The Body V: Feminist & Postmodern bodies.
REVIEW: Modernity aka Modern Era: started with the Enlightenment in 18th
Emphasis on knowledge; science, and the ability of reason to solve all
problems. A time of optimism about this. A search for truth; authenticity.
A move away from the rigid rules and superstitions of medieval times and
established religion.
Many great changes: – industrialisation; population increase; increasing
urbanisation and rise of the machine; World Wars.
Art from Manet onwards is generally
referred to as Modernist Art. It had many
Movements (‘isms’) - we’ve only talked
about a couple. Each one sought to be
more authentic, more true to art.
Modernism: celebrating the new technology
of the 19th century: JMW Turner, Steam, speed
and rain, 1844, oil on canvas, 91 x 122cm.
In contrast, Postmodernism questioned whether truth even exists.
Postmodernism as an art movement started to take off mid- 20th century. Art
reflects what is happening in an artist’s world, and what was happening was a lot
of questioning about what Western societies were doing. Postmodernism is all
about challenging what has been previously accepted as true – the things
Modernism were built on. Feminism was a significant Social Justice issue, among
many that were very current at this time.
Bruce Nauman, (b. 1941, U.S. ) The true artist helps
the world by revealing mystic truths, 1967,
fluorescent tubes, MDF backing board 165 x 165cm.
One of the key characteristics of Postmodernism
was irony. That is, acting as if something is so
when you’re trying to say that it isn’t so. Like the
text in this image.
Up till now, we’ve spent most of our time in Europe. After WW II, the USA became
the centre of avant-garde art practice. Now we’ll see more Australian art too…
Feminism is a movement seeking to focus
awareness on the injustices that women have
suffered in Western culture over the centuries.
It seeks to make changes in the way we think,
and how our society is run. It is a Human Rights
movement. The period from the 1960s onwards
was a time of many protests about various
Human Rights issues: Race (African- Americans;
Aust. Aboriginies), Peace Movements (against
the Vietnam War); Green movements; Gay
Ann Newmarch (Aust., b 1945 )Women hold up half
the sky!, 1978, screenprint, 79 x 56cm. This image
looks like it is based on a family holiday photo, and is
a fun image. The text though, is making an important
comment. It is a quote from the great Chinese
Communist leader Mao Ze Dong.
We may remember Manet and Courbet (Realism) in mid
19th century moving from History Subjects to
contemporary ones. Cubist collages of newspapers etc
was really a continuation of that. It’s relating to the
contemporary, real world.
Various materials have meanings for us. Creating a
sculpture out of gold would have a different meaning to
Macdonald’s wrappers. Traditionally oil paintings were
seen as more significant than watercolours; marble was
the most noble sculpture material. With Cubism,
Surrealism and Dada – all movements of the early 20th
century – ephemeral materials such as newspaper, as well
as found objects, became a part of art practice. (More on
found objects later.)
The significance of materials was questioned in
Postmodern art.
Michelangelo (Italian,1475 –
1564) The Creation of Adam,
c.1511-12, fresco on ceiling of
Sistine Chapel
Barbara Kruger (US,
b.1945), Untitled (you
invest in the divinity of
the masterpiece, 1982,
photocopy, 182 X
Barbara Kruger (US, b.1945) has a background in graphic design, working with fashion
magazines and book covers. Her artworks incorporate found images with her own text
overlaid, generally in black and white and red. The statements she inserts have a brief,
punchy nature, which appropriates advertising slogans. She has posted them as billboards
and in doing so, they gain a certain power, from their size, position and status. She also
sells her artwork on products such as coffee mugs, shopping bags etc. which causes a
deliberate, continued confusion between advertising and art.
Appropriation is a big part of Postmodernist
Art. Here Kruger appropriates the American
Flag. It has a long history in Art but during
Postmodernism, this trend has increased,
. associated with Irony or Parody.
Barbara Kruger Questions, 1991,
Photographic silkscreen/vinyl 168 x 236 cm
Postmodern art is about showing there is always more than one viewpoint.
Traditionally, the viewpoint of straight men was the only viewpoint. Postmodernism
(and within this, Feminism) liked to point out that women exist too. Also, gay
people and black people, and people from colonised nations. There is no one single
truth. Everyone has their own ideas and experience.
Nudes and women generally in art were
often depicted as ‘available’ to a viewer,
assumed ( unconsciously) to be male. This
is part of the challenge that Manet’s
Olympia threw at us. She may be available
(she had to pay the rent!) but it’s not all
about you. She was her own person.
Kruger considers the subjectivity of
women with this image. What is going on
Barbara Kruger, Untitled (Your gaze hits the
side of my face), photocopy, 1981.
Guerilla Girls, an American Feminist art collective, use parody here in their
appropriation of an Ingres painting to raise awareness of the lack of female artists
in a major Art Institution. Parody means ‘sending something up’ by imitating it.
This could be any existing idea, or art of the past. Guerilla Girls took names of
famous dead women artists as their own, and wore Gorilla Masks when speaking
in public. Note the Guerrilla / Gorilla pun (Guerrillas being usually small groups of
civilians, fighting organised armies.)
Guerrilla Girls, Public Service Announcement poster, mid 1980s, New York.
Ingres, Grand Odalisque,
Art of the second half of the 20th
century was often politically involved;
it questioned the way Society was being
run. Screen printing became an
important 20th century artmaking
technique. Because it is a relatively
simple, quick, cheap method for
producing multiples of an image, screen
printing was used by many community
groups for to get political messages
across – for purposes of Feminism,
Indigenous rights, Vietnam war
protests, etc.
Marie McMahon (Australian, b. 1953 ) Pay
the rent – you are on Aboriginal Land, 19814, screen print,(several versions)
65 × 45 cm

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