FROM THE MODERN TO THE POST
MODERN AND BEYOND
ART OF THE LATER 20TH CENTURY
TEXT PAGES 1030–1091
THE ART WORLD’S FOCUS SHIFTS WEST
1. List two characteristics of so-called “Greenbergian formalism”:
An emphasis on an artwork’s visual elements rather than its subject.
Rejection of illusionism and a focus on exploring the properties of each
2. Why is it difficult to give a precise definition of the term “Postmodernism”?
It is a widespread cultural phenomenon. It can be considered a rejection of
modernist principles and accommodates seemingly everything in art.
In contrast to Modernism, which may be considered to be elitist,
Postmodernism is: A naïve and optimistic populism.
3. What is the attitude of Existentialists toward human existence?
Human existence is absurd, and it is impossible to achieve certitude. Many
existentialists also promoted atheism and questioned the possibility of
situating God within a systematic philosophy.
List three artists whose work reflects these ideas:
a. Francis Bacon b. Jean Dubuffet c. Alberto Giacometti
4. Name the artist who referred to his art as “an attempt to remake the violence
of reality itself”: Francis Bacon.
5. List two characteristics of the art of Jean Dubuffet:
a. His scenes are painted or incised into thickly encrusted, parched-looking
surfaces of impasto.
b. Scribblings are interspersed with the images, heightening the impression
of smeared and gashed surfaces of crumbling walls and worn pavements
marked by random individuals.
6. What is Art Brut?
Untaught, coarse, and rough art, done in the way that children or the
mentally unbalanced would paint.
7. In what way does the sculpture of Giacometti, like the figure shown on FIG.
34-3, relate to the ideas of the Existentialists?
The figures can be seen as the epitome of existentialist humanity—alienated,
solitary, and lost in the world’s immensity. They are thin, virtually
featureless, and have rough, agitated surfaces.
1. What major artistic style developed in the United States after the influx of
refugee artists from Europe? Abstract Expressionism.
In what city did it begin? New York City.
2. Describe the way Jackson Pollock created his "gestural" Abstract Expressionist
pieces. Using sticks or brushes, he flung, poured, and dripped paint (not just
oil paints but aluminum paints and household enamels as well) onto a
section of unsized canvas he unrolled across his studio floor.
3. List one way in which de Kooning’s work relates to that of Pollack:
The brush strokes are sweeping and gestural and have the energetic
application of pigment typical of gestural abstraction.
List one way in which it differs:
His subject is still figurative, whereas Pollock’s are wholly abstract.
4. What do the works of Barnett Newman and Mark Rothko have in common?
They have a quiet aesthetic and are emotionally resonant through use of
5. Describe the function of Barnett Newman's "zips."
He intended the viewer to perceive the zips not as separate entities, separate
from the ground, but instead as accents energizing the field and giving it
6. What feelings did Mark Rothko hope to evoke with his large, luminous
canvases? Basic human emotions: tragedy, ecstasy, and doom.
7. How does Post-Painterly Abstraction differ from Abstract Expressionism?
Whereas Abstract Expressionism conveys a feeling of passion and visceral
intensity, a cool, detached rationality emphasizing tighter pictorial control
characterizes Post-Painterly Abstraction.
8. Why was Ellsworth Kelly’s work known as “Hard Edge Abstraction”?
His paintings have razor-sharp edges and clearly delineated shapes. They
convey no suggestion of the illusion of depth—the color shapes appear two-
9. What is Color-Field painting?
It emphasizes painting’s basic properties. The emotional element is
subordinated to resolving formal properties.
10. Describe Frankenthaler's soak-stain technique.
She poured diluted paint onto unprimed canvas, allowing the pigments to
soak into the fabric, resulting in absolute flatness.
What effect did she want to achieve with it?
The images appear spontaneous and almost accidental.
Name one other artist who utilized it: Morris Louis.
11. Name three Minimalist sculptors:
a. Donald Judd b. Tony Smith c. Maya Ying Lin
12. In what way are the principles of Post-Painterly Abstraction related to
The sculptors also strove to arrive at purity in their medium, in their case the
three-dimensionality of the sculptural idiom.
13. What beliefs about art did Donald Judd assert in works like the cubes
illustrated in FIG. 34-15?
He sought a visual vocabulary that avoided deception or ambiguity that
propelled him away from representation and toward precise and simple
sculpture. A work’s power derived from its character as a whole, and from
the specificity of its materials.
14. Briefly describe the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C. (FIG. 34-16):
It is a V-shaped wall constructed of black granite panels, beginning at
ground level at each end and gradually ascending to a height of 10 feet at the
center of the V. The names of the war’s 57,939 casualties and missing are
incised on the wall in the order of their deaths.
Who designed it? Maya Ying Lin.
Why do you think visitors respond to it so strongly?
It is not just an object to react to statically, but visitors relate to it as on a
journey. Lin wanted to work with the land, not dominate it, and the
sculpture is a “cut” into the earth, an initial violence that in time would heal.
15. In what way did David Smith's sculpture like the one on FIG. 34-9 differ
from Minimalist works?
Despite the basic geometric vocabulary, Smith composed his works in a way
that suggest human characteristics. They are composed of multiple pieces
welded together in a manner that is not organic like Minimalist works. He
emphasized the two-dimensional surfaces, while Minimalist artists did not
concentrate on the surface of their sculptures.
16. What type of art did Louise Nevelson create?
Sculptures that combine a sense of architectural fragment with the power of
Dada and Surrealist found objects.
17. How does the work of Louise Bourgeois’ Post-Minimalist work differ from
the work of Judd and other artists of the Minimalist school?
Her sculptures are groups of objects relating to each other, the “drama of one
among many.” The sculptures refer strongly to human figures instead of
purely abstract forms.
18. What is a "Happening"?
A loosely structured performance whose creators try to suggest the aesthetic
and dynamic qualities of everyday life, as actions, rather than as objects; they
incorporate the fourth dimension, time.
Name one artist who specialized in Happenings. Allan Kaprow.
19. Who was John Cage?
A composer and teacher (1912–1992) who encouraged his students to link
their art directly with life. He was interested in the ideas of Duchamp and
Eastern philosophy, incorporating methods like chance to avoid the closed
structures marking traditional music.
20. What type of art did Fluxus artists create?
Their performances were more theatrical than Happenings, coining the term
“Events” to describe their works. Events focused on single actions. They
were not spontaneous but followed a compositional “score.”
21. What sort of art was produced by Kazno Shirago and the Gutac group in
They brought painting into the realm of performance, involving such actions
as throwing paint balls at canvases or wallowing in mud to shape it.
22. Briefly state the artistic philosophy of Joseph Beuys. He wanted to make a
new kind of sculptural object that would include “Thinking Forms: how
we mould our thoughts or Spoken Forms: how we shape our thoughts into
words or Social Sculpture: how we mould and shape the world in which
we live.” I.e., a sculpture to stimulate thought about art and life.
23. What inspired the work of Jean Tinguely, and what sort of materials did he
use? The notion of destruction as an act of creation. He made “metamatic
machines,” motor-driven devices that produced instant abstract paintings.
He programmed them electronically to act with an antimechanical
unpredictability when viewers inserted pens and pushed the start button.
He also made a piece designed to perform and then destroy itself.
24. What is meant by "Conceptual Art"?
Art lies in the artist’s idea, rather than in its final expression; some
Conceptual artists eliminated the object altogether.
25. What was Bruce Nauman’s favorite material? Neon.
What was his favorite subject? Language and wordplay.
ART FOR THE PUBLIC
1. What subject matter was characteristic of Pop Art of the 1960s?
Consumer and popular culture and the mass media.
2. Name two artists who worked in the Pop mode in England.
a. Richard Hamilton b. the Independent Group at the Institute of
Contemporary Art In London
3. Give an example of Jasper Johns' “things seen but not looked at”:
The American flag.
4. What are "combine" paintings?
Painted passages interspersed with sculptural elements, a variation on
assemblages, artworks created from already existing objects.
Who developed them?
5. What distinguishes the works of Robert Rauschenberg from those of earlier
The parts of Rauschenberg’s combine painting retain their individuality
more than those in Dada collages. They are recognizable images and objects,
appearing as a sequence of visual non-sequiturs.
6. What did Lichtenstein utilize as the basis of works like the one shown on
How do his “benday dots” reflect the source?
Benday dots were used in comics to create modulation of colors through
the placement and size of colored dots. By using them in his paintings,
Lichtenstein calls attention to the mass-produced derivation of the image.
7. How did Andy Warhol utilize his background as a commercial artist in
creating "fine art" works?
Warhol used a printing technique and a visual vocabulary that reinforced the
image’s connections to consumer culture. Warhol not only produced
numerous canvases of the same image but also named his studio “the
8. Name the artist who created designs for gigantic monuments depicting
ordinary objects: Claes Oldenburg.
9. Name two Superrealist painters:
a. Audrey Flack b. Chuck Close
10. What type of art did Duane Hanson create?
Life-size figurative sculptures that depict stereotypical average Americans,
striking chords with the viewer because of their familiarity.
11. Name the leading American Environmental artist:
Briefly describe his techniques.
He used industrial construction equipment to manipulate vast quantities of
earth and rock on isolated sites. He designs his works in response to the
12. For what type of art are Christo and his wife Jeane-Claude most famous?
They temporarily alter the landscape, by enclosing it, and buildings, in huge
lengths of cloth. Their works are only on view for a few weeks.
13. Why did the GSA remove Serra’s Tilted Arc (FIG. 34-39) from the plaza in
front of the Federal Building in New York City?
Many members of the public complained that it was ugly and attracted
graffiti, that it interfered with the view across the plaza, and that it
prevented the use of the plaza for concerts.
What important issues were raised by this action?
The nature of public art, including the public reception of experimental art,
the artist’s responsibilities and rights when executing public commissions,
censorship in the arts, and the purpose of public art.
NEW MODELS FOR ARCHITECTURE: MODERNISM TO
1. What form did Frank Lloyd Wright use as the basis for his design for the
Guggenheim Museum (FIGS. 34-40 and 34-41)?
The spiral of a snail’s shell.
2. What forms provided the inspiration for Le Corbusier's Notre Dame du Haut
(FIGS. 34-42 and 34-43)
The shape of praying hands, the wings of a dove, and the prow of a ship.
In what way does Notre Dame du Haut differ from Le Corbusier's earlier
works (FIGS. 33-63 and 33-64)?
It is organic, a fusion of architecture and sculpture, rather than the strict
geometry of his earlier works.
3. List two architectural metaphors used in the Opera House in Sydney
Australia (FIG. 34-44):
a. The buoyancy of seabird wings.
b. The sails of the tall ships that brought European settlers to Australia.
4. Who designed the TWA Terminal at Kennedy Airport in New York City
(FIG. 34-45): Eero Saarinen.
What design motif did he use throughout the structure?
Curvilinear vocabulary that suggests wings and flight.
5. What architectural style is represented by the Seagram Building in New York
The modernist corporate skyscraper and Mies van der Rohe’s idea of “less is
6. What type of impression was the Sears Tower in Chicago (FIG. 34-47)
intended to project?
Intimidating and imposing.
What features of the building helped to create that impression?
The tower’s size, coupled with the black aluminum that sheathes it and its
7. List three terms often associated with Postmodern architecure:
a. Pluralism b. Complexity c. Eclecticism
8. What historical styles are cited by Charles Moore in his Piazza d’Italia (FIG. 34-
Italian architecture, all the way back through to the time of Roman culture:
the Greek agora or the Roman forum, the Renaissance, Mannerism, and
9. How did Phillip Johnson’s style change in his AT&T Tower in New York (FIG.
34-49)? He moved away from modernist severe geometric formalism to a
classicizing transformation towards postmodernism. He moved from the
rigid “glass box” to elaborate shapes, motifs, and silhouettes freely adapted
from historical styles.
10. What aspects of Graves’ Portland Building (FIG. 34-50) can be considered
Postmodernist? Capital-like large hoods on one pair of opposite facades and
a frieze of stylized Baroque roundels tied by bands on the other pair; a
painted keystone motif, and other painted surfaces; the assertion of the wall,
the miniature square windows, and the painted polychromy.
11. How did Lionel Venturi’s work and writing depart from the Modernist
axiom “form follows function”? He asserted that form should be separate
from the function and structure and that decorative and symbolic forms of
everyday life should enwrap the structural core.
12. What is the official name for the “Beaubourg”?
The Georges Pompidou National Center of Art and Culture.
Where is it located? Paris.
What is significant about its structure? The anatomy of the building is fully
exposed to the outside, as well as its “metabolism”: the pipes, ducts, tubes,
13. What is meant by Deconstructionism?
Using deconstruction as an analytical strategy, architects attempt to disorient
the observer by disrupting the conventional categories of architecture. The
haphazard presentation of volumes, masses, planes, lighting, and so forth
challenges the viewer’s assumptions about form as it relates to function.
14. List six adjectives that describe Deconstructivist architecture:
a. Disorder b. Dissonance
c. Imbalance d. Asymmetry
e. Unconformity f. Irregularity
Name a building that illustrates those terms:
Günter Behnisch’s Hysolar Institute Building at the University of Stuttgart,
POSTMODERNISM IN PAINTING, SCULPTURE AND NEW MEDIA
1. Give one way that Postmodern artists challenge the Modernist emphasis on
originality and creativity:
They address issues of the copy or reproduction and the appropriation of
images or ideas from others.
2. Jameson argues that the intersection of high and mass culture is a defining
feature of: Postmodernism.
3. In rejecting the notion that each art work contains a fixed meaning,
Postmodern artists are influenced by the ideas of Deconstructivist theorists.
4. Briefly characterize the style of Julian Schnabel:
Neo-Expressionism. He was interested in the physicality of objects, like
attaching broken crockery to his canvas in “The Walk Home,” which
superficially recalls the work of the gestural abstractionists and Abstract
Expressionism, but is also an amalgamation of media.
His work has been considered as a restatement of the Abstract
5. Why is Susan Rothenberg charactgerized as a Neo-Expressionist?
Her works fall in the area between representation and abstraction. The
loose brushwork and agitated surface classify her as a Neo-Expressionist.
6. What theme is seen in many of Anselm Kiefer’s works?
A reexamination of German history, particularly the Nazi era, and evoking
the feeling of despair.
7. Why did Ofili’s Holy Virgin Mary (FIG. 34-58) elicit such a strong reaction?
The Virgin Mary is surrounded by tiny images of genitalia and buttocks cut
from pornographic magazines, and he attached clumps of elephant dung to
8. Name two artists who consider themselves to be feminist artists.
a. Judy Chicago b. Miriam Schapiro
9. Who designed The Dinner Party (FIG. 34-59)? Judy Chicago.
What was it designed to celebrate?
The achievements and contributions women have made throughout
What techniques were used to create it?
A massive triangle, each side lined with thirteen place settings of identical
utensils and individually painted sculptural porcelain plates with a long
table runner covered with imagery that reflects significant facts about the
life and culture of the “invited guests” (women from history). The table
runners use traditional needlework techniques such as needlepoint and
10. For what type of art is Miriam Shapiro most famous?
Huge sewn collages, assembled from fabrics, quilts, buttons, sequins, lace
trim, and rickrack.
What did she mean by the name “femmage”?
That women had been doing collages long before Picasso introduced them
to the art world.
11. Who produced a series of film stills in which she transformed herself (FIG.
What issue was of primary concern to the artist?
The way much of Western art has been constructed to present female
beauty for the enjoyment of the “male gaze,” and in women’s images and
12. To what issues does Barbara Kruger want her art to draw attention?
The culturally constructed notion of gender and the strategies and
techniques of contemporary mass media.
13. Name the artist whose works constituted “a dialogue between the
landscape and the female body”?
What feelings do her works evoke?
Sensuality and spirituality, especially the spirituality inherent in nature.
14. What issue is of major concern to Kiki Smith?
Who controls the body, and the socially constructed nature of how external
forces shape people’s perceptions of their bodies.
15. Name three artists who used their art to explore issues involved with being
African American women:
a. Faith Ringgold b. Adrian Piper c. Lorna Simpson
16. What issue did Melvin Edwards explore in works like Tambo (FIG. 34-69)?
The history of collective oppression, such as lynching.
17. Name a Native American artist who uses cultural heritage and historical
references to comment on the present: Jaune Quick-To-See Smith.
18. List three stylistic features of Leon Golub’s art that characterize his brutal
vision of contemporary life:
a. Modeled with shadows and gleaming with highlights, the guns contrast
with the harshly scraped, flattened surfaces of the figures.
b. The rawness of the canvas reinforces the rawness of the imagery; Golub
scraped off applied paint and dissolved other areas with solvent.
c. The figures loom over the viewers, with the viewer’s eye line at the
mercenaries’ knees, and they are placed so close to the front plane that
their feet are cut off by the edge of the painting, trapping them with the
viewer in the painting’s compressed space.
19. What medium does Magdalena Abakanowicz use for her expressive
20. What subject was David Wojnarowicz exploring in the work shown on
21. What artistic technique did Wodiczko utilize to draw attention to the
plight of the homeless?
Outdoor slide images projected onto a war memorial monument.
22. List six interests that video technology allowed Nam June Paik to combine:
a. Painting b. Music
c. Eastern philosophy d. Global politics for survival
e. Humanized technology f. Cybernetics
23. Name four artists who utilize computers and/or video in their work:
a. David Em b. Jenny Holzer
c. Bill Viola d. Tony Oursler
Which one uses digital video to encourage introspection and explore
24. What is Jeff Koons exploring in works like Pink Panther (FIG. 34-81)?
Contemporary mass culture, especially the kitschy and trite.
25. How does Tansey’s A Short History of Modernist Painting (FIG. 34-82)
illustrate the ambiguities and paradoxes of Postmodernist Pictorialism?
It demonstrates the artist’s consciousness of his place in the continuum of
art history and also functions as a critique on fundamental art historical
premises by creating metaphors of how painting has been addressed
during different eras.
26. To what was Arneson reacting in his self-portrait known as California Artist
(FIG. 34-83): A negative review by a critic that Californian art was provincial.
In what way is the work a critique of the contemporary art world?
By responding directly to an art critic’s comments, Arneson revealed his
comprehension of the mechanisms (e.g. art criticism) people use currently to
evaluate and validate art.
27. What is Hans Haake critiquing in MetroMobiltan (FIG. 34-84)?
Mobil’s sponsorship of the Metropolitan Museum of Art show “Treasures of
Ancient Nigeria.” He implied that the sponsorship was driven by Nigeria’s
being one of the richest oil-producing countries in Africa. More generally, he
is critiquing the politics of art museums and how these politics affect the art
exhibited and museum visitors’ understanding of art history.
28. Who are the Guerrilla Girls, and what is their agenda?
A New York-based group of female artists who considers it their duty to call
attention to injustice in the art world, especially what they perceive as the
sexist and racist orientation of the major institutions. They hope to improve
the situation for women artists.
1. What European political events and artistic movements influenced the
development of American Abstract Expressionism? How?
2. Discuss the use of industrial processes in the work of David Smith, Julio
Gonzalez, and Donald Judd. Which processes did each use and how were the
processes related to the artist's esthetic concerns?
3. Compare Hamilton's Just What Is It That Makes Today's Homes So Different, So
Appealing? (FIG. 34-27) with Campin's Merode Altarpiece (FIG. 20-12). Discuss
the compositional structure and the symbolism of both works, along with
their cultural meanings.
4. Can you relate Judd's Untitled (FIG. 34-15) and Tinguely's Homage to New York
(FIG. 34-24) , and Sherman’s Untitled Film Still #35 (FIG. 34-61)to the earlier
traditions of Classic and Romantic art? How?
5. Compare the self-portraits of Cindy Sherman (FIG. 34-61), Ana Mendieta
(FIG. 34-63), Adrian Piper (FIG. 34-67), Chuck Close (FIG. 34-35), and Robert
Arneson (FIG. 34-83) with earlier self-portraits like those of Judith Leyster
(FIG. 24-49), Vigee-Lebrun (FIG. 28-13) and Rembrandt (FIG. 24-47). Discuss
the techniques used by each artist as well as the view of the self that each
6. Compare Francis Bacon’s Painting (FIG. 34-1) and David Wojnarowicz’s
“When I put my hands on your body” (FIG. 34-74). What attitudes toward
society does each represent, and how is each reflective of its time?
7. If you have Volume I, discuss the changes in still life depiction from the time
of the Romans through the modern day. Select from the Still Life with
Peaches from Herculaneum (FIG. 10-24), Claes, Vanitas Still Life (FIG. 24-55),
Cezanne, The Basket of Apples (FIG. 29-41), Picasso’s Still Life with Chair-
caning (FIG. 33-12), Warhol’s Green Coca-Cola Bottles (FIG. 34-31), abnd
Hanson’s Supermarket Shopper (FIG. 34-36). What was the purpose of each art
work and what techniques did the artists use to achieve those purposes?
8. What changes in social and religious attitudes are represented by the
comparison of Puvis de Chavannes, The Sacred Grove (FIG. 29-42) , Rothko’s
No. 14 (FIG. 34-8), Bill Viola’s The Crossing (FIG. 34-79), Judy Chicago’s The
Dinner Party (FIG. 34-59), and Chris Ofili The Holy Virgin Mary (FIG. 34-58.
9. Recently, the International Style, which has dominated the architecture of
the past fifty years, seems to have fallen into disfavor. What criticisms have
been leveled against it? In your opinion, are they justified? Describe some of
the alternatives that have been tried.
10. One reason for the stylistic similarity of International Style buildings,
whether erected in Brasilia, Tokyo, Paris, or New York, is the architects'
dependence upon intricate machinery to control the interior climates of
their buildings. Do you feel that increasing reliance on complex technology
is still justified in view of dwindling energy sources and the threat of
accompanying economic and social upheavals throughout the world? What
practical alternatives, if any, do you see?
11. In what way does the work of twentieth-century African-American artists
Jacob Lawrence (FIG. 33-27) and Faith Ringold (Fig. 34-66) differ from that
of nineteenth-century African-American artist Henry Ossawa Tanner (FIG.
26-46)? Discuss both the style and subject matter of each artist.
LOOKING CAREFULLY, ANALYZING AND RELATING
Look carefully at the representations of two late 20th century high tech buildings: Rogers
and Piano’s Pompidou Center (FIG. 34-52) and Gehry’s Guggenheim Bilbao Museo (FIG.
34-54) and write at least a page comparing them. Although they both emphasize the use
of modern technology, the effects they create are quite different. How did the use of
materials influence the visual effects each produced? Describe each building as fully as
you can, and then relate the two buildings to earlier architectural traditions of Classical
and Baroque. What earlier buildings might you relate them to? Explain the features that
made you think of the relationship.