Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Modern and Post-Modern Art

I love days like this. I spent about 20 minutes trying to track down a high resolution version of a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon - the one that depicts Calvin, to the horror of his mother, walking nakedly downstairs. What could justify such bizarre behavior? "Nude descending a staircase," Calvin naturally explains.

Yep, I'm scheduled to deliver an arts lecture next week for the Humanities Honors program, and I'm wrapping up my preparations to cover a massive array of material. My topic: the 20th Century's transition from modern to postmodern art. Even though I'm on sabbatical, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to play with this topic (as a "guest lecturer," I guess). Here's my summary:
The 20th Century marks the decline of the modern project – an “Age of Confidence” in humankind’s ability (and desire) to produce a rational world through the management of irrational forces. This lecture examines 20 significant examples of visual art, industrial design, and architectural innovation that reveal a spiraling dialectic of order and disorder as technological triumph gives way to existential angst. As a romantic rhetoric of “authentic self” withers from view, first beneath the totalizing power of the state and later amid the corporate pleasures of consumer identity, we read the 20th Century as a period of transformation whose implications have yielded the frustrations, ambiguities, and potentially radical freedoms of our own lives.
Knowing that I'm breezing past many, many memorable artists and schools of thought (Where are Diego Rivera's murals? How could you skip Frida Kahlo? What about the Color Field wing? The list goes on...) I'm limiting myself to the following pieces (in order of presentation):

Pablo Picasso (1907) Les Demoiselles d'Avignon

Henri Matisse (1905-6) Le Bonheur de Vivre

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1913) Berlin Street Scene

Wassily Kandinsky (1912) Improvisation 28 (second version)

Marcel Duchamp (1912) Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2

Umberto Boccioni (1913) Unique Forms of Continuity in Space

Marcel Duchamp (1917/1964) Fountain (I'll use my own photo)

Giorgio de Chirico (1914) Mystery and Melancholy of a Street

Frank Lloyd Wright (1935) Fallingwater

Piet Mondrian (1929-30) Fox Trot A: Lozenge Composition with Three Lines

Edward Hopper (1942) Nighthawks

Walter Gropius (1925-26) Bauhaus, Dessau

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1929) Barcelona Chair

Pablo Picasso (1937) Guernica

O. Winston Link (1956) Hotshot Eastbound

Robert V. Derrah (1937) Coca-Cola Bottling Co. building (I'll use my own photo)

Jackson Pollock (1947-1950) Photograph of "action painting" process (Yeah, there's some irony here)

Roy Lichtenstein (1964) Oh Jeff… I Love You, Too… But…

Andy Warhol (1962) Twenty-five Colored Marilyns

Frank Gehry and Vlado Milunić (1992-1996) Nationale-Nederlanden building

Actually I'll delve deeply into only about a dozen of these pieces, using others to connect broad themes. Even so, there's every possibility that my dream of a tight lecture will erupt into a hot mess. Such is life, an irresistible challenge.

1 comment:

Ryan Blum said...

I would love to get a copy of your lecture when it is complete.