It is a well known fact that Minimalist and Postmodern interior design styles are becoming rampant amongst clients. Clients are choosing these empty, monochrome, drafty, and overly depressing designs left right and centre…but why?
The answer: pure laziness.
Starting from the beginning, Minimalism is having a minimal amount of items to put a room together; which is impossible.
An empty space is not “put together.” In fact, the definition of “put together,” in a design sense specifically means, “a collection of items that creates a cozy effect without over-crowding a room, including a combination of colours and objects.”
By this definition, Minimalism cannot bring a room together as it is specifically monochromatic and empty, this includes the lack of wall art, knicknacks, curtains, and even furniture.
The lack of furniture allows more draftiness, which by default does not make the room cozy and is by definition not “put together.” To all minimalism, “put together” is an insult to actual designs that do, in fact, put a room together (i.e.
90’s Shag, Space Age…etc).
Along with the above stated issue, Minimalism is simply just plain lazy. It is often the choice of people who are too lazy to buy decorations and decorate the interior of their living or working spaces, as well as too lazy to take ten seconds to flip through a paint colour catalogue.
Funnily enough, clients who choose the Minimalist design are often the most difficult people to work with because they are simply TOO LAZY to provide any input and will often throw temper tantrums when you go ahead and use whatever minimal input they DO decide to give.
They are, by extension, TOO LAZY to be decent, reasonable clients and are not worth the minimal amount of money they decide to pay you (their stinginess is a whole other issue that this opinion piece will not touch on).
That being said, Minimalism is a horrible choice of an interior design and should be avoided, however it is not nearly as bad as Postmodernism. There is such a thing as TOO MUCH colour and TOO MUCH MISMATCH, which is exactly what Postmodernism interior design is. Postmodernism is essentially a minimalist attitude, but is given by somebody who is obsessed with having a living or working space that stands out; and it stands out for all of the wrong reasons.
Much unlike its cousin, Postmodern interior design is all about bright colours that stand out (mostly neons) in an attempt to stand out and show off. This concept is better said than done as Postmodern as an interior design look ATROCIOUS. Splashing neon green with bright pink in one room with white leather couches and a tube T.V. is the definition of not thinking before doing.
In fact, most of the clients who choose Postmodern interior designs and decorations are often clients who don’t care, they just want to get things over with and want to pay you as little as possible, just like Minimalist clients.
And, just like the Minimalists, they will also complain about the outcome and throw a hissy fit because “the room clashes,” which would not have happened if the client had paid attention to what was being asked.
This is another design that involves draftiness as the client often times does not wish to spend money on furniture or knicknacks, simply because they do not understand that buying things does not equate crowding. So while people are choosing to move more towards bland, monochromatic colours and drafty rooms with no decore, they are being shamed into buying more for those bland, sad rooms and will take all of this out on the interior designer they have hired to better their interiors simply because they cannot think for themselves, which is, as you’ve guessed, pure LAZINESS. So in order to conclude, people who choose the Postmodern and Minimalist styles of interior decor are often lazy and stingy with their money, impossible to work with and / or form a healthy client-designer relationship with, and are often times brainwashed by the government and guilted into buying more than they want, thus leading to anger towards their designers.
It is my sincere hope that this opinion piece sheds a better light on how horrible and tacky of a style Postmodernism and Minimalism is and that you choose to not go for any of these design aesthetics.
Down below, I will include a comparison of 90’s Shag vs Minimalism and Space Age vs Postmodernism for reference. Thank you for reading.
postmodern: too much going on
Space Age: Warm, cozy, captures the eye, not over-crowded.
Minimalism: Cold, empty, monochromatic, drafty
90’s Shag: Warm, cozy, not over crowded, complimenting colours.
I had a friend tell me he didn’t like Dali. Fair enough right? It takes all kinds. Of course after a couple beers we can all get a little argumentative. Why I asked? Why?
There’s a sense of entitlement that comes with being an artist. The expectation that all art – meaning your own – deserves a fair shake. That art – your art – is not disposable.
That some half drunk 20 something in a dim lit bar won’t dismiss you out of hand. Not without a reason any way.
But what possible reason could have been adequate? I think even in the moment I recognized that nothing he could have told me would have been enough. There’s no perspective to be gained on someone like Dali once he gets his claws in you.
You develop an admiration for obscurity. It shouldn’t be something tied to age, so a fucking 24 year old hipster half in the bag should be able to get it. But kids are narcissistic assholes.
They have opinions, not ambitions.
But who doesn’t dismiss things out of hand? What matters is what appeals to you, because what is art but a shared perspective? The intersection between an artist and audience?
Why does art matter? We can all imagine the metaphor melting clocks in the desert makes. We can all relate to the idea of time melting away. But time never stops does it? The clocks just go.
All ideas and meanings disappear similarly. Especially memory if you don’t pin it down. So what is left?
I don’t do drugs. I am drugs. WTF does that mean? I’m not an alcoholic but I am absolutely writing this drunk. But it’s more than that really.
Dali always seemed unique to me in that his paintings were consistent enough in their imagery that you can imagine he was creating a language. That it was something more than symbolism.
The significance of this is a difficult thing to overstate. That the abstraction he (unconsciously most times if he can be trusted) created wasn’t just representative of something, but created a new meaning.
Dalis’ fetishism is so well documented that it hardly bears mention except to illustrate that some of his images are easier to interpret than you might at first assume.
And it helps to remind me that any language is in itself a collaboration between two or more parties. Letters are carefully agreed upon to make words to make sentences etc..
Though Dali was creating those same abstractions through surrealism (or abstraction or “paranoiac critical” states or whatever term) it was necessarily born from a specific perspective.
This makes the question of what he intended to accomplish even more troubling. He dealt in paradoxes the same way Jorge Luis Borges did mazes. Did he believe that compounding obscurity would provoke greater understanding?
God that would be amazing. Borges famously said that “mirrors and copulation are abominable, since they both multiply the numbers of men.” But what would Dali say? Meaning can be disseminated so easily through reflection.
And all creation is imitation.
So some punk at the end of the bar asserting that he didn’t get it would never be enough, because his response would have been a provocation by the artist.
Because all art is provocation in some way. Nobody creates perfectly. All assertions would only be another layer on a mountain of certainties. Or a necessary step in the creation of uncertainty.
There was no Duende. Nothing he did not carry with himself. But one gets the sense that Dali would dismiss anything but his own agency. He embraced himself.
He did it despite recognizing the destructive nature of that act. His art is a breaking of the self into something communicable, and paradoxically, relatable.
Art is not a beautiful chaos. It is purposeful though imperfect. And it is best when it recognizes it limitations.
A monument is namely a public phenomenon; the public is the commission which reasoned it and which it is dedicated. The physical open space in which a monument exists is technically the only possible medium of the socio-psychological sphere which the monument is intended for: the spiritual reality of its milieu.
Publicness is the monument’s true nature; this is where the monument grows, stands or fails: in publicness lies all the magnificence or nothingness of the monument. If it lacks this public dimension, the monument is just a mass, sometimes a good sculpture or something else but always a misunderstanding that disappears with the monument’s removal.
Eugen Frankovic, The Publicness of Monuments
A French historian Pierre Nora writes that memory attaches itself to sites. Monuments and memorials are indeed such sites. When we try to rewrite today the art history of Yugoslav sites of remembrance, we are facing a depressing fact: such a history has actually never been written.
The absence of valuable art historical and theoretical texts about political and cultural monuments erected on former Yugoslav territories does not mirror the absence of monuments.
Both the first (1918-1941) and the second Yugoslav state (1945-1991/1992) manifested a real greed for commemorations and genuine passion for spatialization of collective memories. Any such project, however, necessitated the implementation of a particular politics of remembrance and these politics are depended on what is imagined as ‘collective identity’ of a community, a nation, or a state.
American historian John R.Gillis stresses that both memories and identities are often attributed the status of unchangeable ‘material objects’.
He dismantles this conception, states that we need to be reminded that memories and identities are not fixed things, but representations or constructions of reality, subjective rather than objective phenomena. Therefore, we are constantly revising our memories to suit our current identities.
Public monuments, both those dedicated to political figures and men of culture, are instrumental in these revisions: those which do not suit to ‘’new identities’’ must be removed in order to make place for new monuments which now spatialize newly constructed identities.
A discourse about political memorials, or any other public monument, we can establish today, radically differs from the usual comprehension of monuments traditionally discredited as “art on command” or “art on commission’”. As artworks commissioned by public agency – a national community, a veteran organization or even a state, monuments are believed to be in ‘service of’ a given power, which they should ‘illustrate’.
However, when examining monuments as visual representations, we (should) understand the monument as the site in which power becomes constituted. American art historian David Summers argued that ‘’substitutive images’’ (the representation of rulers) and the space in which they are used, are ipso facto realization of power, not expression of power, but actual form taken by power in one or another place and time.
Monuments, like other types of visual representations we encounter in the public sphere, such as posters, documentary and feature films, postage stamps and press photographs, play, thus, a constitutive and nor merely a reflexive, after-the-fact-role.
A discourse on memorial sites in two Yugoslav states is not unique. It does not differ much from other countries: since the least the French Revolution, the treatment of public monuments point to the fact that image-making is as old as image-breaking.
Making and breaking are also characteristic of the Yugoslav memorial productions, whereby it should not be forgotten that both Yugoslav states and many of the post-Yugoslav ones were founded after wars.
The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenians known as the ‘’ three-name nation’’ (troimeni narod) was founded in 1918 after the First World War. Newly built monuments were meant to establish public memory of war heroism and suffering, but this memory, alas, could be instituted only in some parts of the freshly reunited state, actually composed of war winners and war losers.
When this state became a ‘one-name nation’ (jednoimeni narod) and was accordingly renamed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia (1924-41), it started to promote the ideology of unitary Yugoslavism, which was constituted not only by dictatorship but also via monuments to Yugoslav kings of Sebian Karadjordjevic dynasty: Peter I ‘’the Liberator’’ (died at1921) and Aleksandar ‘’the Great Unifier’’( assassinated in 1934).
Between 1923 and 1940, some 215 monuments or memorial marks dedicated to the deceased rulers had been erected all over the Yugoslav kingdom. None of these monuments survived, but the sculptors who designed them ( Ivan Mestrovic, Lojze Dolinar, Frano Krsinic, Antun Augustincic and Sreten Stojanovic) did.
All of them would again become engaged in the production of memorials in ‘new’ Yugoslavia.
The Second Yuguslav State
The second Yugoslav state, proclaimed on 29, November 1943, was also a state born of war. After 1945, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia indulged yet again in a statue-mania, which now spatialized the memory of a just war and victory over fascism.
Gained by transnational and multi-ethnic partisans’ forces, it fostered ‘’brotherhood and unity’’ of all Yugoslav people/nations. Thus emerged new memorial sites populated with numberless monuments which, as any such public objects in the world, replayed a collective memory that, since 1945, became institutionalized as ‘their’ history: this was the history of the winners, and winners are keen on selective memories.
In spatializing this memory-as-history, Yugoslav monuments exploited various regimes of representation.
Around 1952-55, the battle between Socialist (mainly academic) Realism and modernism in Socialist Yugoslavia ended with the victory of modernism. Hence, as of the 1960s, the major Yugoslav memorials commemorating ‘’fallen soldiers’’ and ‘’victims of fascism’’ obtained abstract, i.e, modernist shapes; however, parallel to these productions initiated and founded by the Association of Veterans of the People’s Liberation War (Savez Boraca Narodnooslobodilackog rata), monuments based on figurative representation continued to be built all over Yugoslavia till the late 1980s, and often supported by local veterans organizations.
Even if those monuments based on iconic or realistic representations of human bodies (as a rule male bodies) may appear to offer an easier identification and reception by ‘’people’’ , abstractly shaped memorials continue to connote the same ideology: a lack of humanism (understood as the absence of bodily representations) brought about the presence of huge abstract sculpturescalled organic bodies ( as a rule based on phallic shapes such as obelisks, cylinders, erected forms) which connoted again a rhetoric of power, and last butnot least –militarism.
A thematic shift occurred in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Whereas ‘’revolutionary sculptures’’ produced till then restaged the war victory and defeat of fascism, later modernist memorial productions, built on the ‘’sites of the Revolution’’ tended to incept the memory of war as socialist revolution: this happened some thirty years after the war, when memories of it started to fade and meant little to younger generations.
In additions, memorial complexes, designed by artists and/or architects such as Bogdan Bogdanovic, Dusan Dzamonja, Miodrag Zivkovic, and erected on the natural sites where partisan’s victories took place, imply yet another aspect: they suggest revolution to be a natural process.
Therefore, one should abandon a traditional dualism between representational/ figurative and non-representational/abstract procedures. Instead, one should ask in which ways monuments actively performed a spatialization of Communist ideology, whereby the division between iconic and non-iconic representation hardly plays a role.
Since the rise of nationalist ideologies in Yugoslavia of the late 1980s, the antifascist tradition became exposed to collective amnesia, and in most, if not all, post-Yugoslav states it is almost completely negated, if not totally erased.
The devastation and destruction of Yugoslav ‘communist’ monuments occurred not only during the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s, but also later. New monuments erected, or re-erected, in post-Yugoslav sovereign states commemorate heroes and victims of war (1991-1999), but not only them.
Each nation-state built its own monuments which now constitute nationalist ideology viewed through the eyes of victimization and national suffering under ‘’foreign power’’ (as a rule neighboring nation/state), under ‘’communists’’ and even under the international community.
Memories re-enacted in political monuments and memorials put up on Yugoslav territories in the twentieth century are generally memories of violence and, linked to it, militarism. However, it would be historically wrong to assume that representation of and reference to violence is specific for monuments erected in bellicose and brutal Balkan region.
In addition, as in other parts of the world, monuments themselves are as often as not exposed to violence.
American art historian W.J.T. Mitchell, in his article The Violence of Public Art, differentiates two types of violence directed against monuments and other public works of art. One is ‘’the official’’ violence of police, juridical or legislative power, as was the case of the post-1989 removal of the ‘’Communist Pantheon’’, which was in the main based on parliamentary decisions.
The other is ‘’unofficial’’ violence performed by angry masses. He asked several questions: Is public art inherently violent, or is it a provocation to violence? Is violence built into the monument in its own very conception?
Is violence simply an accident that befalls some monuments, a matter of the fortunes of history? In this context, he reminds us that monumental productions are generally dedicated to one theme: Much of the world’s public art-memorials, monuments, triumphal arches, obelisks, columns, and statues-has a rather direct reference to violence in the form of war or conquest.
From Ozymandias to Caesar to Napoleon and Hitler, public art served as a kind of monumentalizing of violence, and never more powerfully than when it presents the conqueror as a man of peace, imposing a Napoleonic code or a Pax Romana on the world.
Hungarian art historian, Katalin Sinkó, who discusses the removal of the monuments undertaken by the Communist regime in her native country, stresses probably the most significant aspect of the monuments’ disfigurement: The destruction of statues as a ritual act proves significant only in an environment which understands and acknowledges the meaning of such symbolic acts.
Accordingly, in the early days of the Yugoslav Kingdom, all signs of Austro-Hungarian monarchy were removed; those monuments to the Karadjordjevic dynasty which did not fall under occupying forces in the Second World Warwere promptly defaced after the 1945 by the communist authorities; after the violent disintegration of Yugoslavia, the emerging nation-states started to acquiretheir new identity by revising (nationalist) memories, engaging thus in a ‘’ memory work’’ which isas Gills points out, like any other kind of physical labor , embedded in complex class, gender and power relations that determine what is remembered/ or forgotten , by whom, and for what end.
The main question is still here: Are there elements of reconciliation in today’s culture of monuments in the Western Balkan?Whereas it appears somehow logical to built Memorial of the Murdered Jews of Europe, 2006, in Berlin, the question is where it would be ‘’logical’’ to erect a memorial to the victims in Srebrenica.
In Belgrade, of course. But, who would (date to) built it there? Monuments, cannot offer reconciliation, but people, sometimes can.. In a public performance held in Sarajevo 1998, the Croatian artist Slaven Tolj drank for some 20 minutes Bosnian sljivovica and Croatian grappa, mixing them.
The subtitle of his performance read: ‘’Waiting for Willy Brandt’’.
We keep waiting…
SYMBOLIC SIGNIFICANCE OFMONUMENTS IN BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA
Following the Second World War and the victorious National Liberation War over fascism, the myth of both revolutionary justice and the true will of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia to determine the course of history have been legitimized.
The victory also underlined the prospects of small nations, such as South Slavs, to decide their own future, to create a state and to be triumphant over a much stronger enemy. The victory, thus reconciled two myths: the myth of uprising and the myth of revolution.
The National Liberation War signified a conquest over invaders, and therefore, the victory substantiated the ability of South Slavs to constitute a state rooted in principles of ‘’ brotherhood and unity ‘’. The war also signified the effort to create a new society and a new class consciousness.
For that very reason, socialist realist art in former Yugoslavia, through ‘’ sacral places’’ such as monuments, sought to create the myth that would become underline the idea of revolution, the idea of creating a new man.
The monuments were used mostly commemorated fallen soldiers. They were also used to articulate a spirit of optimism and collective will directed towards a utopian classless society. The spirit of the deceased ought to inspire both those who have survived the war and new post-war generations to further pursue revolutionary accomplishments in peace.
The common practice was to build monuments dedicated to national heroes-such as a monument to the boy –fighter Bosko Buha who was portrayed standing over an open book, holding a gun in one hand, and a bomb in the other.
Totalitarian regimes often insist on youth mobilization as it stands for a new perspective. The official ideology, thus, particularly focused on the heroic death of a minor in order to establish the myth of a new generation that through death and suffering is building a new tomorrow.
The bomb in his hand and the rifle on his shoulder embody the young fighter’s will to create a new future in which radical fighting against the enemy symbolizes the realization of an utopian truth and universal justice for all South Slavic people.
The open book over which he stands symbolizes awareness of collective solidarity and a new future built through labor, combat and knowledge. The monument was set up at the Jabuka Mountain close to Prijepolje in western Serbia, the place where he was killed.
The spirit of the place and the worship of fallen fighters represent one of the most distinct rituals among Balkan nations: the cult of the ancestor. It denotes a static timeless past for which the living must repay the dead, whereas the fallen fighter symbolizes a new future and a new utopian reality which the survivors need to build.
Close to the monument of Bosko Buha stands another one commemorating soldiers who fell during First World War I. in the 1900s, Serbian nationalists, with the intention of deconstructing and devaluating the communist myth of the fighter, built right next to it a monument dedicated to Serbian soldiers who were sympathetic to fascist forces and killed by Partisans.
This highlights a grotesque union of Balkan ideologies of the 20th century that aimed to attain legitimacy through blood and sacrifice. Despite seeming grossly incompatible, they held one common trait: a symbolic representation of the eternal spirit of ‘’our fallen fighters’’ through monuments which regenerate ‘’ political truth and justice’’.
Here, not only different ideologies but also borders of newly created states succeeding Yugoslavia meet: Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro. Consequently, the political body and the ‘’ brotherhood and unity’’ between the people and the South Slavic state community, all of which Bosko Buha had fought and died for, has fallen apart.
Even though his sculpture has fortunately not been torn down, it has been stripped of its symbolic meaning; a political assassination took place!
In the context of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the symbolical presentation of the National Liberation War had a great significance because its main battles and offensives were fought on the country’s territory: also, in 1943, the new Yugoslavia was established in the second session of the Anti-Fascist Council of People’s Liberation of Yugoslavia (AVNOJ) in the northern Bosnia town of Jajce.
The multiethnic life in Bosnia and Herzegovina alone seemed to reflect a ‘’miniaturized Yugoslavia’’, even the geographic centre of Yugoslavia, marked by a stone sculpture, was located near Sarajevo and Zenica cities.
In the late 1980s and 1990s, rising ethno-nationalistic fantasies have focused on ‘’under-mining communism’’. The reason why people massively adopted these ethno-nationalistic fantasies was primarily the political emptiness, a vacuum created by the fall of communism.
In this period, monuments that embodied communist tradition were often demolished. This destruction in itself had a double meaning: it sought to erase the communist past in order to make room for new identities and, at the same time, it marked the return to a pure ‘’ancient tradition’’.
However, while condemning communism as a utopian construction, nationalists turned towards an even greater illusion: a utopia that is no longer bound to the future but to the past. Thus the myth of creating a utopian future during communism has been replaced with the ethno-nationalistic myth of returning to the past.
Precisely because of the Bosnia and Herzegovina, as a representation of a ‘’miniature Yugoslavia’’, the consequences following the collapse of the social system and the Yugoslav idea of ‘’brotherhood and unity’’ were more tragic there.
One of the reasons why the war between the ‘fraternal’ nations was so blood-soaked is that the community began to fall apart internally, and the ideology which people believed in socialism with a human face-was abandoned.
This inner decay gave rise to ethno-nationalistic fantasies and identities that were based on exclusion and the denunciation of once ‘fraternal’ nations as hostile, criminal ones. Neighboring nations started to disown their own past and began finding an enemy within themselves.
Thus ‘brotherhood and unity’ between fraternal national turned into fratricide: the murder of the brother.
In this inextricable web of transition processes during 1990s, monuments and citizens in Bosnia and Herzegovina seemed to share a common fate: monuments were demolished and, at the same time, citizens were killed and imprisoned in concentration camps.
The demolition of monuments signified the collapse of the old political community while the emergence of new monuments pointed to the creation of a new political imagination and a new identity. Thus the transition from socialism to ethno-nationalism was reflected in the symbolic power of monuments and it was also reproduced in them.
In the winds of war that swept over Bosnia in the 1900s, not only were communist monuments destroyed in the name of ethno-national policies, but also any cultural heritage that now represented an enemy in ‘our nation’was removed: the Old Bridge and Orthodox cathedral in Mostar, Ivo Andric sculpture in Visegrad, Aladza Mosque in Foca, Ferhadija in Banjaluka, John the Baptist Church near Jajce… The perpetrators of these acts were running away from themselves, from their own past, seeking refuge in a mythical past of holy kings and ancestors, who they believed would protect and renew their own national identities.
Even though the fate of Yugoslavia’s disintegration with all its tragic consequences, became fully visible during the war in Bosnia and was perhaps most notablywoven into monuments in the country, not all of the monuments were expressions to constitutepolitical authority in times of war.
On the contrary, they also symbolize a manifold tradition of diverse cultures that did not form in opposition to each other, but through subtle intertwining and constant interaction which had characterized the way of life in Bosnia for centuries.
The famous Old Bridge in Mostar, which was destroyed during fighting in 1993, did not simply represent the identity of the nation, but it rather opened a place for everyday encounters of manifold, intertwining identities from diverse nations.
Ultimately, the question arises as to how trauma experienced by the victims during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina can be expressed through monuments? In which way can a sculpture commemorate the innocents that perished in the past without fostering the impression that crimes ate the only paradigms to be embedded within the collective memory?
Nowadays, no great ideology exists that could give meaning to the victims as part of a vision of future progress and improvement. Hence monuments that could form a new political consciousness are not built anymore.
However, a need of the people- of those who survived and feel remorse- still exists to express closeness to those who have perished. A rare example is the memorial cemetery in Potocari, close to Srebrenica.
Through the simplicity of its smooth stone and the names of the deceased written onto it, reflects some sort of relation of the living towards the dead. It does not emphasize the lament over the Srebrenica genocide but rather expresses an overwhelming pain that in its ineffability exceeds rational imagination and understanding.
In this way, the monument eludes any narcissistic awareness of collective victimization, the kind of which, unfortunately, is all too often part of the ritualized and populist discourse of the political and religious elite in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The current socio-political climate is marked by the Dayton Peace Agreement of 1995 that ended, or better froze, the war and represents an intersection of contradictory processes that are reflected by newly built monuments.
On the one hand, national aspirations exist regarding the separation of territories and their annexation to neighbouring countries, namely Serbia and Croatia. Thus, in the south-western Bosnian town of Tomislavgrad, stands a monument showing the medieval Croatian King Tomislav.
The monument embodies a mythical past aimed at legitimizing national sovereignty over a certain territory as well as state autonomy. Therefore, the medieval king represents neither elitism that rises above the working class, nor does he embody any aristocratic or divine nobility.
Instead he illuminates the origin of exclusive national will, the power of national unity and harmony. On the other hand, the general commercialization of society stultifies the meaning of public good, leading to the arbitrary placement of cheap symbols and superficial memorial inscriptions.
An example is the sculpture Multi-Ethnic Man, a donation from Italy that was placed in the Svjetlost Park in central Sarajevo. In its banality and impersonality, the sculpture seems to deny the very idea of multi-ethnicity.
In order to create a new political community, or a new unity in Bosnia and Herzegovina, it is necessary to consider all lines of separation and the symbolical power that has divided people and which is expressed by monuments and sculptures.
Then, finally, it may be able to let out the cathartic cry of liberation from the bloody past and thereby at the same time embody the sense for new multi-ethnic unity.
An art installation is a three-dimensional visual artwork, often created for a specific place (in situ) and designed to change the perception of space.
The term “installation”, which appeared in the 1970’s, generally applies to works created for interior spaces (ie. gallery, museum); outdoor works are more often referred to as public art, land art, or, to put it roughly, humans intervening on an environment and putting their “stamp” on it.
That said, an outdoor piece can most certainly be considered an “installation” of sorts, but, typically, installation art is most often found within an indoor space, as some artists would prefer to contain their creative statement to the context of a room, which is simple enough for a viewer to comprehend.
The installation, once constructed, is most often expressed in such a three-dimensional setting as has been mentioned: within a room, where the artist includes the environment as part of the work, or other factors, which distinguishes their work from simply hanging a 2-D piece.
The 3-D work is put into a situation and makes use of the off-field, a dimension that is not immediately visible to the person who is watching: the mere fact of including it as a “spectator” calls for notions of participation, immersion, and theatricality.
The space of the installation can be closed (eg limited to a waiting room, a kitchen, etc.) or open (for example a bridge, a wheat field, a square, a street, a city etc.): thus, Land art tends today to be redefined by the yardstick of the concept of installation.
Finally, an installation can be either:
mobile (or re-mountable);
permanent (or fixed);
ephemeral (or temporary).
The installation can most often be assimilated to a sculpture but it can not be reduced to it. One speaks of hybridization and mutations.
It also makes it possible to explode the notion of volume: the installation can be understood as an object of reduced size to a very large space (eg. Monumenta).
Specificity: Some installations are designed for (and depending on) a particular exhibition location.
Interaction: in some cases, the public is led to interact with the installation or even the artist himself.
The distance between the public and the work is more or less abolished; in some cases there is participation, the public penetrates within the perimeter proper to the work, engendering new types of relations between creation, creator, and viewer.
The scenography: some works invite a course, a path and propose different stages or sensorial sequences.
Here is a work by Yoko Ono called “Cut Piece”, from 1965. Watch the video and see what meaning you can derive from this work.
This brings us to the point about art, and what is exactly the point of it all? Is it to create enjoyment for the viewer / person experiencing the art, or is it simply to provoke thought?
As you probably know, if you like art, you must also be aware that there are those of us who just don’t really enjoy art, and, in particular, art that isn’t extremely easy to understand the meaning of at a glance.
Art which challenges the viewer, which installation art can often be, can often elicit feelings of strong dislike or confusion from the person witnessing it.
This begs the question, “What makes for good installation art?” For surely not all installation art is created equal, just like any kind of creative output. Are there no standards? Is it all just purely subjective?
We spoke recently to University of California professor Jennifer Gonzalez, who has studied installation art in depth, and has even written a book about installation art called Subject to Display: Reframing Race in Contemporary Installation Art.
Jennifer offers the following tidbit, “Like any art form, good installation art transforms the way we see, feel or think about the world.”
Of course, everyone sees art differently. Some people aren’t comfortable having their thoughts challenged or provoked.
However, assuming you would like to understand installation art better than you already do, let’s take a trip back in time.
We will now look at the history of installation art, and some context as to how this often misunderstood sub-genre of art came about.
History of Installation Art
The term “installation” is relatively new in its use and in its definition as an artistic concept.
In 1958, the artist Allan Kaprow spoke of the “environment” to describe his productions, which consisted of the creation of a room requiring the intervention or the situation of the spectator and the place in a sort of happening, later described as “performance.”
In the same year, French artist Yves Klein invited the public to visit the Iris Clert gallery space in Paris to present his latest work, the “Exposition du vide”: floor, ceiling and walls painted white, all lit by a bluish light.
Playful, participative and mobile dimensions are already present in these avant garde works.
In retrospect, contemporary artists themselves are part of a genealogy, which, at the turn of the 1920’s, saw the appearance of certain artists (alone or in groups) capable of organizing, presenting and staging their productions in a non-conformist way.
Art theorists situate this phenomenon in the context of movements such as Dadaism and Surrealism: for example, Marcel Duchamp, who is the designer of the International Exhibition of Surrealism at the Galerie des Beaux-Arts in Paris, or the Merzbau by Kurt Schwitters, two artists who, however, worked in the secret of their workshops.
In 1969 the public discovers Given, Duchamp’s last work, begun in 1946 and completed in 1968: the artist described it as a “demountable approximation” and is accompanied by ” a specification, which makes it, in theory, “remountable”.
The first “ephemeral” installation, designed to be destroyed after a brief exhibition, was realized in 1956 in Barcelona by the Catalan poet Joan Brossa.
In Japan, the Gutai group was expressing itself through neo-dadaist performances and forms of installations.
In 1958, Wolf Vostell realized an installation, The Black Room ( Das schwarze Zimmer ), and exhibited in 1963 at the Smolin Gallery of New York an installation called 6 TV De-coll / age.
Depending on their fashions and arrangements, in a setting that has its own dynamics, the installations use traditional media such as painting , sculpture , photography , but more often more recent media such as projections (film, video), sound, lighting.
An artist like Nam June Paik was the first to use a mixed technique, combining television, video, sounds and lights in Exposition of Music – Electronic Television at the Parnass Gallery in Wuppertal in 1963.
Artists of the Fluxus and Lettrist group also expressed themselves through temporary installations, more or less provocative.
In the early 1980’s, interactive visual and sound installations appeared, using analogue and digital means, such as Jean-Robert Sédano and Solveig de Ory .
Beginning in the 1990s, the installations use computer tools either to drive the effects or to form the main medium, with artists like Perry Hoberman, David Rokeby, or digital and immersive with Jeffrey Shaw or Maurice Benayoun.
Now we shall take a look at some of the more famous, and sometimes infamous, installation artists the world has seen thus far…
Famous Installation Artists You Should Know About
Installation artists are not always the most well-known artists many students of art history will come across when studying art, which is strange, since installation art is some of the most groundbreaking and often hard-to-miss artistic statements that can be made.
Take, for example, this digital installation piece by Kyra Schmidt, which dominates an entire landscape.
As mentioned previously, the distinction between this art being considered “installation art” and “land art” comes down to the artists’ statement of their own work, and the viewers’ perception as well, since the artist clearly isn’t going to be present to guide each viewers’ opinion as to how to define what they are seeing. The art, in other words, speaks for itself, and, in a real sense, doesn’t care what the viewer thinks of it.
To beleaguer the point a bit more, Robert Smithson’s “Spiral Jett” could be seen as land art, or installation art, or an earthwork sculpture, but it also simply is.
Installation art is such a powerful medium because it is often more than 2-D, reaching into the realm of experience-based media that affects us in a different way from a painting, or other types of media.
The point of much installation art is to express something truly epic, or a feeling that can only be felt in the world or context of that particular piece.
The list of popular and, in fact, legendary installation artists is not a short one. As a student of art, and as someone obviously curious about the creative process, I hope you enjoy this list of the most famous installation artists of all time that everyone should know about. (*It is, of course, up to you to determine whether or not you agree that they should be on this list, and it would be interesting to hear your opinion in the comments below)
Yayoi Kusama is a Japanese contemporary artist who is well-known for her extensive resume in the arts and her long list of exhibitions and permanent installations.
She started achieving success in the 1950’s, and is now one of the most famous Japanese female artists, recently making the Time Magazine list of the 100 most influential people.
A very colourful person in life, Yayoi’s art immerses the viewer in an experience that takes them well beyond the bounds of the ordinary, usually involving polka dots in some way.
In 2017, the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC opened up an exhibition celebrating her 50 years of work, and that same year, a museum named after her was instituted in Tokyo.
Her exhibitions are considered a must-see experience.
Watch this trailer for Kasuma (Infinity), about the artist.
Ai Weiwei is an artist from Beijing, China. He is a filmmaker, visual artist, installation artist, author, and architectural artist. He is, or at least was, an extensive blogger, finding a place to express his vitriolic commentary on the Sina Weibo platform in the early micro-blogging days of the internet.
His most notable works include teaming up with architects to design and create the Beijing National Stadium for the 2008 Olympics, but make no mistake, this man’s legacy cannot really be summed up in just a couple of big pieces.
Ai Weiwei is a human-rights activist that has been publicly vocal about his distaste for the Chinese government.
In fact, Ai has been embroiled in several controversies over his long and storied career, including a tax scandal, and being arrested. He always seems to have the government nipping at his heels.
Despite being at odds with his own government for things he says or does, he is the recipient of many awards over his lengthy career, including the Appraisers Association Award for Excellence in the Arts and the Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience Award.
Here is an interesting interview with Ai Weiwei that will give you an idea of who this man is.
Up next…Damien Hirst.
Damien Hirst is an English artist and art collector. His most notable work that seems to be his big (though perhaps improbable) “hit” is called The Physical Impossibilities of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, which is a large tiger shark suspended in blue formaldehyde in a tank, created in 1991.
Here’s a video featuring this catchily-titled piece, with discussion between Beth Harris, Sal Khan and Steven Zucker.
This shark piece is quite notorious by now, and elicits many different reactions from onlookers. Is it beautiful? Is it horrifying? It depends on who’s looking at it, and their mood on the time, not to mention their own relationship with the subject matter imposed on the viewer by the artist: death.
Hirst is a two-time Turner Prize recipient. Some of his other works includes the recreation of a chemists studio, called Pharmacy, Away From The Flock, which was a dead sheep in formaldehyde and The Dream, which was a unicorn suspended in formaldehyde.
And just when you thought you’ve seen it all when it comes to unicorns suspended ominously in tanks of formaldehyde, there’s also this…
A central theme of Hirst’s work is, as you may have guessed by now, …. death.
Born in Colombia, Doris Salcedo is a visual artist most known for her usage of commonplace items in her work.
She is the recipient of The Guggenheim Fellowship for Visual Arts, a prestigious grant for exceptional work in the arts, along with many other renowned awards.
She has shared that her approach to creating installation art is: “The way that an artwork brings materials together is incredibly powerful. Sculpture is its materiality. I work with materials that are already charged with significance, with meaning they have required in the practice of everyday life…then, I work to the point where it becomes something else, where metamorphosis is reached.”
Check out this video, where Doris talks about the nature of her work.
Bruce Nauman is an artist from the United States that is well versed in many different art forms. His work spans drawing, sculpting, working with neon and more.
There is an undeniable sexuality to his work that, when combined with the somewhat crude, universalized advertisement-like overtones in his work…the sort of eye grabbing modernity…that make the viewer subject to a wide array of reactions and emotions.
Since his first exhibition in 1966, his work has become widely known. His work has been featured in numerous prestigious museums, including Documenta, the Whitney Biennial and the Venice Biennale.
He is the recipient of 8 awards and accolades, and is generally celebrated as a progressive artist the world over, going by the credo that “the true artist helps the world”.
Joseph Beuys was a German artist who practiced all forms of art. His art philosophy was “extended definition of art” and the idea of social sculpture as a gesamtkunstwerk, which means a work of art that uses all art forms, or tries to.
In other words, he once covered himself in a blanket and got in a room with a coyote to see what would happen. The title here was “I Like America and America Likes Me”. Well, it sure does!
His impressive body of work includes visual, installation, and performance art, but he also contributed in an academic way, with art theory.
He also had an impressive list of exhibitions that have been held posthumously.
Here is a short video asking the question, “Who is Joseph Beuys?”
Up next…Allan Kaprow.
Allan Kaprow was an American artist best known for his installation art and paintings.
He described his philosophy on art as “concrete” or using commonplace materials like “paint, chairs, food, electric and neon lights, smoke, water, old socks, a dog, movies” to make an impact.
He studied art and philosophy in school, and began teaching. He created a series of well-known installations called the Happenings, as a mixture of performance and installation art.
Here’s a video from 1988 in NYC that delves into some of Allan’s interesting happenings, and what they involved.
So far, we’ve discussed famous installation pieces, artists, and the background of the medium. Installation art has been disruptive in such a short amount of time and has given us some incredible artists with impactful work from all over the world.
But why is installation art influential? What about it makes it a necessary form of conceptual art? Well, there are three main reasons why we need it: critical thinking, inspiration, and emotion.
When you ask an installation artist the meaning behind their work, it’s often intense and thought-provoking.
For example, Doris Salcedo focuses her installation pieces around the themes of death, war, violence, and violence against women in her home country of Colombia.
Judy Chicago focuses her work on Feminist issues, and her piece “The Dinner Party,” is critically acclaimed and world-renowned.
These themes are underlying, and they’re abstract compared to the pieces themselves, which means audiences have to think critically about what the subject matter they’re ingesting.
The ideas and the impact of them are more important than the installation itself, as the artist is presenting a message in a way that makes people think.
Installation art aims to shift the focus from the literal visual representation of a piece to what the conceptual meaning is behind it.
Reworking how we consume art requires critical thinking and a shift in subjective perspective among individual viewers.
While the themes are not always immediately apparent, the artist is deliberate in every aspect of the piece. There is no texture, medium, or detail that is not intentional in a piece of installation work.
Over and above critical thinking, installation art fosters a dialogue between viewers. It sparks a conversation among critics and other artists in the installation community.
It creates an experience for the audience, more so than a painting or sculpture. Installation art breaks boundaries in many ways.
“If a traditional work of art allows us to appreciate the craftsmanship of the artist, an installation allows us to experience the ‘artwork’ and perhaps even rethink our attitudes and values.” – Encyclopedia of Art
Installation pieces are not confined to the walls of museums and galleries.
Some pieces, like Yayoi Kusama’s outdoor sculptures, Ai Weiwei’s “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors,” or Arnaud Lapierre’s “Ring – Chain,” are all beautiful examples of artwork that are in public spaces.
It’s inspiring to be living your daily life and come across a large-scale piece of artwork that makes you ponder. Artwork that makes us question, deliberate, and inspires us is a gift.
The idea that anything is possible through art is exciting. As a creator, there are no limits. Creating art is ingrained in our being, which is why it inspires us so.
An installation piece provides a different kind of experience for someone, and each person looks at it and interprets it a little different.
Installation art can inspire change. So many artists explore heavy themes that are deliberately brought to the attention of their audience that they may not otherwise have been aware of.
These pieces of art inspire people to continue to spread awareness and create change in their communities.
Installations are typically temporary, which helps convey the concept of attachment.
In Buddhism, the idea of attachment is the cause of all suffering. We take with us our memories, and nothing else, so installation art can help inspire us to be less attached.
“Any form of art is a form of power; it has impact; it can affect change – it can not only move us, it makes us move.” – Ossie Davis
Installation art can have some dark themes behind its creation. Cultural issues, political issues, war, death, oppression, and other subjects that aren’t necessarily easy to discuss.
The goal behind installation art is to evoke emotion and conversation and to bring light to issues that are important to the artist.
For example, artist Damien Hirst focuses a lot of his artwork around death. His use of dead animals suspended and preserved with formaldehyde called “The Physical Impossibilities of Death in the Mind of Someone Living,” is intended to make audiences feel a bit uneasy or uncomfortable.
Being able to assimilate the experience of an installation piece makes it all that more special. It creates an intimate moment between the viewer and the artwork in a way that a painting or more traditional piece can’t.
This moment only grows more profound when the installation piece is interactive, or the viewer becomes a part of the story.
“I think art, more than anything else, helps humans to synthesize emotion and to synthesize parts of ourselves, so therefore, as an artist, I feel a responsibility to try and facilitate that synthesis.” – Jennifer Nettles
Why is Installation Art a Need?
Installation art transcends aesthetic preference, since typically it uses materials that are mundane and ordinary, and goes straight for symbolism and meaning.
It demands critical thinking and emotion of its viewers, and it inspires other artists to create. It creates meaningful connections between the artist and the audience, mainly if their work is speaking for those who do not have a voice.
In the history of art, conceptual art is relatively new, but that doesn’t demean its significance and authority in the art world. Installation art is an experience, and it’s a necessary medium in our society.
Whether you’re personally a fan of this art style or not, there is something to be said about the impact it can have on us when it’s created with care.
“All of the significant art of today stems from Conceptual art. This includes the art of installation, political, feminist, and socially directed art.” – Sol LeWitt
Each of these artists listed are extremely talented and well-known individuals in the installation art community, and now, hopefully, you will have a better understanding of installation art in terms of its context in the art world, place in history, and possibilities you may wish to pursue if you were questioning whether or not painting or drawing is the medium for you.
Again, leave a comment if you wish.
“Just as the development of earth art and installation art stemmed from the idea of taking art out of the galleries, the basis of my involvement with public art is a continuation of wall drawings.” – Sol LeWitt
The Bauhaus, a German art and design school, was one of the most significant and influential modernist art schools, one of whose approach to understanding art’s relationship to technology and society and its teaching methods had a major impact in United States and Europe, long after it closed.
The motivation behind the origination of the Bauhaus lay in anxieties about the soullessness of manufacturing in the 19th century, and in fears about art’s loss of purpose in industrial society. Emerged in the mid-1920’s, the Bauhaus was shaped by the late 19th and early 20th movements and trends, which had sought to level the distinction between applied and fine arts and to reunite manufacturing and creativity.
This fact is reflected in the sentimental romantic medievalism of the school’searly years, but in the mid 1920s the medievalism gave way to a stress on unitingart and industrial design; it was ultimately proved to be its most important and original achievement.
In 1919, Walter Gropius, an architect and demobilized World War I officer was appointed director of The Art and Crafts School in the city of Weimar. He renamed school to Bauhaus, a unique, memorable name, which is the transliteration for building house, and according to the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar, it stands for an eagerness to experiment, creativity, openness, a close link to industrial practice and inter-nationality.
Radical Steps Towards Modernism
The Bauhaus movement was considered a radical step towards modernism and its core objective was a radical concept: to re-imagine the material world to reflect the unity of all arts. During the 14 years of its existence, Bauhaus was operational in three separate locations in Germany: Weimar, 1919-1925, Dessau, 1925- 1932, and Berlin, 1932-33.
The Bauhaus had a unique curriculum, described by Gropius in the manner of a wheel diagram. The outer ring representing a six-month preliminary course- the vorkurs, which immersed the students, who came from a diverse range of educational and social backgrounds, in the study of materials, color theory and the formalrelationships in preparationfor more specialized studies; the two middle rings as two three-years courses, focused on problems related to form- the formlehre, and a practical workshop that emphasized functionalism and technical craft skills through simplified, geometric forms-thewerklehre. Following their immersion in Bauhaus theory, students entered specialized workshops, including cabinetmaking, weaving, pottery, metalworking, wall painting, textilworking, and typography.
At the center of the wheel- curriculum were courses specialized in building construction that led students to seek necessity and practicality through technological reproduction, with an emphasis on workmanship and craft that was lost in manufacturing.
In addition, the general pedagogical approach was to eliminate competitive tendencies and to foster a sense of community and a personal creative potential.
The Gropius’s Bauhaus attracted the fabulously talented faculties, the creators of the school’s program. Many of the most talented designers of the twentieth century taught or studied there: Marcel Breuer in furniture, Bayer in graphics, Gropius and Mies van der Rohe in architecture, Anni Albers and Gunta Stӧlzl in textiles, Oskar Schlemmer in theater design, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy in film; the great artists, Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky were working alongside them.
There were social and political problems from the beginning. Women students protested against being confined to the ceramics workshop and weaving; the locals objected to the students’ bohemian habits, and more seriously, the Weimar Nazis saw the Bauhaus as a fertile ground for Bolshevism, despite Gropius’s ban on political activities.
Walter Gropius favored the rationalism of the Russian Constructivism and the emerging Modern movements, believed in integration of their principles into everyday life, by applying them to industrial products and buildings.
Move to Dessau
When the Nazis came to power in Weimar in 1925, Bauhaus moved to Dessau, the German industrial town. Gropius negotiated a deal to build a new school in Dessau. In this period, the Bauhaus enjoyed a few productive years there, those years was a manifesto for the new spirit of the Bauhaus.
Walter Gropius’s building complex for the Bauhaus, represented a landmark in functionalist design of the modern era; the design seems strongly unified from above, each element is divided from the next, but on the ground it unfolds a wonderful succession of changing perspectives.
The building consists of an asphalt tiled roof, steel framework and reinforced concrete bricks to reduce noise and to protect against the weather. A glass curtain wall, a feature that would become a typical of modernist architecture, allows in ample quantities of light.
Also, Gropius created three wings, arranged asymmetrically, in order to connect different workshops and dormitories within the school.
The cabinetmaking workshop was one of the most significant in the Bauhaus. This workshop studio reconceived the essence of furniture, seeking to dematerialize conventional forms such as chairs to their minimal existence.
The innovative use of materials and the sleek design in Marcel Breuer’s The Wassily Chair are typical of the groundbreaking developments in design that made the Bauhaus famous. Its components are arranged with a clarity that makes its structure immediately legible.
The designer constructed the chair using recently developed seamless-steel bent tubing that could endure physical tension without faltering. Although Wassily Kandinsky was interested in geometric abstraction at the time he was teaching at the Bauhaus, this piece came to be popularly associated with him decades later, and by accident when it was promoted as the Wassily Chair by an Italian manufacturer.
Studio Spaces and Instructors
The textile workshop, particularly under the direction of designer and weaver Gunta Stӧlzl, created abstract textiles which were used in Bauhaus environments. Students studies technical aspects of weaving, color theory and design. A head of the workshop, Stӧlzl encouraged experimentation with unorthodox materials such as fiberglass, metal, cellophane.
The architectural wall painting along with studio’s textiles decorated the interiors of Bauhaus buildings, providing polychromatic yet abstract visual interest to these somewhat sever spaces. While the weaving studio was primarily comprised for women, this was in part due to the fact that they were discouraged from participating in other areas.
Metalworking studio along with the cabinetmaking workshop was the most successful in developing design prototypes for mass production. In this studio were created modern items such as tableware and lightning fixtures; these objects were used in the Bauhaus campus itself.
Interestingly, Marianne Brandt was the first woman to attend the metalworking studio and replaced Maholy-Nagy as studio director in 1928. Many of her designs and works became iconic expressions of the Bauhaus aesthetic; her sculptural and geometric silver and ebony teapot, while never mass-produced reflects the Bauhaus emphasis on industrial forms and the influence of her mentor Maholy-Nagy.
Uniting the artist’s enthusiasm for material innovation and for the look of machines, the Light Prop/Light Space Modulator by Lazslo Moholy-Nagy (pictured above), 1930 is one of the most famous early examples of kinetic art.
It went on to be presented in many different ways:as a device for experimental theatre, as a freestanding immobile sculpture or as the protagonist of a short experimental film, in which it is shot from different vantage points.
The film captures the reflections and shadows created by the spinning sculpture, at times giving the impression of a functioning machine, a factory or even an urban landscape.
The typography studio, initially not a priority of the Bauhaus, became especially important under graphic designer Herbert Bayer. Many German designers attempted to encourage changes in national customs of printing during the 1920s. The most popular German typefaces, Hitherto, had been influenced by medieval script, and artists such as Herbert Bayer tried to supplant them with more classical designs.
His design employs a minimal, sans-serf typeface. Instead of having two alphabets, the uppercase and the lowercase, Bayer reduced the typeface to only lowercase letters, believing that the uppercase was redundant, since the distinction between lower and upper case conveyed no phonetic difference.
In 1923, a first poster was made for the school that intrigued others to notice the unique design and typeset. The main focus in designing was the effective visual communication with vibrant colors, a balanced layout, harmony, geometric shapes, strong bars, bold and universal type.
It was conceived as both an artistic expression and an empirical means of communication with visual clarity stressed above all. Bauhaus typography became connected to advertising and corporate identity. Since then, his typeface has become synonymous with the Bauhaus.
The piece Dissolving /Vanishing, 1951 is part of Josef Albers’s famous series Homage to the Square, described by his own words as ‘platters to serve color’. He began working on this series in 1949 and worked on it until his death in 1976.
This very piece demonstrates his systematic approach to investigating the optical effects of colors; he explored how colors change depending on their placement within the composition. Although the series was created several years after the Bauhaus movement, the work is typical of the experimental, modernist approach to color and form that underpinned Bauhaus teaching.
Teachers in the school believed that colors and forms could be reduced to essentials and analyzed as separate components; that analysis would yield understanding about the character and effects of these components, and that understanding would result in better design.
However, with Nazism in the ascent, political pressure mounted and in 1928, Walter Gropius was worn down by his work and by increasing battles with the school critics, and he stood down. Both of his successors Meyer and van der Rohe, spent their directorships mired in political strife.
Germany’s Loss of Influencers
By 1928, Meyer, a head of the architecture department was an active communist who incorporated his Marxist ideals through classroom programs and student organizations. However, the school continued to build in strength but criticism of Meyer’s Marxism grew, and eventually, in 1930, he was dismissed as director.
After local election brought the Nazis to power in 1932, the Bauhaus school in Dessau was closed.
The same year, 1932, the school moved to Berlin, under the new direction of architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. He struggled with far poorer resources and a faculty that had lost some of its brightest stars; he tried to remove politics from the school’s ethos, but after the Nazis came to power in 1933, the school was closed indefinitely.
During the turbulent and dangerous years of World War II, many of the key figures of the Bauhaus emigrated to the United States, where their work and their teaching philosophies influenced generation of young designers and architects.
In 1934, Walter Gropius left Germany, and in 1937 he arrived in the United States to become professor of architecture at Harvard University. He also helped fellow Bauhaüslers to find teaching jobs in America.
Together, they imbued generations of Americans with Bauhaus principles, while Gropius imprinted the technocratic vision of its mid- 1920s heyday on design history.
The Bauhaus effectively levelled the old hierarchy of the arts, placing crafts on par with fine arts such as painting and sculpture, paving the path for many of the ideas that have inspired artists in the late twenty century.
Two of the biggest art movements that have dominated the twentieth century are Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art.
While stylistically very different, both movements compliment each other and reflect the ever-increasing complexity that the 20th century saw with industrialization and globalization.
What is Abstract Expressionism?
Abstract Expressionism (AKA The New York School) came out of America, in New York as part of a post World War II painting movement during the last part 1940’s.
Abstract Expressionism was the first state-side art movement to achieve international attention, making New York the center of the art world within western culture and now in a place to compete internationally with Paris.
The movement moved quickly throughout the United States with San Fransisco area soon becoming an artistic hub for Abstract Expressionism as well.
Pop art, however emerged nearly a decade later in the mid-1950’s in Britain and later made it to the United States during the late 1950’s were it really took its roots.
With these two movements closely overlapping, it is important to understand the differences and similarities of these movements and their context within contemporary art history.
Here is a short documentary about abstract expressionist Carlos Garcia de la Nuez, just to get your mind percolating and give you a glimpse into the process that an abstract expressionist artist uses.
In Abstract Expressionism there is no representation of person, place, or object.
With a focus on spontaneous, subconscious expression; Abstract Expressionism focuses on the medium itself and exists without representation of subject.
That is to say that these paintings make no attempt to capture the reality of the physical world.
Because of this, as well as Modernist influences, abstract expressionists believe that when you create art you should create art that can only be done using that medium.
In this way, Abstract Expressionism is a celebration of the medium.
For example: Jackson Pollock created engaging, complex paintings by dripping paint onto canvas, as well Mark Rothko who largely created works of large coloured blocks on coloured grounds.
Here is a work entitled Excavation, by Willem de Kooning showing some of the characteristics of the style…
Abstract Expressionism Isn’t Art
Of course, there are many critics, many of them armchair critics, who like to mock the expressionists for their apparent lack of talent, saying that abstract expressionism isn’t art.
It is perhaps easy to see why people would mock the expressionists, in that abstract expressionist artwork is not at all similar to typical realist paintings people have seen throughout history.
There are often no people, or things that are recognizable on the canvas, and this results in frustration, confusion, and anger.
Abstract expressionists often approach their work in a way that many have described as childish, or easy to imitate.
Detractors of abstract expressionism are quick to point out that even they could do this type of art.
In addition to all of this debate, Abstract Expressionists have proudly created art void of any notion that it was the artist’s job to interpret their art, which only serves to make matters worse for the viewing public.
They instead left interpretation to their viewer, and often that conclusion is a strong dislike for the work, as the viewer has no way “in”.
While Abstract Expressionism has been highly regarded for its merit within the art community, it may be inaccessible to a wider audience outside of the art community who may be seeking something tangible within art which they can relate to.
Watch this TED Talk which discusses the idea that even your cat could be an abstract expressionist, should they so desire to be.
What is Pop Art?
In contrast to this, Pop Art typically has a very clear subject in its works. In many ways, Pop Art was a reaction to Abstract Expressionism.
Rather than trying to create art that is a reflection of the medium, Pop Art typically used screen printing in order to mass produce its works.
You Can’t Talk About Pop Art And Not Mention Andy Warhol
While Abstract Expressionism created a void of interpretation; Pop Art had themes of consumerism and commentary on mass production deeply ingrained into nearly every piece to come out of the movement.
Pop Art draws on recognizable figures from mass media, and draws the audience in with the familiar but challenges them by having it presented in a new, novel fashion.
In fact, in his now famous studio simply called ‘the factory’, Andy Warhol had a production line of artists creating his now iconic art work.
With Andy, it didn’t stop at mass producing artwork and even getting others to do the work for him (while still calling it his own), he touched on other mediums such as film, of which he has several underground “classics” as well, such as his film about the Empire State Building, which literally watches the lofty structure for 485 minutes.
Another famous artist from the pop art movement, Roy Lichtenstein, combined hand painting with the mass production style of pop-art. He would create the initial image by hand, and then project it onto canvas in order to trace the image.
His art was in the style of mass-produced comic book style and never before seen within the art community.
Pop Art Vs. Abstract Expressionism
While Abstract Expressionism works explored art in it’s purest form (authentic, expressive, void of meaning); Pop Art challenged what one can consider to be art by using images appropriated from our culture that exist all around us.
Because of this, some critics were enraged by the Pop Art movement as they did not feel that the image of a soup can, nor comic book images to have artistic merit.
So, while abstract expressionism seemed to really irritate people for one reason, pop art had a similar effect, but for entirely different reasons.
One reason we can isolate, perhaps, is that Andy Warhol had the gall to eat a burger and film it. The ending really is the best part here, as those of you with a healthy sense of irony and cynicism will no doubt realize.
Colors That Rankle The Serious Observer
The use of flat bold colours and sharp edge, caused additional criticism to pop art as it looked more like design than any recognizable art at the time. However, Pop Art was providing a much needed commentary on art.
Not only that, it was doing so in a very fun, light hearted way.
In addition to providing commentary, Pop Art moved away from Abstract Expressionism in that by using contemporary images that were familiar to people which in turn made it much more accessible than Abstract Expressionism.
This is not to say that Abstract Expressionism was not without it’s critics, Abstract Expressionism was challenging artistic conventions in its own way, with many critics feeling that the works were overly simplistic, and that it strayed too far from what was what had been established as art.
While both are stylistically divergent, Pop Art and Abstract Expressionism can be seen as providing similar artistic catharsis by challenging artistic norms and creating a dialogue.
It is fascinating that they are able to achieve this both while being stylistically and conceptually separate from one another.
We’ll leave you with this for now. Art about art. How postmodern!