Leonard Koscianski 2002
Focusing their attention on the dark side of postmodern society, critical postmodern artists depict the sinister aspects of a media saturated, postmodern world. The critical postmodern artist depicts the fragmentation of society and the alienation of individuals as dark, problematic - weird. This outward, critical perspective is closely related to the central tenets of Critical Theory and high modernism.
Critical postmodern art is based on the postmodern assertion that all artist perspectives are valid, but unlike postmodernism, the critical postmodern holds that greater understanding of society is possible by viewing it through the lens of individual artworks or narratives. With the possibility of detatchment, a more independent point of view might be feasible. Like postmodern art, and unlike the art of the Enlightenment, critical postmodern art does not see itself as part of a progression toward an ultimate truth or beauty, nor as part of a grand art historical continuum. However it assumes that with more perspectives, more understanding is possible. This implies the recognition of a modicum of "objectivity" though it may be elusive. If some assertions are "true" – the Earth is round, Nazi Germany was inhuman, then some visual expressions might be true, or more accurately truer than others. This would seem to revive the idea of artistic detachment and notions of an avant-guarde, valid or not.
The validity of multiple perspectives does not negate truth. Because it respects the validity of the individual artist’s perspective, critical postmodern art pays respect to the integrity of that perspective more than was the case with postmodern art. It values multiple perspectives, and the integrity of each individual artist’s vision, and by extension the individual self. This departs from Lyotard’s assertion that "A self does not amount to much". (Lyotard, 1979) This is also a departure from the postmodern art assumption that a work of art is just a move in a "language" game. Conversely, this recognition of the validity of multiple perspectives separates the critical postmodern artist from the self-centeredness of modern Existentialism. He attempts to reconcile objectivity and subjectivity. Though his vision may be largely subjective, at the same time he believes that there are other largely subjective views which when experienced may lead to understanding, or objectivity. This may be an attempt to have ones cake and eat it too, or it may be a way out of a postmodern trap.
If individual perspectives are important, then artwork, which expresses those perspectives, must be developed seriously even if the content is humorous. For this reason critical postmodern art is often more highly crafted than postmodern works, and often more accessible and communicative. The critical postmodern artist rightly or wrongly assumes that craftsmanship implies respect for the viewer, and enables artwork to communicate more effectively. The critical postmodern artist is ethically engaged in the act of creation rather than ironically detached.
As the world moves beyond the postmodern, critical postmodern recognizes the phantasm of advertising and shopping malls as a materially destructive force. It explores the effect this phantasm has throughout the world. The critical postmodern artist recognizes the need for art works which are not merely expensive status symbols, but which act as independent lenses onto a troubled world. In this praxis the critical postmodern artist recognizes the need for some form of ethics, integrity and aesthetics, without yearning for a contemporary version of the pre-postmodern world. However when one adopts a critical stance it does imply a certain moral superiority. The achiles heal of critical postmodern art may be an attempt to have both ways to be socially critical but at the same time retreat to the safety of postmodern multiplicity. LEONARD KOSCIANSKI paintings & drawings HOME BIO CONTACT WHAT IS CRITICAL POSTMODERN ART?