Modernism: 1900 to Present
Overview and reaction to Artistic Pluralism, as reflected in Modern Art and in Life.
Location: The Tate Modern Gallery (Bankside), London, UK.
Modernism and the social, political, and economic events that took place from 1900 to the present affected artists and modern art through resounding themes, as curated by my visit to The Tate Modern.
Wars, like World War I, World War II, the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, the Korean War, and the wars of the Middle East, all engaged political artists like Leon Golub, Dia Al-Azzawi, Alfredo Jarr, Bruce Nauman, Joseph Beuys, Surrealists, Futurists and the members of the Dada group, to name a few.
Social changes like gender issues, ethnicity, race, sexuality, the unconscious and dream states, violence, peace movements, and spirituality are all themes explored by modern artists like Suzanne Lacy, Lis Rhodes, Kasimir Malevich, Richard Serra, Jackson Pollock, Marisa Merz, Pino Pascali, Thomas Hirschhorn, Germaine Richier, Mark Rothko, Blake Fitzpatrick, Mona Hatomb and Kara Walker, while artists like Cy Twombly and Ewa Partum chose art as a vehicle to express poetry in art form to bring to life ancient history and mythological stories.
“Truth must be found in reality, not systems.”Joseph Beuys, What is art?: Conversations with joseph beuys.
As artists of the twenty-first century, they were free to utilize a pantheon of materials and objects of the Industrial Age to express their dream, vision, and voice. With the creation of new media due to industrialization, artists created new forms and expressions of art like Performance Art (a la Hugo Ball), happenings, ready-mades (Marcel Duchamp), earthworks, mobiles, Conceptual Art, video, photography, and digital art, to name a few.
The area of social sciences and psychology grew out of the Industrial Age, which is important to note. Theories on Marxism, Socialism/Communism, Fascism, Nietzsche’s ‘Superman’, and Freud’s study of the subconscious simultaneously liberated and imprisoned humanity. Society had become enslaved to Capitalism, systems, and the status quo as the lines of varying social classes began to delineate itself. Communities were no longer unified and defined by a singular belief, like Ancient Greece or early Renaissance Florence, for example. Modern society identified as individual faces, individual thoughts, and individual voices. Society and its people had become disillusioned and desensitized by the aftermath of the capitalism on wars. Violence and poverty is constantly perpetuated by the media and all its technological social outlets. As a result of this period, the rich continue to get richer and the poor, poorer. Today, we are experiencing the extinction of the middle class proletariats who had once risen in influence from the Industrial Age.
In our throw-away, fast-everything, consumer-driven, materialistic society, it is no wonder that the deep and dark void found in modern-day lives has become like a cancerous tumor, wreaking havoc to everything and everyone in its environment only to eventually destroy itself. Despite having access to everything and more, the need for more stimulation and instant gratification becomes harder to satiate. Fortunately, cancer is a curable dis-ease. How? By starving the cancer of the misinformation fed by the media, stress and issues of society.
Life, Peace and Love
Yet out of this void, we also explore the light, find forms of spirituality, study philosophy, experience transcendence and create the essence of love through joy. We are existential Romantics; that despite the wars, deaths, chaos, and poverty, humanity has an innate trait of goodness, the desire to seek out the brighter side of things. Life is continuous and subjective to the experiences from which we choose to learn from and take from it what we will. When one is consistently bombarded with images and reminders of death, war and hatred, it also begs one to consider if whether there is the opposite of all that – of life, peace and love. Eventually, the quest to define supernatural agency over life itself becomes imperative to understanding that life is merely a mirror, reflecting back to each person their own inner world. Forgiveness and peace then become the stepping stones towards liberation, humility, and balance. Love of oneself creates a ripple effect, which eventually creates a wave over humanity.
So as modern day artists poke, challenge, stab, steal, shine light on, burn, aggrandize, exaggerate, demoralize, moralize … in an effort to uncover truths, they are, for the most part, lead to the same conclusion that light and love is the answer. All of these artistic pluralisms are merely an effort to identify and heal the pain as a precursor to then capturing the essence of life, which is love that is either elusive or abundant. It is all a matter of perspective. Darkness is merely the absence of light.
We have freedom.
We have the ability to manifest our heart’s desires.
We have the choice to do the right thing.
That is power.