Contemporary Art, 1960s–present

Postmodernism and Art

What is postmodernism?

“Postmodernism” is a complicated term and a complicated theory, which can be applied to art, architecture, literature, philosophy, and more. Literally meaning “after modernism,” postmodernism has been described as everything from a rejection of modernism, to a critique of modernism, to a new phase of it. So, postmodernism is either anti-modernism, or just more of it. Either way, postmodernism is defined in relation to its earlier counterpart. If modernism is unified and serious, then postmodernism is varied and playful. If modernism is a search for absolute truth, then postmodernism is a declaration that there is no such thing.

Postmodernism began to be recognized as an approach to art starting in the 1970s, and is perhaps most easily recognized in architecture. A good example of modernist architecture is Gerrit Rietveld’s Schroeder House (1924), which was designed with a uniform style, complete with coordinating furniture and interior design. By contrast, the Piazza d’Italia in New Orleans, designed in 1975, reflects the influence of various styles of architecture—from Renaissance to baroque to modernism—and is made up of a multitude of forms and colors. Where Schroeder house was stylistically unified, the Piazza d’Italia is stylistically diverse.


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