Modern/Postmodern: A Study in Twentieth-Century Arts and Ideas

Modern/Postmodern: A Study in Twentieth-Century Arts and Ideas

Modern/Postmodern: A Study in Twentieth-Century Arts and Ideas

Modern/Postmodern: A Study in Twentieth-Century Arts and Ideas

Excerpt

One can study an age through its art; and one can study an age by studying the art that it studies, the art it chooses as its models, and what it discovers in those models. Early in the twentieth century Wassily Kandinsky explained the interest in "primitive" art as a necessary antidote to the repression of the spiritual in a materialistic culture. The tendency he identified manifested itself throughout the first half of the century in the Cubists, Fauves, and Expressionists, and later in the Abstract Expressionists, who viewed art-making as an existential affirmation of self against a world seen as dehumanized. On the other hand, this late romantic aspect of modernism was balanced by an equally powerful classicistic trend. Corbusier, for example, looked to the ancients for an architecture that perfectly synthesized form and function in a rational style of pure geometry, and his views on the transcendental nature of mathematics -- like those of Piet Mondrian -- are related to Pythagorean and Platonic views of musical ratios that reflect a greater harmony in the universe

In recent decades it has become a commonplace assumption that a fundamental cultural shift has occurred and that we are now in a phase that has come to be called -- perhaps unfortunately -- "postmodern." As if in confirmation of this belief, the works and styles to which recent artists, critics, and theorists have looked have been quite different from those . . .

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