A cocktail of theory and aesthetics

Review: Postmodernism Style and Subversion 1970-1990 at the V&A

There is so hard to define that we are not even sure if it is alive or dead.  In the 70ies it radically broke with the expired hipster Modernism. Minimalism wasn’t avant-garde anymore and the world wanted something new. In one way it made art much more commercial and decorative and in another way it was also extremely ironic and critical towards consumption. Carol McNicoll, an artist featured in the exhibition recalls: “When I studied Art in Leeds, decorative art was an absolute no-no. But then we realised, actually, we could do it- and people liked it”. Postmodernism didn’t want to be a smart-aleck it wanted to be playful, seducing and entertaining. It stood for a radical freedom of art. Its critics regarded it as the “end of culture”.

The V&A takes a first major Look at this movement with the Blockbuster exhibition “Postmodernism- Style and Subversion 197-1990”. The exhibition completely sucks its viewers up in a visually thrilling kaleidoscope of all what Postmodernism was about. It leads the visitors through a neon-lit landscape of fashion, art, film and music.  Exhibits have been put in their natural habitat by surrounding them with replicas of postmodernist architecture such as the Beach House by Charles Jencks , metal fences to represent Urban wastelands and club culture elements. 80ies music is dripping from speakers and video installations bedazzle its audience. It feels much more like walking on an abandoned film set than being in a museum. Most art works evolve around the boundaries between high and popular culture, merging them into each other. The exhibitions ends in the museum shop, which seems to be highly appropriate in this context, since the death (if there was a death) of postmodernism was marked when its love affair with commercialism made it blind for the necessary distance for an ironical take on it. The exhibition is quite fragmented, making it at times a tiresome to look at all the little elements of it but may be that’s also what this exhibition and Postmodernism tries to do: to challenge the viewer to make sense of it.

The exhibition is on view until January 15th and concession tickets are 8 pounds. Depending on demand timed-entrys are applicable. It’s probably advisable to go before the last-days-rush.

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