Modern vs. Postmodern Art

Modernism marked a time in the 20th century where community and family among each other was most important. During this time, social life had more of a structure and stability was a large part of living. During modernism, people had more of an idea of the message that they wanted to portray, and this can be seen in most modern art. A painting by Pablo Picasso called The Brothel of Avignon portrays five nude prostitutes at a brothel in Barcelona. The women are meant to look menacing and a few of the women in the painting are shown to be wearing African-like masks, with the racial element  meant to create a compelling artistic force. I think that this can message can be seen in the painting, even if someone who is not much of an art person were to analyze this painting. Although there was criticism surrounding this painting around the time that it was released, it still shows that society had an idea of who they were and what they wanted to see in their daily lives.

While modernism was more about art, architecture, religion, and other important aspects of daily life in America, postmodernism rose to prominence in the late 20th century. While modernism focused more on the nuclear family and stability was practically guaranteed, postmodernism focused more on the different families that one can have and instead of knowing who you are, you are responsible for creating who you want to be and what you want to do. Postmodern art shows this creation of one’s being in different ways. The Holy Virgin Mary, painted by Chris Ofili, depicts a Black women wearing a blue robe (an attribute of the Virgin Mary) and refers to an art form more famous in modern art called putto (a figure; presence of God). The mixture of sacred and profane was very controversial when this painting was created in 1996 and Ofili faced a lot of criticism for this combination. Ofili described this painting as “a hip hop version of traditional Old master paintings of the Virgin Mary”. I found this interesting because I wouldn’t have interpreted a painting in this way and I don’t think that modern thinkers would have interpreted it this way either. I think that this painting does a good job of showing the duality of media that postmodernism is associated with and it possesses the break of tradition that postmodernism is all about.

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