Post Modernism - Style & Subversion - 1970 - 1990, at the V&A
Category: REVIEW
Despite a decade of art history lectures between us, the STYLE NV team were deeply confused when it came to understanding post modernism. So STYLE NV took themselves down to the V&A to get to grips with the art movement.  What became immediately apparent to us was that there are many, quite opposing aspects to post modernism and thus it is hard to master. It wasn' just a case of us being hugn over students to learn properly!

Post modernism, in essence, was a reaction to the brutality and utopian values of modernism. Modernism was perfect, simplistic, conforming and very serious. The reaction to this was something very non-conformist, theatrical, fun and exciting that sadly, by the end of the 80s, became too obsessed with its own image and ultimately led to its demise.

The exhibition began by explaining post modernism's origins. Theatrical stunts such as Alessandro Mendini's burning chair for the front cover of Domus magazine, like a phoenix, to give birth to the art movement. But just as we thought we'd begun to grasp its key elements, we turned the corner and saw Las Vegas strip images. Surely isn't the low pixilated, mass consumerism images of Vegas' illuminated signs more pop art?? Please can someone illuminate us?!

Vegas aside, the rest of the exhibition flowed more coherently. Post modernist architecture were inspired by the past that the modernists had excluded. Neo classical pastel colours, pillars, marble, and triangular pediments were popular. The Strada Novissima exhibition in Venice launched a trend for faking it. From this, scumble glazes, rag rolling, distressing, faux marbling and plethora of other paint effects (that really must be forgotten), began to creep into our homes.

Interestingly, post modernism was also interested in taking something and making into something else. Upcycling seems to be a re-spun version of Bricolage. Two schools emerged in the 80s, 'Studio Alchymia'  redesigned old pieces and making them new. Mendini and Ettore Sottsass were pivital members of this school.  'Memphis' was considered the 'Enfant Terrible' were, it seems, just interested of being controversial. Bizarre design (think Boxing ring beds) high gloss, colour, decoration and pattern was applied, for no apparent reason other than to make a statement.

In the next large room, the exhibition portrays how popular culture was influenced by post moderism. Ridley Scott's 'Blade Runner' encapsulated the dysfunctional future that post modernism indulged in. Through fashion, pop stars such as Grace Jones, David Bowie and Annie Lennox were post modernist music brands, whilst Karl Lagerfeld, who took the reigns at Chanel in 1982, revived the old brand with a post modernist, glossy, brash and logo-obsessed identity.

Post modernism ended in the late 80s as the financial boom also burst. Ego inflated artists and designers went mainstream and as its commercial success soared, so did the criticism, I particularly liked Ai Weiwei's Roman vase with a Coca Cola logo painted on, which really sums it up nicely. 

We left the V&A's exhibition feeling wiser than before but only just scratching the surface. Ironically, for all its shallow, capitalist enthos, there is a lot more to post modernism than meets the eye. 

1) Domus front cover,  by Alessandro Mendini
2) The Portland Building, Portland, Michigan
3) Proust chair by Alessandro Mendini for Studio Alchymia
4) Cartoon Shelves by Ettore Sottsass for Memphis
5) Tawaraya boxing ring bed by Masanori Umeda for Memphis
6) Oceanic Lamp by Peter Shire for Memphis
7) Secretary desk by Norbert Berghof
8) Ridley Scott's Blade Runner
9) Grace Jones
10) Coca Cola Vase by Ai Weiwwei
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