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ARTH408: Contemporary Art

Unit 4: Postmodernist Rhetoric: Return to Painting and Object or Further Questioning?   With an increasing presence of technology and shifting global borders—promising and threatening—the 1980s were complex period in the history of the 20th century, which for many in the West announced the arrival of the postmodern, where many aspects of Modern art and theory—such as the idea of linear progression together with the concepts of originality and authenticity—were obsolete.  However, for many cultural theoreticians and artists alike working at that time, this fascination with the alleged end of modernism only proved its ongoing pertinence.  As a result, a vivid debate ensued—often referred to as a “postmodernist rhetoric” in order to emphasize its polemical character. 
 
This debate divided the art world roughly into two camps: On one hand were the artists who engaged in irreverent and often ironical appropriation of past artistic styles, bringing back the dominance of painting and sculpture, and on the other hand were those who used new media and photography to question some of the basic assumptions of modernist orthodoxy, such as the issues of originality and authenticity.  In this unit, we will examine both camps, hoping to get a clearer understanding of the main characteristics of this debate.

Unit 4 Time Advisory
This unit will take you approximately 24 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 4.1: 2 hours

☐    Subunit 4.2: 5 hours

☐    Subunit 4.3: 5 hours

☐    Subunit 4.4: 5 hours

☐    Museum Visit: 2 hours

☐    Writing Assignment: 5 hours

Unit4 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:

  • Explain the reasons for the emergence of the postmodernist rhetoric.
  • Discuss the way in which postmodernist rhetoric influenced contemporary art in the 1980s.
  • Identify neo-expressionist works.
  • Explain the return of pictorial abstraction and realist painting.
  • Describe and discuss main artworks that use and include objects.
  • Discuss the way originality and authenticity became one of the important issues for artists working in the 1980s.
  • List the most important artists and artworks associated with the emergence of postmodernist debate.

4.1 Postmodernism (Po-Mo)   - Reading: Georgetown University: Dr. Martin Irvine: “Approaches to Po-Mo” Link: Georgetown University: Dr. Martin Irvine: “Approaches to Po-Mo” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please read this entire webpage for an introduction
to postmodernist rhetoric.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

4.2 Return of the Painting   4.2.1 Neo-Expressionism   - Reading: The Art Story: Justin Wolf: “Neo-Expressionism” Link: The Art Story: Justin Wolf: “Neo-Expressionism” (PDF)

 Instructions: Please read this entire webpage for an introduction
to the neo-expressionist movement.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

4.2.1.1 Julian Schnabel   - Reading: Flash Art: Helena Kontova: “Your History Is Not Our History” Link: Flash Art: Helena Kontova: “Your History Is Not Our History” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please read this entire webpage for an introduction
to Julian Schnabel’s work.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Web Media: Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles: Julian Schnabel: “Corine Near Armenia,” “Untitled,” and “Owl” Links: Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles: Julian Schnabel: “Corine Near Armenia”(HTML)  “Untitled,” (HTML) and “Owl” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please view these paintings that Schnabel made in the 1980s by using broken plates, among other material. All the materials above are in HTML format.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpages above.

4.2.1.2 Anselm Kiefer   - Web Media: Tate Channel: “Anselm Kiefer” and BBC Collective: “Anselm Kiefer” Links: Tate Channel: “Anselm Kiefer” (Adobe Flash) and BBC Collective: “Anselm Kiefer” (Adobe Flash)

 Instructions: To watch the BBC Collection video, please click the
“Anselm Kiefer Gallery Tour” link.  Please watch these entire videos
(approximately 79 minutes and 4 minutes, respectively) for an
interview with Kiefer and an introduction to his work.    

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpages above.

4.2.1.3 Georg Baselitz   - Reading: The Art Story: “Georg Baselitz” Link: The Art Story: “Georg Baselitz” (PDF)

 Instructions: Please read this entire webpage for an introduction
to Georg Baselitz’s work.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

4.2.2 Russian Irony: The Most Wanted Paintings   - Web Media: Dia Art Foundation: Komar & Melamid: “The Most Wanted Paintings on the Web” Link: Dia Art Foundation: Komar & Melamid: “The Most Wanted Paintings on the Web” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click the “Introduction” and “The Paintings”
links for information on the famous artwork by two Russian artists,
Komar and Melamid, who moved to the United States in the 1980s.
 This work, for which they hired professional polling agencies, is
intended as an ironic commentary on postmodern “return of
painting.”  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpages above.

4.3 Return of the Object   4.3.1 Jeff Koons   - Reading: PBS: Art21: “Jeff Koons: Biography” Link: PBS: Art21: “Jeff Koons: Biography” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please read this entire webpage for an introduction
to Jeff Koons.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Web Media: PBS: Art21: “Fantasy” and Tate Channel: “In the Studio: Jeff Koons” Links: PBS: Art21: “Fantasy” (Adobe Flash) and Tate Channel: “In the Studio: Jeff Koons” (Adobe Flash)

    Instructions: Please watch the first 14 minutes of the first video and the entire second video (approximately 4 minutes) for an introduction to Koons’s work.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpages above.

4.3.2 Ashley Bickerton   - Reading: Artforum: “Ashley Bickerton Talks to Steve Lafreniere – ’80s Then – Interview” Link: Artforum: “Ashley Bickerton Talks to Steve Lafreniere – ’80s Then – Interview” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please read this entire webpage for an introduction
to Ashley Bickerton’s work and the New York art scene in the
1980s.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Web Media: MoMA: Ashley Bickerton: “Tormented Self-Portrait (Susie at Arles)” Link: MoMA: Ashley Bickerton: “Tormented Self-Portrait (Susie at Arles)” (HTML)

    Instructions: Please view Ashley Bickerton’s work made in the late 1980s, which encapsulates well the spirit of the time.  Please read carefully the explanation provided by the museum on the same page.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

4.3.3 Allan McCollum   - Reading: PBS: Art21: “Allan McCollum: Biography” Link: PBS: Art21: “Allan McCollum: Biography” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please read this entire webpage for an introduction
to Allan McCollum.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Web Media: PBS: Art21: “Systems: Allan McCollum” Link: PBS: Art21: “Systems: Allan McCollum” (Adobe Flash)

    Instructions: Please start watching this video at the 40th minute for an introduction to McCollum’s work.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Web Media: Allan McCollum: “Allan McCollum” Link: Allan McCollum: “Allan McCollum” (HTML)

    Instructions: Please explore the various links (including clicking on each artwork to show another one) on this webpage for more information on the artist and his work.

    Term of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

4.4 Critique of Originality and Authenticity   4.4.1 Sherrie Levine   - Reading: AfterSherrieLevine: “The Anxiety of Influence – Head On: A Conversation between Sherrie Levine and Jeanne Siegel” Link: AfterSherrieLevine: “The Anxiety of Influence – Head On: A Conversation between Sherrie Levine and Jeanne Siegel” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please read this entire webpage for an interview with
the artist.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Lecture: Smarthistory: Dr. Shana Gallagher-Lindsay and Dr. Beth Harris: “Sherrie Levine’s Untitled (After Edward Weston, ca. 1925)” Link: Smarthistory: Dr. Shana Gallagher-Lindsay and Dr. Beth Harris: “Sherrie Levine’s Untitled (After Edward Weston, ca. 1925)” (Adobe Flash)
     
    Instructions: Please listen to this entire lecture (approximately 9 minutes) for an introduction to Sherrie Levine’s work.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: UbuWeb: “Sherrie Levine” Link: UbuWeb: “Sherrie Levine” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please read this entire webpage for an introduction to Sherrie Levine’s work.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

4.4.2 Cindy Sherman   - Lecture: Smarthistory: Dr. Shana Gallagher-Lindsay and Dr. Beth Harris: “Sherman’s Untitled Film Still #21” Link: Smarthistory: Dr. Shana Gallagher-Lindsay and Dr. Beth Harris: “Sherman’s Untitled Film Still #21” (Adobe Flash)

 Instructions: Please listen to this entire lecture (approximately 5
minutes) for an introduction to Cindy Sherman’s work.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Web Media: PBS: Art21: “Transformation” Link: PBS: Art21: “Transformation” (Adobe Flash)

    Instructions: Please start watching this video at the 14th minute (for approximately 20 minutes) for a introduction to Sherman’s work.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

4.4.3 Barbara Kruger   - Reading: PBS: Art21: “Barbara Kruger: Biography” and “Installation at Mary Boone Gallery” Links: PBS: Art21: “Barbara Kruger: Biography” (Adobe Flash) and “Installation at Mary Boone Gallery” (Adobe Flash)

 Instructions: Please read these entire webpages for an introduction
to Barbara Kruger and an essay on her installation at the Mary Boone
Gallery.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpages above.
  • Web Media: PBS: Art21: Barbara Kruger and John McEnroe: “Consumption” Link: PBS Art21: Barbara Kruger and John McEnroe: “Consumption” (HTML and Real Player)

    Instructions: Please click the link under McEnroe’s photo to watch this entire video (approximately 1 minute).

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Activity: The Museum of Modern Art: “Eye on Europe: Prints, Books & Multiples/1960 to Now” Link: The Museum of Modern Art: “Eye on Europe: Prints, Books & Multiples/1960 to Now” (HTML)

    Instructions: Please click the “Expressionist Impulse” link to explore this specific aspect of the exhibit.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Activity: Georg Baselitz and Neo-Expressionist Painting

    Instructions: Write a two-page essay analyzing the work in the exhibition Nude with Three Armsby Georg Baselitz, an early example of Neo-Expressionist painting, in light of postmodernist (Po-Mo) ideas you learned about in this unit.  You can view this work by clicking here and then clicking the “Expressionist Impulse” link.  You should also use the Dr. Irvine reading from subunit 4.1 to help you write this essay.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpages above.