Recently, in discussing the current Post Modern era in art, I pointed out that much of what artists do today is still locked into a Modernist mindset; and that while on the surface it might "look" new, in reality there is nothing new about it. It's merely a revisitation of already mined-over material coming from various artistic styles of the past. So, someone asked, what is new? Although scholars differ somewhat in assigning a fixed date to the advent of Post Modernism, we could arbitrarily say it began about 1970, and while this is quite recent in terms of art history, it's really not too soon to begin to discern some inherent styles and trends. Sometimes the easiest way to see trends in painting is to look across disciplines, at music, drama, literature, and motion pictures, because these areas of the fine arts are much more "up front" than is painting today. And if you look at what's happening in these areas you see a number of trends that, cut across all areas of the fine arts.
First of all we note that art has become much more "serious" than in the past. One would almost have to say it lacks a sense of humour. And what glimpses of levity we do find are couched in satire and black humour of the Monicagate genre. Second, we find, like never before, that beauty is much more a relative thing. It's not just in the eye of the beholder, but in his or her head. If there is beauty in Post Modern art, it is seldom to be found on the surface, but deep within ones understanding of the particular genre. And with Post Modern art, that understanding does not come easily. It must be probed, and often we as artists are no different from the general public, we decide it's simply not worth the effort. As we who were born and raised dining on Modern Art are now beginning to realise, our teeth are not what they use to be. It's much easier to munch on Twinkies than masticate T-bone.
Post Modern art is young. For the most part, so are Post Modern artists. It's not for the faint hearted, the narrow minded, the bigoted, the traditionalist, or the superficial amongst us. It's for those who watch the evening news while reading the newspaper and surfing the Internet all at the same time. It's for those of us who can filter out the truth in the half of what we see, the fourth of what we read, and the tenth of what we hear. Post Modern art looks for complexities rather than simplification. It is conscious of the past but uses it only for decoration, not for content. It digests the world around us and regurgitates it rather than merely reflecting it. Post Modern art is not above using the same shock tactics and technical aesthetics seen in the best and worst of television to make it's point. And most of all it's not about entertaining us or looking good over the couch. It's shrewd, it's tough, and it's not pretty, and whether we like it or loathe it, it's not going to go away. We are.