Post-Modern TraitsIn writing about Postmodernism and the extent of the misunderstanding our current art era seems to bear with it, a reader confessed to having little idea of the inherent differences between Modern Art and Post-modern Art. She asked for a list of names of artists I considered Post-modern. Another reader questioned whether my mention of Thomas Kinkade in the context of Postmodernism meant I considered his work Post-modern. In that matter, I confess, he certainly is a Post-modern artist, if for no other reason than his marketing strategies surely fill the bill, although I'm not so sure whether the pretty pictures he produces or his storybook illustration style of painting would classify him as Post-modern. I guess I could say I'm having quite a debate with myself at the moment as to whether Kinkade's work is Post-modern or not.
Kinkade is but one example of why I'm hesitant to cite a list of Post-modern artists by name. But if it helps, I feel pretty safe in saying any number of Pop artists fit the bill. The same would apply to those using various electronic media in their work, many (though certainly not all) mixed media artists, artists dealing in humour or satire, artists working with highly contemporary subject matter, those artists employing some type of ironic twist to their work, those who "handle" the mass media well, many types of "retro" artists referencing past styles (but not totally or exclusively imitative of them), those artists who "startle" the public though not necessarily with "shock art," and those whose work utilises whatever media best conveys their intended message. In effect, Post-modern artists are those who insist the message comes first, then the form, content, and media. I think it's easier and better to help the reader identify Post-modern artists than to provide a long list of them.
It might also help to mention what is not Post-modern art. We would include in this any work that is wholly identified as to style, movement, or subject matter with the era of Modern Art, especially minus any of the elements mentioned above. The same would be true of any work that is purely decorative, any work bearing little or nothing in the way of a message, or any which is so involved in its own being as to contribute nothing outside the realm of art itself - art for art's sake - in other words. I would also include any art that is so esoteric in form or content as to be completely beyond the grasp of the average person. In essence, Post-modern art tends to use visual expression to lead the viewer to a better understanding of what the artist is trying to say. It endeavours to accept average viewers on their own level and to involve them in the work rather than to seek exclusivity or make the viewer feel stupid. In the computer age we might compare it to a good piece of software. It's art with purpose, but which also tries to be "user friendly."
Contributed by Lane, Jim
2 May 2001