Donald Judd’s “not about masterpieces, but why there are so few of them” response

As part of my theory reading for my fine art degree course, I have read an article by minimalist artist, Donald Judd (1928-1994), about the state of Postmodern art in 1984. He points out how there was a lack of original ideas for new art at the time, as well as the general ignorance of people who call something “postmodern” when they actually have no idea what it truly means. He also points out how religion was viewed upon with superstition and no longer seen as a source of artistic inspiration for “serious artists”. This was to expected in the 1980s, where many young artists of different medias (art, music, film, etc.) strove to be more inventive and be the opposite of what was the established status quo.

Even art wasn’t seen as anything but a commodity, something to be sold and exchange based on its value. Low grade art was less valued, but had more effort and creativity behind it, whereas more expensive art looks good, but lacks any effort whatsoever.

Most people rarely understood the past, and those that said they did were being hypocrites. Just because one understands art, doesn’t mean they know everything about it, and if you say you do, and criticize the work of a recent artist (without looking into their influences), then you are hypocritical.

The overall point of this article is this: what is postmodernism and how it is defined?

Modernism and postmodernism are still hard to truly define, even today. However, they are most commonly associated with art and literature. I see Modernism as a reaction to events occurring in our culture (war, capitalism, and socialism) with the public’s attention drawn to the art and how it is used to convey the artist’s feelings, whereas Postmodernism is a reflection of popular trends in our culture (film, TV and comics). Postmodern artists wanted to take these popular staples and put their own, unique touches/interpretation on them.

People who use the word often don’t know the characteristics of “modern”, let alone “postmodern”. They use the term to describe the newest piece of artwork, the most popular piece of art, never realizing that all the popular art they praise, would not exist were not for the techniques and methods that were first developed and refined by artists of the past. These artists, whose work these people criticize and look down upon, lay the foundation for Postmodernism and Modernism.

Personally, I have similar feelings towards popular culture, specifically movies currently dominated by superheroes. This year alone, we will be getting a dozen films from Marvel and DC, all of them focus on one thing: action. Big, explosive action, with very little time to focus on story or logic.

I can understand Judd’s feelings towards art at the time, however I don’t how he would feel about art today. If I had to guess, I say he be very impressed with how postmodernism is being treated today, as more young artists are looking into the work of many pop artists (Warhol, Johns and Pollack) to help inspire them. However, he probably be slightly dissatisfied with how most of the population are more interested with consumerism and money than fine art.


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