. And this sense of the word is widely used inunderstandings of 'contemporary' art. Back in the 1980s, for instance, curatorsat the Tate Gallery in London decided that the "art of the past ten years, on arolling basis", would provide a suitable set of parameters as they made plansto develop a new 'Museum of Contemporary Art'. 'Contemporary' art in thisregard, comes pretty close to 'modern' art particularly, perhaps, to JacksonPollock's claim that the art of "each age" should find "its own technique".