I recently (about two weeks ago) attended a lecture by Michael Fried for and about the art movement modernism. Here are my thoughts and notes from the lecture.
While the wiki article is through, it does not cover the fact that modernism "was coming to grips with visual issues in art." It was not just a reaction to WWII (though it certainly did include that) or a series of gimmicks, but there were "deep pictorial issues involved."
How so? Art is a language of expression, and until modernism, the language was fairly strict, the majority of art created was representational. This is not to say that art itself hadn't been headed in this direction for some time, because that certainly was not the case. Modernism was both the logical conclusion and unexpected explosion of the language of art into. . . I am not sure what it is now, communication unfettered from language? or has it been transformed into a language so that it can be understood by everyone?
(I am just in art school, so it seems like a language, a lot of rules and grammar, but I know that once you know the rules, you can understand the base form of what other people see and break that form into tiny little bits. You can break rules consciously and use them knowingly, each appropriate to your message. It makes your communication a message to others, other than a speech.
But that doesn't mean I like learning grammar.)
I don't know, really. I have big dreams of the the world should be, from the stories other people tell, but finding other people to communicate this to who will listen/who see the same is difficult, at least with people my age (who, mainly, have never thought about this at all). I suppose perhaps, I am not communicating well enough for something like this.
"I think perhaps the most important problem is that we are trying to [communicate] the fundamental workings of the universe via a language devised for telling one another when the best fruit is." (Terry Pratchett)
But going back to the topic of art, i have some notes of which have caused me to think more throughly about the possibilities of what art can be.
Art is (any combination of the below):
-an idea merged with the canvas, it is one entity
-an object in a world of objects, all interacting with one another-one term in a larger space (this is the view of minimalism, rather than modernism, and not held by Fried, but I had to disagree with him on this point)
-an experience ( the opinion the Fried has is that "theatricality" is "too easy", and this i do agree with, but i feel that it does not make it any less true)
-relational- the different relations/interactions of the objects within the art create the meaning
-expressive-it has a meaning (i believe that if there is no meaning, it is not art. There are many things that look like art that are not art. I am ashamed that I have done so and probably will continue to do so in the future. And all in the name of lucre)
-authority/majesty on a canvas
-ease of gesture
-tensity-is there a conflict?
-meaningful to itself- all meaning it has is contained in it/self-sufficient (this is the view of modernism, it is when the painting has no interaction with the viewer, it has a feeling of voyeurism, that the figures are not acting for the viewer's benefit)