Posts Tagged ‘21st century’

A Short, Irreverent Art History, Part 5

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010


Things Come Back Together

Our story so far: Impressionists revolted against realistic art that was little more than an excuse to make soft core porn, then a bunch of artists got more and more abstract, until subject matter was gone entirely. Artists hit a brick wall, because art couldn’t be any more abstract, so artists started to deconstruct the subject matter and just about everything else about art by making and doing weird stuff.

That brings us to today. Or, maybe a few years ago. Or a decade ago. Or somethin’.

And I’ll be honest. I don’t really know what I’m talking about. The only reason I think this is OK is nobody knows what they are talking about.

I haven’t come across any good theory explaining what the “story” of art is right now.

Modernism is over. They successfully deconstructed subject matter. Post-modernism is over, they successfully deconstructed everything else. (If you don’t know how, read my last two entries)

Things are all deconstructed, so maybe art today is about reconstruction. Maybe the job of the artist is to figure out what pieces and fragments of this “art thing” are important to them, and to reconstruct them into something all their own.

When artists find out how they want to reconstruct things from this mess, they will be use these pieces and fragments to make art that is personal, and universal (the secret recipe of relevancy).

A dab of abstract, a bit of impressionism, with some performance and some reflections of our culture. Artists can take the most meaningful bits and methods from all of art history as we see fit, to make whatever is most fitting.

The tricky thing: there are so many bits, that no single artist will be able to pick up all of them. There are so many methods available now, so many ways to make art that have been proven valid, and some of them even contradict each other. Each artist is picking a few different approaches, those that are the most important to them, and doing what they will with them. Reconstructing them in their own personal way.

Is there a linear narrative to describe what is going on now? We probably won’t know for 50 years or so, when someone writes the new irreverent art history to talk about what they think the 21st century has been all about.

Because, I don’t think we really know. And that makes things pretty darn cool.

In the meantime, I’m gonna be reconstructing things.