Cubism is an early-20th-century avant-garde art movement that revolutionized European painting and sculpture, and inspired related movements in music, literature and architecture. Matisse first referred to "cubes" in connection with a painting by Braque in 1908. A cube is defined as "a symmetrical three-dimensional shape, either solid or hollow, contained by six equal squares." The cube is the only regular hexahedron and is not new as an artistic convention. The earliest printed languages employed these shapes and cave artists were fond of containing their paintings within such bounds. Twentieth century cartoonists such as Chas Addams were swayed by the concept of pointed triangular vertices.



Cubism was probably the most persuasive art movement of the past century and although anachronistic is still prevalent. The Modern Art term is usually associated with art in which the traditions of the past have been thrown aside in a spirit of experimentation. For this reason,  the period is sometimes more narrowly defined as falling between 1860s and the 1970s. Cubism was born in 1907 when Picasso painted Les Demoiselles d'Avignon showing five whose faces were seen simultaneously from the front and in profile, angular bodies taking the place of rounded feminine forms.



The first works were one-dimensional. Painters like Juan Gris and Robert Delaunay, led by Braque and Picasso began transforming natural forms into cylinders spheres as well as shaded and textured cubes creating a reactive view of reality in total opposition to the principles of the Impressionists. Cubism developed rapidly in successive phases that brought art history the Futurism of Boccioni, the Abstraction of Kandinsky, the Suprematism of Malevich and the Constructivism of Tatlin. All were deservedly parodied by the likes of  cartoonist Andre Francois. Bits and pieces of these fragmented images were subsumed into pop culture, where they continue to resurface.




Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 is a 1912 painting by Marcel Duchamp. The work is widely a Modernist classic possibly the most famous of its time. Digital Artist John Mattos updated the painting in a much shorter period of time.



Of course, the cubists were not the first to use repetitive lines to suggest motion in a painting.



In 2013, David Suchet (above) said goodbye to his role as Belgian detective Hercules Poirot, a TV adaptation of Agatha Christie novels which  was a glorious love letter to the design and architecture of the 1930s.  Modernist and Art Deco British buildings acted as backdrops to a series of murders of the well-to-do. When Cubism actually commenced to move fragment and recombine on the small screen. painterly versions became anachronistic and of less
 immediacy and interest.




Even the Disney Studios took ideas from Cubism, confiscating the circle to create Steamboat Willie, the earliest version of Mickey Mouse.  With the passage of time gravity went to work on his facial features and he began to look more like Ronald Searle's cartoon. Almost every "ism" of the last century stole something from this relatively short lived movement. Fauvism, driven by the synthesis of inorganic paints, was tried out by everyone painting in the first three quarters of the last century.




"The Wild Beasts" of Fauvism included Derain, who in this case, painted the Charing Cross Bridge. Landscapes and seascapes were a short-hand version of Impressionism. It was a quick immediate way of painting although not as fast as Photoshop.


With his jaundiced view of Fine Art, Ronald Searle put the boots to all of "isms." By the 1950s, inorganic colours were becoming even more varied and vibrant.


That violent Searle sky was intended to point out environmental problems. Eat your heart out, Fauvists!



Futurism was an artistic and social movement that originated in Italy in the early 20th century. It emphasized speed, technology, youth, and violence, and objects such as the car, the aeroplane, and the industrial city. It was obviously derivative and Ronald Searle gave its its due!



Dadaism is said to have arisen in reaction to World War I. It was a more general movement and brought together artists who rejected the logic, reason, and aestheticism of modern capitalist society, instead expressing nonsense, irrationality, and anti-bourgeois protest in their works. Cubism and collage were its' roots.



A reviewer from the American Art News stated at the time that "Dada philosophy is the sickest, most paralyzing and most destructive thing that has ever originated from the brain of man." It was outrageous but worse lay ahead in the far future. The dadaists were opposed to the beautiful art of the "retinal eye" and turned philosophical eyes on the art world. This became a theme. Beauty being in the eye of the beholder they became an accepted movement and their work is now in museums.



Satirist Ronald Searle also worked in metal and this is his version of the all seeing eye of Horus or Ra. Marcel Duchamp encountered resistance in trying to show this "Nude Descending A Staircase". Afterwards he broke with conventional French art and gained an exemption from military duty. Uncomfortable at home, he moved to the United states and found himself a salable commodity there. Eventually he took up citizenship and became profitably notorious. In his time he once said that paintings have a natural life span of thirty-five years but his have had longer currency. He was buried in France in 1968.



Surrealism began in the early 1920s developing out of Dadaism, centred largely in Paris. Artists in this group painted unnerving, illogical scenes with photographic precision, created strange creatures from everyday objects and developed painting techniques that supposedly allowed the unconscious to express itself. From the beginning it was anachronistic in the sense that it relied on unexpected juxtapositions. Ronald Searle could parody this movement!



During World War II,  Axis and Allied
Propaganda Art relied heavily on all these past movements. Those heavy-handed posters advertisements and cartoons are too dark to contemplate. Here is Searle's ant-war view of the infamous Berlin War.



Possibly Duchamp did want to be remembered for his autographed urinal; Searle's initial reputation rested on his caricature of an English girl's school... he made a drawing to please the two schoolgirl who attended an Academy for Young Ladies in 1941. The name of their school was St Trinnean's. It received great reviews from the Johnston family and submitted it to "Miss Kaye Webb, Assistant Editor, LILLIPUT." The two began an affair in 1946 when he was repatriated to England from Asia. By 1952, Searle decided that his life had been dominated for too long by demonic school girls. He killed the girls off in an atomic explosion the following year in Souls in Torment (published by his own company, Perpetua Books). Propaganda can have mixed messages, and Searle seems to have become a fearful of this creation.


Existentialism is a philosophy or approach that emphasizes the existence of the individual person as a free and responsible agent determining their own development through acts of the will. George Escher was a long time resident at Mahone Bay after World War II.



That is not to say that Existentialists were happy campers. Their painters and print-makers aimed to "explore sensory perception, particularly vision, in the thought processes."  Following war, Jean-Paul Sartre was the most prominent advocate in bohemian circles of France where these ideas flourished.  The philosophy was esoteric and about all that can be said is that themes included trauma, anxiety and alienation, concerns fueled by the disappearance of a credible enemy. Rod read some of this stuff and agreed with them that "Nothing Mattresses" especially not their visual art.



This movement coincided with Rod's late teenage years and was the first important Modern Art movement to emerge from America.  Jackson Pollock, based in New York was the best known of the action painters. The drip, dribble throw and dab school developed from German Expressionism which emphasized automatic, spontaneous, subconscious creation but actually involved abstraction. It was a way easy way to win art prizes, and Rod collected a few. It was really neither an abstractive nor expressive technique but it certainly took front stage in the 1950s. A few of these painters admitted they had no drawing skills. This development led to an art boom which supported subsequent American movements such as Pop Art. This also helped to turn New York into a cultural and artistic hub.



Obviously, Pearle did not understand the real nature of Abstract Expressionism, which made few demands  with respect to self-expression and the reduction of reality to the Least Common Denominator. "Abstract expressionist value expression over perfection, vitality over finish, fluctuation over repose, the unknown over the known, the veiled over the clear, the individual over society and the inner over the outer." - William C. Seitz, American artist and Art historian.  Searle was capable of delineation but believed in rules and social order as opposed to individualism, anarchy and chaos.



These strange images were exhibited in New York in 1963 but were never seen in England or collected in book form like his more usual work.  In all he created 73 of these disturbing combinations of ink, watercolour and gouache on paper. He claimed to be illustrating the human condition in a new way, but it was anachronistic from the first pen stroke.



"'The adventures of Baron Munchausen', by R.E. Raspe and others, profusely illustrated by Ronald Searle was first published in 1969.  The style of the illustrations was informed by a series of almost abstract expressionist ink drawings Searle made the previous year entitled 'Anatomies & Decapitations'." Was this less threatening?



This was followed by Pop Art. This art movement  emerged in the mid-1950s in Britain but was assimilated by U.S. artists in the late 1950s. Larry Rivers, Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns and Dear Old Andy are remembered in this context. "Due to its utilization of found objects and images, it is similar to Dada. Pop art and minimalism are considered to be art movements that precede postmodern art, or are some of the earliest examples of postmodern art themselves." Searle should perhaps be considered a part of this zaniness?



Superrealism, also known as Hyper-realism, is an art movement that began in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The idea seems to have involved creating paintings, or sculptures, resembling a high resolution photograph. Time consuming and completely anachronistic when the digital age developed. The Maritime Realists, Colville, Forestall, Partt and West, were not Superrealists. Although Rod sometimes worked from photographs he was too loose in his approach to paint and canvas to manage this style, which never seemed worth the effort.



Neo-expressionism developed as a reaction against conceptual art and minimal art of the 1970s, both post modern movements. "Neo-expressionists returned to portraying recognizable objects, such as the human body, (although sometimes in an abstract manner), in a rough and violently emotional way, often using vivid colors." It quickly became as dated as Mickey Mouse.



Caricature is really a variety of abstraction, and he did make fun of Mickey Mouse but he was far less self absorbed as a neo expressionist and was often paid for his reserved emotional attacks on twentieth century Fine Art.



Visual artists are all performers, but Performance Art is theatre presented to an audience within a fine art context, traditionally interdisciplinary. The edges of this discipline are fuzzy and it is probably largely reactionary and postmodern. In any event, it has minor connections with sculpture and painting.



Here we see Searle as an angry old fart, which is better than a nasty without a real cause. Art critic Alistair MacFarland (2015) said that over.



Modern Art did not suddenly implode to be replaced by Postmodernism but the avant garde gradually became the old guard and anachronistic. Postmodernism is generally seen as a reaction to the assumed certainty of scientific, or objective, efforts to explain reality. Critical interpretations of culture, literature, art, philosophy, history, linguistics, economics, architecture, fiction and literature commenced in the mid 1880s. Rod abandoned his afro haircut and full beard for this minimalist look. Every time he primed a canvas...



This marked the beginnings of dumbed-down world of alternate truths, which is unfortunately still with us. A ad for Dulux house paint (CAA Magazine,Spring, 2017), sums up the philosophy in these words, "You don't have to be an artist to create a masterpiece." Albert Einstein did say that, "The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination." However, he also noted, "The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits." Not all truths are created equal.



If you accept this view of the human condition then you are a Postmodernist. Calvin is seen above engaging in Doublespeak, but since all expressions of opinion are of equal value, there is no absolute necessity for literacy.



"It doesn't look like me." Picasso was of course a Modernist and so was Searle. In the Postmodern art world a portrait did not have to look at all familiar. This was "The Death of God" period philosophically. In the sciences it was sometimes suggested that everything that could be discovered had been uncovered. A tragic decade, lacking soul to an unprecedented degree.



The Moorings Gallery in Mahone Bay lost its long-time owner to cancer in this time and for a while the space was unused, but the space was used one spring to mount a NSCAD Art Show which largely featured Postmodern work by county artists.  Rod did not participate.



A number of Potsmodern schools of visual art developed, and Rod tried a few of them on as a fun past time but did usually offer them for sale. Most developed out of earlier movements and merged into newer ones after the turn of the millenia.  Some are already dead in the water. Since it was assumed that all possible permutations of art had already been tried this was a fractious period when bits and pieces of the past were reassembled without much regard for conventions, rules or traditions.



To some degree, this visual summary of regurgitation described what happened at the end of the last century in the other visual arts.



A consumptive society tends to focus on the almighty individual irrespective of this values or lack thereof. Ronald Searle produced these images but Rod quickly reassembled them as a comment on the present sad situation.



Postmodernism is often associated with schools of thought such as deconstruction and post-structuralism, as well as philosophers such as Jean-François Lyotard and Frederic Jameson. Postmodern designers began creating works in the 1970s without any set adherence to rational order and formal organization. "They also seemed to pay no attention to traditional conventions such as legibility." Sound familiar. Ugly was in like sin!


.Another characteristic of postmodern graphic design is that "retro, techno, punk, grunge, beach, parody, and pastiche were all conspicuous trends. Each had its own sites and venues, detractors and advocates." A lot of it involved the digital mashup of images from the past, as seen above. Criticisms of postmodernism are intellectually diverse, including the assertions that postmodernism is meaningless and promotes obscurantism. At that's what the United Sates wanted in a president.



Noam Chomsky has argued that postmodernism is meaningless as it does not increase analytical or empirical knowledge. He asks why postmodernist intellectuals are unable to cite the bases for their conjectures. "If (these requests for objectivity) can't be met" he has suggested that their supposed truths should be consigned "to the flames." Anachronism is probably not far distant for this movement especially now that it has become intellectually proper.



"Garbage in garbage out?" While Modern Art embraced many styles it has been noted that Postmodern Art developed so many "isms" that "the concept of style became nonsense." That is not to say that this art form lacks humour and sometimes a sense of fun, although cartoon caricature seems less labour intensive than this method of image making unless it is entirely digital.  Even then...



This entry itself constitutes mashup modernism. Christian philosopher William Lane Craig has noted "The idea that we live in a postmodern culture is a myth. In fact, a postmodern culture is an impossibility; it would be utterly unlivable. People are not relativistic when it comes to matters of science, engineering, and technology; rather, they are relativistic and pluralistic in matters of religion and ethics. But, of course, that's not postmodernism; that's modernism!" The more things change?


Daniel Dennett declared, Postmodernism, the school of "thought" where "There are no truths, only interpretations."
 




Unfortunately, Postmodernism is still playing itself out in the Theatre of the Absurd. This immorality play has left behind "a generation of academics in the humanities disabled by their distrust of the very idea of truth." They have settled for "conversations" in which nobody is wrong and nothing can be confirmed, only asserted with whatever style on prefers.



Pollock's work contained the seeds of Postmodernism despair.



One of the strangest Postmodern movements was that of "The Young British Artists," a name given to a loose group of visual artists who graduated from the BA Fine Art course at Goldsmiths, in the late 1980s. They really were loose, noteworthy for "shock tactics", the use of repulsive throwaway materials, wild-living, and an attitude which was at once oppositional and entrepreneurial. They succeeded in cornering the British art market in the 1990s, but of course are no longer young dogs, but old dogs and long of tooth. Google their work if you have a strong stomach.


It is true that anyone can be an crafty artist in the original sense of ars, artis. However, not every image, however "democratic" is worth a second look.



Toulouse was a way more interesting than the Too Loose boys. Even Ronald Seale managed to keep it together and bring Emotion down to earth. Postmodernism probably will fail in trying to bring down the Temple of Reason.




This is how Searle saw our anachronistic Mickey Mouse world.



This is how Aging British Artist Hirst saw Mickey Mouse at about the same time. Surprisingly, Disney did not bother to sue either gentleman. Damien (French "one who tames or subdues") is 51 years of age at this writing. "In several instances since 1999, Hirst's works have been challenged and contested as plagiarized, both in written articles by journalists and artists. In one instance, legal proceedings led to an out-of-court settlement." Hirst is reputed to be the richest living artist to date. Hirst's 2012 retrospective at the Tate Gallery, while setting records for attendance, also received many complaints. "Members of the public wrote to the state-funded gallery accusing it of wasting taxpayers' money by showcasing art that was 'repetitive', 'meaningless' and 'almost universally awful'. " Saint Damien is the patron saint of hairdressers and not quite geriatric, but keep
tuned!



Across The Channel we had this.  Until the 20th century accepted works of Art were easily identified: they were in the form of painting, engravings, sculptures and etchings exhibiting high craftsmanship. Most were original, beautiful, inspiring or at least interesting in content. What followed has been described as "progressive demolition."Legitimacy became detached from skill in production and sometimes became an idea passed on to a serf to make or perform. Thus, cartoons eventually acquired amazing intrinsic value; and why not, since an embalmed shark was elevated to the status of Fine Art?  Title? "French Sailor."



Although
Ronald was Andre's friend he was not above making fun of him. It may be that anything can be considered art, but not all art is master work.  Duchamp's legacy to the art business is the suggestion that we all need to consider the matter of exactly what constitutes visual quality. Several philosophers rose with answers: As mentioned earlier, Arthur Danois was certain that "Art Is Dead." Later, he recanted. If art is logically considered as a business it never died! Movements and artists do vanish as Duchamp's epitaph notes: "D'allieurs, c'est toujours les autres qui meurent." Fortunately, all things do end!



 This Postmodern movement suggested "If it is not painted it is not art." That harks back to a mid-twentirth century viewpint supported by some academics. Many movements of this later time were reactionary because they saw themselves as isolated from sources of public funding. The group demonstrated annually at Tate Britain against the Turner Prize, sometimes dressed in clown costumes. They have also come out in opposition to the Charles Saatchi-patronised Young British Artists. They defined themselves an anti-anti-art group and claimed to be seeking "spritual values." There work suggests that they were actually firmly stuck in a fragmented postmodernist framework. The recognizable image was back burt rules of engagement were not.



Jack Hoggan (rebranded Vittriano) is a very wealthy self-taught Scottish painter of modest origins. According to The Guardian he earns £500,000 a year in print royalties. Vettriano's 1992 painting, The Singing Butler, has been the best-selling image in Britain for many years. In 2004 the original canvas sold at auction for £744,500. It had been rejected in 1992 for inclusion in the Royal Academy summer exhibition. His earliest paintings were heavy handed in terms of colour use and contrary to some critics fall neatly within postmodern parameters. They have been described as "soft porn" and some decidely are! They are, overall, supercharged realism and sometimes have as much shock value as a work by Damien Hirst. His work is probably admired for cleaning up the visual clutter seen in most works from the 1990s.



"Penelope" (2015).Technically Vittriano is not a very good observer while Californian painter David Ligare, who is six years older than Jack, decidely has a good eye and a steady hand.  Realism, in one form or another has survived the non-obejctive tidal wave of the 1950s.  This style has been described as Postmodern Neo Realsim which is sometimes seen as a subdivision of Post-postmodernism. Since the late 1990s there has been a small but growing feeling both in popular culture and in academia that postmodernism "has gone out of fashion. No widely accepted name has been devised to contain the visual worlds of the future.In his 2006 paper The Death of Postmodernism and Beyond, the British scholar Alan Kirby suggested either "pseudo-modernism" or "digimodernism,"since a return to traditional visual values seemed to be looming. He thought that humans might be looking for soothing rather than shattering views.



A WIRED web site illustration from March, 2017: Kirby says, "In pseudo-modernism one phones, clicks, presses, surfs, chooses, moves, downloads." This is made possible by the internet and mobile devices, and to a lesser degree by televsion. He also says that unfortunately, users of digital technology fall into "a trancelike state." a kind of "silent autism," He sees this as superseding "the neurosis of modernism and the narcissism of postmodernism."  He fears media-induced shallowness and instantaneous participation in trivial events, and this appears to be the case with less attention centring on the real world. He does not see much of aesthetic value emerging from this brave new world. Not with a bang, but a whimper?

 


Rod studied Basic Design and Life Drawing and Painting under Alex Colville during the year he painted this picture of himself and his wife on the Prince Edward Island ferry. While he has been termed a Magic Realist, Rod says he was a micro-pointellist with Neo Classical leanings.  We invented the micro-dot back in 1950s before the digital dot printer was imagined. He spent some time in California as a mature painter and his exhibition there obviously had an impact in the direct of cool controlled minimalism. Scroll back up to "Penelope." He was a huge influence on Christopher and Mary Pratt, who were stdents in that decade.

 

This still clip from a motion picture shows that he was also noticed by those in the Hollywood "flicker" business.  The Greek word "meta" simply means "beyond" and is perhaps the best way of referring to a possible future, which may nt be entirely digital and self-absorbed. By 1999, metamodernism was offered up as an "extension of and challenge to modernism and postmodernism" with the aim to "transcend, fracture, subvert, circumvent, interrogate and disrupt, hijack and appropriate modernity and postmodernity". Guess it was also reactive? Since we are standing above that chasm of the future, this deserves its own page, which is NEXT