Grace Jones in a maternity dress designed by Jean-Paul Goude and Antonio Lopez, 1979 © Jean-Paul Goude
Of all movements in art and design history, postmodernism is perhaps the most controversial. This era defies definition, but it is a perfect subject for an exhibition. Postmodernism was an unstable mix of the theatrical and theoretical. It was visually thrilling, a multifaceted style that ranged from the colourful to the ruinous, the ludicrous to the luxurious.
What they all had in common was a drastic departure from modernism’s utopian visions, which had been based on clarity and simplicity. The modernists wanted to open a window onto a new world. Postmodernism, by contrast, was more like a broken mirror, a reflecting surface made of many fragments. Its key principles were complexity and contradiction. It was meant to resist authority, yet over the course of two decades, from about 1970 to 1990, it became enmeshed in the very circuits of money and influence that it had initially sought to dismantle.
Postmodernism shattered established ideas about style. It brought a radical freedom to art and design, through gestures that were often funny, sometimes confrontational and occasionally absurd. Most of all, postmodernism brought a new self-awareness about style itself.
Presence of the past
The 1960s and 1970s saw widespread experimentation with architectural styles from the past. This tendency was attacked by hostile critics as a retreat, as pastiche or as merely ironic. But historicism could be radically expansive and optimistic, or inspired by an elegiac sense of the past that modernism had excluded. Postmodernism lived up to its central aim: to replace a homogenous idiom with a plurality of competing ideas and styles. That wide embrace was reflected in Hans Hollein’s façade for the Venice Biennale in 1980, which had as its centrepiece a ‘street of styles’ named the Strada Novissima. Hollein designed a set of columns that reprise the history of architecture, from the primitive garden through classical ruin to a modernist skyscraper. This extraordinary set piece is recreated in the V&A exhibition at full scale.
V & A 24.09.2011 - 15.01.2012
Website & source : V & A
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