December 03, 2007

Art Theories

In the nineteenth century, artists were primarily concerned with ideas of truth and beauty: typically the aesthetic theorist John Ruskin, who championed the raw naturalism of J. M. W. Turner, saw art's role as the communication by artifice of an essential truth that could only be found in nature. [14] There was a radical break in the thinking about art in the early twentieth century with the arrival of Modernism, and then in the late twentieth century with the advent of postmodernism. Clement Greenberg's 1960 article "Modernist Painting" defined Modern Art as "the use of characteristic methods of a discipline to criticize the discipline itself".[15]

Greenberg originally applied this idea to the Abstract Expressionist movement and used it as a way to understand and justify flat (non-illusionistic) abstract painting:[15]

Realistic, naturalistic art had dissembled the medium, using art to conceal art; modernism used art to call attention to art. The limitations that constitute the medium of painting – the flat surface, the shape of the support, the properties of the pigment — were treated by the Old Masters as negative factors that could be acknowledged only implicitly or indirectly. Under Modernism these same limitations came to be regarded as positive factors, and were acknowledged openly.

Though only originally intended as a way of understanding a specific set of artists, this definition of Modern Art underlies most of the ideas of art within the various art movements of the 20th century and early 21st century. The art of Marcel Duchamp becomes clear when seen within this context; when submitting a urinal, titled fountain, to the Society of Independent Artists exhibit in 1917 he was critiquing the art exhibition using its own methods.

Andy Warhol became an important artist through critiquing popular culture, as well as the art world, through the language of that popular culture. The later postmodern artists of the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s took these ideas further by expanding this technique of self-criticism beyond high art to all cultural image-making, including fashion images, comics, billboards and pornography.

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