Introducing Postmodernism

Monday 13th January
Stage 1 Semester 2 Week 3
Dr Ken Neil
Beyond The Postmodern Trap
Photograph of Jackson Pollock 1950
Jackson Pollock, 1950, ‘nature in action?’
“Lucifer” (Detail) Jackson Pollock 1947
“Art is an expression of human
feeling” is a stock formula, and most
students of art respond to it at once.
However, philosophers must ask
what it means to say this.
John Hospers Art as Expression
In The Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, Edwards,
(ed.), New York: Macmillan, 1967.
"Every object in the world can pass from a closed, silent
existence to an oral state"
"We shall therefore take language, discourse, speech etc.,
to mean any significant unit or synthesis, whether verbal or
visual: a photograph will be a kind of speech for us in the
same way as a newspaper article; even objects will become
Barthes, R., Mythologies, New York, Hill and Wang, 1998, p.109.
“Big Painting VI” Roy Lichtenstein 1965
“Popeye” Roy Lichtenstein 1961
“The Use of Language” Rene Magritte 1928-29
“Do It Yourself Landscape” Andy Warhol 1962
Postmodernism can be said to involve a “linguistic
turn” – that is – a move from the expressive
picturing of self to the visual writing of ideas.
Visual art can be seen as text – the “words” of
“expression” can be learnt.
All art then, from a Postmodern position, is
language, and language is socially and culturally
constructed - with the individual expressive agent
only playing a part in that construction.
“expression” read “representation”
“individual self” read “networked collective”
“original” read “copy”
“fixedness” read “disparateness”
Gavin Turk “Pop” 1993
Glenn Brown “After Frank Auerbach”
Glenn Brown “Mark E Smith (After Auerbach)”
Sherrie Levine “After Walker Evans” 1979
Chris Ofili “Captain Shit and the Legend of the Black Stars” 1996
•Postmodernism in visual art is a discourse built on
various theories, and not a discernible artistic style.
•Theories of Postmodernism are not so fashionable now in
the art world, partly because they are seen to be negative.
•But many good critical results can be had by applying
Postmodernist strategies of analysis - the critique of
expressionism being one such strategy.
Simon Starling “Turner Prize 2005” Installation shots
Thomas Hirschhorn “Monument to Raymond Carver” 2005
Jeremy Deller “Battle of Orgreave” 1991
Richard Billingham from “Ray’s A Laugh” 1995