From Modernism to Metamodernism.

With industrialization in Western Europe and North America came modernity: cities grew as dwindling agricultural jobs prompted workers to seek employment in manufacturing.


The population booms in cities such as Paris and London and Rome led to an expansion of businesses aimed at serving the needs of these new citizens: restaurants, bars, theaters, music halls, boarding houses, and inns proliferated.


These businesses created more jobs while also introducing new social habits and expectations. Rooted in urban culture, where leisure activities as well as daily necessities are available commercially, modernity refers to the condition of post-industrial, capitalist society.


Modernism in art is simply one form of cultural expression of this form of social organization. Associated with ideas of progress and novelty, modernism reflects the dominant ethos of a society in which consumption—of new forms of entertainment along with the necessities of life—plays a central role in one’s daily activities.


One of the signal markers of the rise of modernism in the West was the advent of the department store and the idea of shopping as a leisure activity. Just as indicative of modernism was a pervasive ambivalence toward modernity itself.


Many welcomed the technological advances and economic prosperity that modernity seemed to foster. Others, however, were wary of its emphasis on change and continual improvement, noting capitalism’s tendency to exploit workers murderously and to contribute to the deplorable living conditions of the poor.


Modern art, like all forms of modernism, is a response to the diverse political, economic, and cultural pressures of modernity. The notion that an artwork is fundamentally the expression of a particular artist’s thoughts or desires seems obvious today. But this has not always been the case.


The idea that Whistler put forward is rooted—like many sources of modernism—in the eighteenth century. Until the late eighteenth century, artists in the West since the Renaissance had understood their work as part of a tradition going back to classical antiquity. Though each artist was expected to contribute uniquely to this tradition, the practice of emulation remained central to any artist’s training.


Young artists would learn to create by first copying works acknowledged as superior examples of their genre, style, or medium. Only after a student fully understood the work of earlier artists and was able to reproduce such examples faithfully could he or she go on to create new forms. But even then, new works were expected to contribute to established traditions. This was the method of training used at art academies throughout Western Europe from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries.


Artists achieved success by demonstrating their inventiveness within the tradition in which they worked. It can fairly be said, however, that both Neoclassicism and Romanticism nourish the roots of modernism. In fact, modernism might be best understood as a struggle between the forces of objective rationality and subjective expression.


At certain points in the history of modern and metamodern art, one or the other might seem to gain the advantage. But the tension between the two continues to exert its influence, and the other side is never far from revealing itself. This condition makes itself felt early in the nineteenth century with the appearance of another artistic mode of representation that contributed to the evolution of modernism: Realism. A literary as well as visual style,


Realism pushed the Enlightenment penchant for dispassionate rationality and social improvement to its zenith.



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In the wake of postmodernism has come a widespread interest in the art world in revisiting the fate of modernism in the visual arts, a trend that has resulted in two main appraisals of the movement’s current fortunes.


The first stems from authors who argue for its present-day persistence and the second from those who lodge a claim for its revival.


A leading member of the first group is Nicolas Bourriaud, who has declared the onset of an age of altermodernism. As modern art goes global, Bourriaud suggests, so too does modernism, carrying its detraditionalizing impulses into a range of new geographies and climates. Alongside Bourriaud is Terry Smith, whose mapping of the major modes of contemporary art includes a strand of practice he labels remodernism.


Remodernist art perpetuates the modernist imperatives of reflexivity and avant-garde experimentality, but its practitioners no longer share the faith of early modernists that these initiatives might help spark social progress. The members of the second group advocate for modernism’s recrudescence. They include David Geers, who has lamented the resurgence of formalist and self-expressive tendencies in the New York art world, and Timotheus Vermeulen and Robin van den Akker, who claim that a return to the commitment and sincerity of modernism has recently displaced the irony of postmodernism.


If these neomodern theories share a common focus, then they also share a common failing, namely a tendency to say too little about the movement that sustains them. Of the above-listed authors, Bourriaud, Geers, and Vermeulen and van den Akker choose to focus on discrete traits and tendencies of modernism, but offer no more comprehensive picture, thus limiting the scope of their conclusions.


Smith, by contrast, reaches for a more expansive view, but in so doing succumbs to vagueness and reductivism. After describing modernism as “the invention and the effective pursuit of artistic strategies that seek not just close but essential connections to the powerful forces of social modernity,” he then presents modernity as “the cultural condition in which the seemingly absolute necessity of innovation becomes a primary fact of life, work and thought.”


That modernism, like modernity, has long been wed to innovation is true enough, but here Smith’s account abruptly ceases. No further forces of modernity are specified and no further links between society and art are ever outlined. The result is a near-empty presentation of a highly complex issue. On one side, therefore, we have a group of closely focused theories that remain silent over larger issues, and on the other, a holistic theory that is all too abstract.


In the 1990s and 2000s, as painting receded from the forefront of the art world’s consciousness and the move toward a post-medium condition that had been gathering pace since the 1960s was finally completed, the light-modernist search for heaviness would intensify in tandem with the art world’s ever-escalating weightlessness, disclosing itself in several significant precincts of an increasingly global art market.


Throughout the past two decades, this impulse has been evident, for example, in those practices and projects that have sought to foster their own forms of community, thereby countermanding the individuating tendencies of light modernity. Elsewhere, it has made its presence felt in the manifold interrogations of traditional forms of art-making advanced by artists of who seek to work against light modernity’s detraditionalizing dynamics, as well as in the surge of archival and memory-based art projects that like some forms of painting in the 1980s seek to resist our current sense of free-floating temporal weightlessness.


What all of these developments suggest is that the onset of light modernity has spawned a steadily strengthening, if diffuse and by no means ubiquitous, series of efforts to push back against this condition. The concept of metamodernism relies on our understanding of modernism, postmodernism and the bigger cultural periods that originated them. While modernism is a product of modernity, postmodernism is not situated comprehensively within a well-defined period. Moreover, when dealing with the dichotomy of movement and era in the last century, we are presented with a taxonomic dilemma of conflating eras and their aesthetical manifestations.


Contrary to the prevalent view of cultural shifts, here a different attempt at periodising and understanding ontologically the concepts of modernism, postmodernism and metamodernism, and the related cultural periods in which they are situated.


Is to argue that modernism and postmodernism should be considered as a continuum in a temporal sense, but not as equal orders in a categorical sense, and that postmodernism is not an apt descriptor for the period following modernity, nor for the aesthetic paradigm following modernism.


To resolve this problem, on the one hand, a proposal that we adopt the term metamodernity, which better reflects the new era of cultural development. On the other hand, metamodernism, which is the current aesthetical, and to a degree axiological, manifestation of this new era.


Artificial Intelligence in art is always going to be a bone of contention amongst art collectors but it is not going away so detest it or embrace it for what it is, thye choice is yours. It's safe to say the world is better off for more art, whether beautiful, abstract or challenging. If the artist is not man but man made then what is the difference if art is more varid, involving and interesting because of it.