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London Museums: Postmodern Art

There are many opportunities throughout London to see a wide range of art pieces that explore and demonstrate postmodernism ideas. 
WHAT IS POSTMODERNISM? -  IT’S A REACTION 

One cannot define postmodernism simply. It began in the mid to late 20th century when some people started to go against the current modernism ideas. Modernists aspired for a world where the new technology that emerged from the Industrial Revolution would create a better society. Postmodernists, however, believe that technology is not going to fix the world.  

— WE'RE ALWAYS GOING TO BE IMPERFECT —

When we look at postmodern art, we might get confused at what it is and why it is. We might have difficulty finding the meaning behind it because it’s not obvious. But this is the intention of the postmodern artists; their creation is supposed to be questioned. A specific meaning is not required of the work because it is meant to be up for interpretation. Postmodernism art allows for a mash-up of different thoughts and ideas from throughout history. This includes various artistic styles and combining different creative mediums.  

 

The following images are some of the postmodern artwork that I came across in different museums and galleries across London. 

McLuhan, Marshall, Quentin Fiore, and Jerome Agel. The Medium Is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects. New York: Bantan Books, 1967.

NELLY DUFF GALLERY

Contemporary, commercial art gallery 

This collection of art contains many contemporary pieces where artists combine different media and produce work that could be considered confusing and absurd. 

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NORF SARF, in particular, made me think, “why is this art?” But then I began to break it down and tried to understand it. The letters are screen printed in red onto a map. This map is a vintage map of the city of London. Then, as far as I know, NORF SARF is a reference to north and south London. These two sides are separated by the Thames River. So maybe the artist is trying to depict this difference between the two sides. But this is just my interpretation. I could be wrong and that’s okay. 

VICTORIA AND ALBERT MUSEUM

World's largest museum of applied and decorative arts and design 

In this museum, I encountered a postmodern exhibit set in a library. It encompassed art and design from 1945 until today. The display follows different themes that have emerged over the years. Instead of putting things in chronological order, periods overlap. Here we can see the mix of historical ideas. 

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The different chairs on display were very interesting to me because most of them were not practical. They were designed to look like a chair but did not need to function as a chair. I also want to discuss the setting of the exhibit. You see all this postmodern work in a room that resembles an 1800’s library. This demonstration is a postmodern practice. One time period is juxtaposed with another.  

DESIGN MUSEUM

Inspiring exhibitions exploring contemporary design and architecture

Contemporary design has parallels with postmodern design when we look at its purpose and creation. These installations in the "Home Futures, Living in Yesterdays Tomorrow" exhibit were created as a response to social issues present in our world. A noticeable difference between this and typical postmodern ideas is that there is once again an attempt to better the world. 

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These examples explore different ways to go about everyday tasks and functions. The red chair is converted into something compact. The bubble is an office space, but not inside an office. Then, the grass is like a playful couch. The posters look at how technology has changed. This postmodernist overlaps objects from different periods that fulfill the same function.

TATE MODERN

Britain's national gallery of international modern art and forms 

The Tate Modern is located south of the Thames River. This museum features modern artists touching on postmodernist themes. This is through their experimentation and exploration of art and form.

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There is an entire art style that is dedicated to creating optical illusions. The purpose of these designs is to play around with tricking the eye. Using different colors and lines can confuse and mesmerize viewers. One might experience a false sense of motion, or one might see something that is not real. The modular installation was very interesting to me because of how large and structured it is. It wasn’t until I read the artist statement that I realized the construction was created out of window blinds.