Art History II: Midterm Exam Essay

Kevon Wyllie
Prof: Jason Bernagozzi

March 8th, 2016

Art History 3513-02


Midterm Exam: Modernism into Post-Modernism


In today’s society, everyone expects artist to put meaning behind his or her art pieces. Whether the meaning can pleasant or hurtful, they want to understand it and judge whether or not that this art piece is considered “modern art.” In every era, the trend or ideas of modern art keep shifting making artists’ today either follow what is considered to be modern art or challenge the notions of art. For example, Neoimpressionism, Dadaism, Cubism, Fluxus and even Pop Art were once considered to be modern art in their time. From that, it’s how modernism art turned into post-modernism art, different from classicism and the important moments defines art in our culture today.


Modern art or modernism is way of expressing one’s self through his/her own art piece in one to many different forms. For example, (“the MoMA Learning listed on it’s website that many artists began exploring dreams, symbolism, and personal iconography as avenues for the depiction of their subjective experiences.”) In addition, it had stated that (“the MoMA Learning listed on it’s website that by challenging the notion that art must realistically depict the world, some artists took it upon themselves to experiment with the expressive use of color, non-traditional materials, and new technique and mediums.“) One of those ways to challenge the notion of art was photography. When photography was accepted the 1830s, (“the MoMA Learning listed on it’s website that: it introduced a new method for depicting and reinterpreting the world.“) Basically, the more artists challenged the notions of what was considered to be art, the more possibilities were introduced for future artist. However, in addition to photography, abstract art was introduced as well and considered to be important. Abstract art or (“The Encyclopedia Britannica listed on it’s website stated: nonobjective art in which little or no attempt is made to objectively reproduce or depict the appearances or forms of objects in the realm of nature or the existing physical world.”) Similar to the results when photography was introduced, abstract art became another element for artist to use.

Classicism is historic traditional art based on antiquity from Greece and Rome. In other words, it is art that is based off from the ancient past. Since classicism focuses on the past, some people can consider this to be similar to modernism; but it really isn’t. Classicism is different from modernism because classicism focuses on certain characteristics of arts. (“The Encyclopedia Britannica listed on it’s website stated harmony, clarity, restraint, universality, and idealism.”) An artist who shows these traits in his art is leading figure in classicism from the Italian Renaissance; Michelangelo. Michelangelo shows these traits in his piece, “Creation of Adam.” (“Italian Renaissance stated on it’s website that the painting embodies the theological understanding with God wearing a light tunic than royal garments and depicted as an all-powerful ruler, … he is shown in a state that is not untouchable and remote from Man, but one which is accessible to him.”) This shows the characteristics of classicism because it shows the harmony of how God can still be recognized as a powerful figure to Christianity while still beginning unreachable to man. On the other hand, modern art doesn’t focus on any characteristics but from how the artist expresses their feelings onto their art pieces. This shows that modern art isn’t limited to certain characteristics somewhat offers a sense of freedom. For instance, in the late 1890s, there were many different movements and styles that is now the core of modern art. According to (“The Encyclopedia Britannica, it listed on it’s website that these movements were Neo-Impressionism, Symbolism, Fauvism, Cubism, Futurism, Expressionism, Suprematism, Constructivism, Metaphysical panting, De Stijl, Dada, Surrealism, Social Realism, Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art, OP Art, Minimalism, and Neo Expressionism.”) From this quote it can said that artist back in the day had a variety of different movements to choose from or were so inspired, that they made their own movements to add-on to the list.


Unlike classicism, post-modernism was born in the late 20th century after modernism. Post-modernism expresses that the world is in a state of perpetual incompleteness and permanent unresolved, that there are many truths to a fact. In other words, it refers to how there are multiple ways or perspectives to a certain thing giving the freedom to express something or someone in a certain way that the artist chooses. For example, two movements that created post-modernism were Neo-Dadaism and Pop Art. According to (“The Art Story, it listed on it’s website that the arrival of Neo-Dada and Pop art in post-war America marked the beginning of a reaction against this mindset that came to be known as postmodernism.”) In addition to post-modernism expressing multiple truths to a fact, it pushed new ideals that not only questioned the narratives being embraced from the modern period, but also rejected any borders that were made by modernism. (“The Art Story listed on it’s website that by rejecting such narratives, postmodernists reject the idea that knowledge or history can be encompassed in totalizing theories, … the idea of artistic development as goal-oriented, the notion that only men are artistic geniuses, and the colonialist assumption that non-white races are inferior.”) This quote is evidence that post-modernism is different from modernism. Post-modernism is different from modernism because modernism was used as an lock to keep what artist should think how they should express their art works while post-modernism introduces a key giving the artist access to expressing new ideas and new perspectives on art. With that in mind, post-modernism broke down elements of pop culture. One artist that had done this was Pablo Picasso. According to (“The Art Story, it listed on it’s website that Pablo Picasso used Cubism to insert popular song lyrics on his canvases showing that visual culture is not only equally valid, but that it can also be appreciated and enjoyed without any aesthetic training.”) This quote shows that post-modernism introduced new ways for artist to use different materials to express their ideas.



Both modernism and post-modernism play a key role in what important moment that defines art in our culture today. For post-modernism, it’s how it made artist question the meaning behind something and how they wanted to express whether it could be a canvas, sculpture, painting etc.; it allows the viewer to make assist with the art piece. In other words, the viewer can determine the meaning behind the art piece giving free range to every person. An artist who gave his viewers the privilege to determine what his works meant to them was Robert Rauschenberg and his piece; Monogram (1955-59). According to (“The Art Story, it listed on it’s website that Rauschenberg refused to hint at any predetermined meaning of the different symbols within the work … instead allowing viewers to create their own associations between the objects and images.”) This quote shows that similar to his other piece, White Canvas (1951), not only did he give viewers the power to create their own meaning between the objects and the images, but it also engages the viewer in multiple ways of the blended elements showing that he used different materials to make his art more effective. For modernism on the other hand, the key role that modernism plays is what came before post-modernism. Basically, no artist can forget what came before our era and what was considered to be modern art. A text that can explain this ideal is “In the Heart of Darkness by Olu Oguibe.” For example, (“In a blog, it posted Apathetic Mayan on November 6, 2011, he posted   Modernity as a concept is not unique. Every new epoch is another supersedes 1nodern till it, and this is com1non to all … to configure these as peculiar and curious is to be simple-minded. It is interesting, necessary even, to study and understand the details of each society’s modernity, yet any such study to be free from the veils of Darkness to claim prime legitimacy.”) From this quote, it can be stated that artist should never forget what not only them but what previous artist did, what types of arts came before the ones we use today and not disregard the art pieces that were considered to be modern art works.


To restate, modernism art turned into post-modernism art, modernism is different from classicism and post-modernism and the important moments that define art in our culture today. I considered modernism and post-modernism to be important in today’s culture of art because it shows how art improved over time. For instance, modernism was the starting the point for artists to express themselves in a limited but different way. When post-modernism came in, it expanded how artist can express themselves now with new materials and new ideals. Even if it broke borders between the artist and the viewer, it also challenged the artists to become better, push themselves to eventually surpass the artist that came before them. (“The Art Story stated on it’s website that the viewer became an important determiner of meaning … and went further by creating works that required viewer intervention to create and/or complete the work.”) This shows that post-modern artists wanted each individual viewer to determine his or her own meaning rather than just agreed with what the artist had incorporated in the piece. Modernism art turned into post-modernism art, and the result was effective enough to keep both than get rid of one of them.















Work Cited



“What is Modern Art?” MoMA Learning. Accessed March 8, 2016.



“Modern Art.” Encyclopedia Britannica. Accessed March 8, 2016,



“Modernism.” Encyclopedia Britannica. Accessed March 8, 2016,



“Postmodern Art.” The Art Story. Accessed March 8, 2016,



“Robert Rauschenberg.” The Art Story. Accessed March 8, 2016,



Jeff VanOrden, November 6, 2011, “Apathetic Mayan” The life of 3D artist all around nerd,

Jeff VanOrden posted, “Apathetic Mayan.”



“Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam.” Italian Renaissance. Accessed March 9, 2016.

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