I'm guessing most people believe "postmodernism" is a fancy way of saying "bullshit". And they're mostly right. But I think there's some core amount of interesting... stuff about it that's worth considering. At a minimum, you'll sound smarter when you go to museums. And if things get too obnoxious for you, you can just tune me out and look at some pretty pictures while eating pizza—that's totally legitimate.
These are just, like, my opinions.
There's a lot of postmodernist stuff, but I'm just gonna focus on the purple things here.
To talk about Postmodernism, I guess you gotta look at Modernism first. But that's actually not enough, because Modernism was already kind of a response to stuff that came before it. So let's wrap all that up into one little box and call it...
"Pre-modern" isn't actually A Thing, it's just convenient for our purposes. It's stuff like Classical Greek sculpture, or Romanticism in painting, or the Dutch masters. A lot of the Netherlands, a lot of France, etc. You can say a lot about pre-modern, but the important thing in this narrative (that I'm making up) is that it was representational.
Rembrandt's self-portraits represented, uh, Rembrandt.
I just think this one is funny.
Just an aside, but I think it's really creepy how close they got with this movie.
Architecture is trickier. A building is always first and foremost a building, so "representation" is harder to define. I think it's best to look at some second-order characteristics. And I think it's helpful to consider the typology of the building. That is, there were historical rules that were generally followed to make a Church a Church, or a Palace a Palace. And we can kind of categorize buildings according to how typological they are.
For example, St. Paul's Cathedral is super Churchy. It's not easily mistakable for anything else. It represents a Church. It takes all these older Church idioms and decorations, and updates them (for its time) into this really definitive style, called English Baroque.
Boullée was super weird and ahead of his time. But you can still think of his work as representational: Newton's monument was directly informed by Newton's mathematics.
Also known as abstract. Basically, modern artists decided they were sick of always representing stuff literally, and started approaching things, ideas, forms, even art itself abstractly.
So, this is clearly not a bird. Is it the artist's idea of a bird? Some proto-bird? The flight path of a bird?
Just an aside: Picasso wasn't exclusively weird stuff.
Dadaism was about nonsense (the name is mostly onomatopoeic) but this piece in particular was literally just Marcel deciding an old urinal was art, and signing his name to it. It was the beginning of art only being art with intent. Super abstract!
Dutch as hell.
Theo van Doesburg was hugely influenced by Piet Mondrian, and they were initially friends and peers, but they eventually had a falling-out: Mondrian couldn't accept diagonals (Neo-Plasticism) and van Doesburg loved 'em (Elementarism). Literally a friendship ruined by 45°.
Early Corbusier is basically seminal modern architecture, which was about rejecting decoration and classical forms, and building structurally, or tectonically. Think: lines and surfaces, bare/pure materials. "Form follows function" as opposed to "Function imposed by form." It's hard to live in an abstract house, but modern architecture was like modern art in that they both stripped away ornamentation.
The modernist ethos is kind of that people are functional entities that need things: light, air, space. Buildings are therefore machines for living. Drawing on the commercial/industrial age, buildings became somehow sleek, machine; a kind of functional cleanliness that demanded everything be in its right place. Not only in the building itself: residential, commercial, industrial must all be separate.
This is more of a general idea than a specific building. Open interior plan, external stair, structural support via columns around the perimeter.
Exactly when it ended depends on the medium and the artist, but it's over now.
Postmodern is actually an umbrella term to cover several distinct movements that happened at the same time. In painting, postmodernism reintroduces representation. Sometimes, very direct representation.
This is just an aside, but I found it pretty funny. Could this happen today? I'm pretty sure it would be printed on a lawyer's letterhead.
Land art became kinda popular along with the other postmodernist stuff. I'm not really sure how postmodernist it is. I guess this is the part of the presentation I should have worked a bit longer on.
Postmodern architecture rejected the minimalism of modern architecture as totally boring. It's often about an attempt to conceive a narrative. That is, think of a building not as walls + floors + roof, but as something else altogether.
No, really. This stuff is a joke. In the best way.
This guy Loos entered a competition to design the next skyscraper for the Chicago Tribune with this building that looked like a column, on the left. The entry on the right would be the modernist take, by Walter Gropius (Bauhaus guy).
This guy's probably most famous for the entrance pyramid to the Louvre, but he also did some really depressing buildings on the MIT campus, like this one, on the left. (It's shaped like a 30-60-90 triangle.) If you're ever in Boston and having a nice time, check out the Wiesner Building (aka. "the inverted bathroom") to knock things down a notch.
Bonus: postmodernist art in the courtyard! That's a Spider Sculpture by Louise Bourgeois.
Postmodern architecture also reacted negatively toward the idea of modernist functional separation. Homes distinct from shops—suburbs!—what a terrible idea!
Postmodernist stuff tends to use super-basic forms, and then do something funny, like put a little ball on top. Whee!
This is postmodern because it's a sort of "decorated shed"—it uses its mechanical systems as an exterior representation of itself.
Postmodernism means architecture can be fun again.
Representation is fun again
But you can re-live the experience! Point your internet gun at