Ideas of a Modern and Postmodern Art Education

I am writing an assignment about art education at two different schools that I teach at, and I’ve suddenly found myself in a pitfall of an argument about modernism and postmodernism in art education. Currently reading a fantastic book called ‘Teaching Art in a Postmodern World’ by Lee Emery photo which has been very interesting in discussing the pro’s and cons of both. However, I’m in a quandary – I am not sure who is going to asses my assignment, so I’ve had to put a little footnote describing both terms and I’ve found myself trapped in a CFAP (Critical Fine Art Practice – my degree) footnote argument (anyone who did the course will understand the fun of footnote arguments, in themselves their own essays!). Here is my first attempt:

4 Please note that references to modern and postmodern art education are based on periods of art. Modern art can generally be seen as late 1800’s to potentially 1970s (this is open to debate which is not necessarily important in this essay), and encompasses movements and artists such as Cubism (Picasso), Manet, Monet, Degas, Gauguin – those artists particularly interested in painting an idea of realism, many which focus on the qualities of light, colour and human interaction (Minimalism of the 60s indicates the shift from human interaction with the environment to ideas revolving around the purity of colour and shape – Rothko, Serra and Stella to name but a few). Postmodernism arrived after WW2, when artist began to use their work to question and comment on the world around them. It was a reaction to the horrors of WW2 and quickly developed into the highly conceptual work of the 1980s where the idea was to shock the establishment. Artists include Joseph Beuys, Warhol, Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin. This is a highly debatable summary of the two movements – if anything, modernism and postmodernism are umbrella terms for a whole host of other movements. However, their ideals are a theme throughout these movements and each has its own merits and negatives – one only has to stand in front of a canvas painted white in a gallery and wonder which leg is being pulled.

I think I might have to revise it – it makes me laugh, and I’m tempted to throw in a bit of Clement Greenberg for good measure, but I don’t want to be too postmodern about it…

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