Postmodernism and Modernism in 20th century Design Essay

The development of design and art is often accompanied by considerable changes which make artistic works and design absolutely different. At the same time, works of arts to a significant extent reflected the epoch when they were created. This trend reveals the fact that art is extremely dependent on socio-cultural, economic and political contexts. In such a situation modernism and postmodernism may be perfect illustrations of the impact of the epoch on the development of art since both are products of their epochs. At the same time, it is possible to trace the evolution of both art and society or culture of the early and late 20th century on the basis of comparison of modernism and postmodernism since main differences between them are the result of the changes that occurred in socio-cultural life. On the other hand, the development of the 20th century art and design do not only mirror profound changes that have taken place in the society and science of the 20th century, but they also create a totally different vision of design as compared to previous epochs. In such a context, the transition from modernism, which was the characteristic of the late 19th ”“ early 20th century, to postmodernism revealed a considerable change in the social life and human perception of the surrounding world.

In fact, the development of the 20th century art and design was highly controversial because the beginning of the century was marked by the emergence of the modernist movement which tended to experiments which could have changed the art and design consistently[1]. On the other hand, the numerous experiments had a potentially destructive effect on the art and design, especially in regard to the form, because in search of new forms and styles designers and artists arrived to absolutely unusual and unexpected forms. The controversy of modernism was partially preserved in postmodernism, which experiments were mainly oriented on the search of forms which were different from modernist ones, though some elements and trends, such as the trend to the development of industrial design persisted throughout the century and can be traced in works of modernist as well as postmodernist.

Nevertheless, modernism and postmodernism are still quite different and, even though modernism has some elements of modernism, but it is still a different movement which emerged in the late 20th century as a product of post-industrial society.

On analyzing the difference between modernism and postmodernism, first of all, it should be pointed out that the principle differences between modernism and postmodernism are the result of the significant gap in historical terms of their development. To put it more precisely, the development of modernism had started in the late 19th century, while the development of postmodernism had started just recently in the late 20th century[2]. At the same time, for many specialists the development of postmodernism symbolized the end of the epoch of modernism.

In such a situation, in order to better understand basic differences between modernism and postmodernism, it is necessary to briefly dwell upon the difference of epochs when they progressed. In this respect, modernism is obviously the product of intense industrialization and commercialization of art that affected practically all branches of art, including painting, literature, design, music, etc.[3] Not surprisingly that modernists tended not simply to depict the surrounding reality but bring in a substantial degree of abstraction and symbolism attempting to evoke a profound interest to art and its originality from the part of wide audience.

Naturally, the new epoch affected art and design dramatically and the late 20th century stimulated the shaping of postmodernism as an independent movement, or a set of movements. Despite the fact that postmodernism is merely defined by specialists it still reflects the epochs when the rapid technologies of technologies and global changes of lifestyle and culture influenced dramatically art. As a result, some artists started to use new techniques and new trends appeared. For instance, Cindy Sherman amply used photography in her works rather than conventional painting that was quite unusual even for modernist art. At the same time, new trends appeared such as the green design as one of the most original and noteworthy postmodernist movements which focuses on such problems as transforming a house, which is perceived by modernist as “a machine for living in” into a machine that “keeps you healthy and comfortable and does not need much money or maintenance or raw materials to keep running”[4]. In such a way, postmodernism turns out to be quite different from modernism.

Furthermore, it should be said that even though modernism and postmodernism basically refer to different epochs, it does not necessarily mean that the art and design of different styles could not coexist. In stark contrast, modernism proved to be a very influential movement and its impact could be traced in the late 20th century and even, today, modernism has not died out yet. At the same time, there is nothing unusual in such a coexistence of postmodernism and modernism at the present epoch. In fact, it is a natural process when designers and artists experiment and, in the result of their experiments, new styles and movements appear[5]. At this point, it is possible to refer to the image 1 and the image 2, which depict the interior of the 1920s.

[1] Harvey, David The condition of Post Modernity New York: Routledge, 1995, p.47

[2] Crichton, M. Jasper Johns, Touchstone, New York, 1978, p.138.

[3] Alloway, L. (ed.), Modern Dreams: The Rise and Fall and Rise of Pop Art, New Publishers, New York, 1988, p.115

[4] Alloway, L. (ed.), Modern Dreams: The Rise and Fall and Rise of Pop Art, New Publishers, New York, 1988, p.105

[5] Crichton, M. Jasper Johns, Touchstone, New York, 1978, p.216

Leave a Reply