Understanding some of the key terms of postmodernism will help to get a grasp of what it is that postmodern artists do.
- Pluralism—Postmodern art is not just varied, it is “pluralistic,” meaning it reflects the perspectives of many different ethnic, racial, religious, gender, and sexual groups. Postmodern art is also pluralistic because it reflects many different artistic styles and often incorporates features of various art movements from the past and present.
- Appropriation—Postmodern art often copies or borrows elements and images from other works of art to form something new. Consider contemporary television comedies such as The Simpsons and Family Guy. These shows frequently refer to, or parody, other television shows or elements of popular culture; familiarity with these references is essential in order to get the joke.
- Deconstruction—Postmodern deconstruction is a method of taking apart a unified whole to expose its underlying structure. It is used as a form of analysis or interpretation. It is popular amongst postmodern artists who are suspicious of the uniformity and overarching structure of modernism. In this way, postmodernism is like the child who continues to ask “why.”
- Kitsch—Many postmodern artists challenge the distinction between good and bad taste. The word kitsch traditionally refers to ugly objects that reflect bad taste, such as souvenirs, or overly sentimental objects. Examples of kitsch include decorative garden gnomes, or plates decorated with the images of the British royal family. Postmodern artists embrace kitsch and frequently incorporate kitsch into their work.