Archive for the ‘ Period ’ Category


Dates: 1960-Present

Origin: International

Key Artists: N/A

The epithet first came to prominence to describe a new eclectic mood in the 1970s work of architects like Robert Venturi, and was then used in the titles of wide-ranging cultural diagnoses by Jean-François Lyotard (1979) and Fredric Jameson (1984). Another cultural theorist, Jean Baudrillard, has also helped shape understandings of postmodernism: but consensus on the subject has always been weak, with ever-broader usage leading to ever-looser connotations.

As a term contrasted to modernism, its meaning gathers strength from definitions of its opposite. Thus in art criticism, modernist work between 1960 and 1970 might be characterized as keeping its distance from familiar representations of the world and seeking out essences of visual experience; while the ‘postmodernist’ art that followed is seen as embracing all manner of given representations and styles, while querying all notions of essence. Such art supposedly responds to the collapse of modernist notions of progress, and to a global condition in which subjects are bound to experience the world as consumers surfeited with a plurality of processed images and packaged information, among which no narrative can establish privilege. The debated possibility that postmodern art might, like its predecessor, maintain a critical stance towards society depends on its deployment of ‘irony’ and, in Lyotard’s writings, of ‘the sublime’. The postmodern attitude in art, by definition pervasive in the 1980s and 1990s, may arguably be traced back to 1960s Pop art and behind that to the work of Robert Rauschenberg.

Bell, Julian. “postmodernism.” The Oxford Companion to Western Art. Ed. Hugh Brigstocke. Oxford Art Online. 12 Mar. 2010 <>



Dates: 1947-Present

Origin: International

Key Artists: N/A

Term loosely used to denote art of the present day and of the relatively recent past, of an innovatory or avant-garde nature. In relation to contemporary art museums, the date of origin for the term contemporary art varies. The Institute of Contemporary Art in London, founded in 1947, champions art from that year onwards. Whereas The New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York chooses the later date of 1977.

“Contemporary art.” 12 March 2010. <;

Contemporary art can be defined variously as art produced at this present point in time or art produced since World War II. The definition of the word contemporary would support the first view, but museums of contemporary art commonly define their collections as consisting of art produced since World War II.

Wikipedia contributors. “Contemporary art.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 11 Mar. 2010. Web. 12 Mar. 2010. <;


Dates: 1850-1960

Origin: International

Key Artists: N/A

The term has been used to denote an ethos shared by many 19th- and 20th-century works of art and often considered to dominate the culture of this era. How best to describe such an ethos in visual art has been the subject of ongoing debate among critics, especially since Clement Greenberg proposed definitions for it in essays such as ‘Modernist Painting’ (1960). In the broader world, ‘modernism’ and ‘modern art’ have long been epithets used to characterize various innovatory styles, or else the ethos of artistic innovation in general.

Various factors from this broader context contribute to the meanings of ‘modernism’. The French Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, and the new thinking of Kant and the Romantics may be seen as ushering in the ‘modern’ era of culture. Baudelaire’s ‘The Painter of Modern Life’ (1859) proposed a new relation between the artist, a detached consciousness, and the urban artifice of such a ‘modern’ reality. The essay seems to foreshadow the subsequent painting of Manet, a crucial component in all histories of modernism; arguably, it also influenced Picasso in 1907 when he painted Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, another fixture of the modernist canon.

These examples, and the work of Cézanne that historically stands between them, share a refusal to comply with received methods of representation. This refusal may be seen as asserting critical opposition to the surrounding culture of capitalism, or equally as a concentration on the formal essence of the art being practised: Greenberg argued in turn for both contentions, tracing modernist developments forward to the American painters of his own day. The self-defeating tendency of the avant-garde to become institutionalized, however, and the anti-formalist character of much later 20th-century art have both suggested to many critics that modernism as an ethos belongs to an era that effectively ended in the 1960s.

Bell, Julian. “modernism.” The Oxford Companion to Western Art. Ed. Hugh Brigstocke. Oxford Art Online. 11 Mar. 2010 <;