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What Post Modern Art is Not
In trying to shed some light the past few days on what the current Post Modern era in art really is, I may have raised more questions than I've answered. Good! That was the whole purpose of the discussion. Perhaps now I should begin to spend some time talking about what it isn't. First of all it's not a "style," just as Modern Art was not a style either. It encompassed many styles, Cubism, Dada, Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, etc. Second, it is not an artistic movement. It's too broad for that. A movement suggests a group consciously heading in a definite direction with a leader and perhaps a manifesto, etc. Forget that, no one could lead such a group today. Third, there is no "progression." And this is where Post Modernism really stands apart from Modernism. Modern Art was predicated upon a sequence of styles, one leading to another. Post Modern art emphatically rejects any such pretence. And fourth, Post Modern art is not blind to its own existence. It is quite self-conscious in fact. Like no other period before in the history of art, Post Modern artists look at themselves and others and consciously study the work of themselves and others...not to emulate but to avoid emulation.

If one has to visualise some overt image of Post Modern Art, think of it as a sky full of fireworks with some dazzling explosions, many more streaks of momentary brilliance, a few seemingly aimless glowing contrails, and hundreds of duds going off all over the place creating lots of noise and a few jarring blasts, but little else. It is a confusing din without logic or structure. From this description it sounds like the 60's mantra, "Do your own thing." That's the final thing Post Modernism is not. "Do your own thing" suggests a non-judgemental attitude with regard to the art, artist, and process that is simply not the case today...if indeed it ever was. Post Modern art is not without standards, and they are quite possibly more stringent than ever before. And the most difficult standard to meet is that it must be a new way of looking at whatever content and message the artist explores.

An artist friend of mine recently asked if there were any books out there that would help her in learning how to see things in the new ways so demanded by Post Modern art. I'm sure there probably are books like that but I wonder if they're adequate to the task. I'm starting to come to the conclusion that artists are too often looking for influences when they should be trying to avoid them. This again reflects back on the Modern Art mindset I mentioned before, that there should be a discernible line of influence from instructor to student to artist to instructor to student to artist, etc. I hate to be the one to break it to you, but Post Modernism works more on the theory that if you've ever seen it done before, then you don't want to go there.

Contributed by Lane, Jim
1 March 1999


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