AH 101 Research Paper Assignment

AH 101 Research Paper Assignment [2500 to 3000 words]
Appropriation is a basic strategy for creating post modern works of art. Postmodernism has its
roots in several Modernist art movements like Dada, Surrealism and Pop Art. For example,
artists in all of these movements like Hoch, Ernst, Rauschenberg and Schwitters exploited
cultural materials to create works in collage and assemblage.
Using a selected page from the Codex Espangliensis, explain how the artist book illustrates
how artists use appropriation as a strategy in creating art works in the postmodern style.
Postmodern Style
As its name suggests, postmodernism is the successor to modernist movements such as Cubism,
Dada, Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art. Modernism is generally regarded as
developing during the 200 years from 1750 to 1950. Based on an art for art’s sake ideology,
modernism rejected national, regional and vernacular styles in favor of a universal style that
broke with tradition and history. Decoration and ornamentation were replaced by a purist
aesthetic. Art in the modern period was the art of the future in the age of the machine and in
reaction, the romantic ideal of the genius developed into a focus on the solitary creative act as the
model for artistic achievement. The surrealists took this ideal a step further by connecting it to
Freud’s ‘scientific’ psychology and art became intensely self-referential. The art work was
regarded as a unique, autonomous creative expression in which functionality and popular appeal
were ignored or suppressed. These works were created to appeal to the insiders who bought
them for private collections rather than public works commissioned by social institutions.
Related Movments
Dada, Surrealism and Pop Art pioneered the use of mixed media such as collage and assemblage.
Both Dada and Surrealism had sociopolitical agendas. Duchamp challenged the high status of the
work by focusing on how the context of an ordinary object could make it art. Ernst drew on
popular culture sources for his collages and Hannah Hoch created hybrid images from mass
media imagery. Surrealist artists and poets collaborated on various projects combining text and
imagery. Pop artists often drew on cultural sources for their work. Robert Rauschenberg used
technique like assemblage and found objects that had been first been employed by Dada and
surrealist artists like Kurt Schwitters and Housman. Andy Warhol stripped pop culture images
like the Mona Lisa, Marilyn Monroe or Mickey Mouse by using printmaking techniques to
creating multiple images with very little variation thus stripping them of their status as
‘originals.’ All these works were precursors to the full blown post modern style in contemporary
art to which the Codex Espangliensis belongs.
Post-modernism is characteristic of work created from the 1960’s to the Present. In contrast to
modernism, post-modernism exists through a plurality of styles rather than a single dominant
style. Ornamentation and decoration are once again acceptable. Appropriation has become an
important artistic strategy with the reusing previous visual styles, recycling materials, and
borrowing from many periods in history and many cultural traditions including the work of
outsider artists and indigenous world folk traditions. This strategy has lead to the widespread use
of collaboration, inter-textual reference, multimedia installations and the blurring of the
distinction between words and images. At the same time there is an emphasis on art viewed in
context and a consideration of the art work as a consumer product. This practice has introduced
complexity, contradiction and ambiguity that tends to intellectualize art works and reflects the
movement’s embrace of religious and political issues.
Postmodern style is characterized by the use of multiple frames of reference including
intertextuality, collaboration, performance and multicultural references. These complex frames
of reference result from the use of appropriation and hybridity which blur the boundaries
between different cultural systems, historical styles or visual languages is therefore key to
understanding the postmodern aesthetic.
In postmodernism the art work as an object is often less important than the art work as a text. For
the postmodern artist, an actual pipe is interpreted in the same kind of context the picture of a
pipe. As a result, postmodern style blurs the essential distinction between a representation and
what is represented. The map (the art work) becomes the territory (what it means). Magritte’s
painting of a pipe is just as real as the pipe itself. In practice, this paradoxical transference
exploits the ways in which the meaning of an art works changes according to the context.
Duchamp’s ready mades are a good example of this because ordinary objects become art through
the intervention of the artist as appropriator. In post modernism however, the original
context/object is no longer relevant in the new context because the work has become integrated
into a new text.