Modernism is the most frustratingly unspecific, the most recalcitrantly UNperiodizing, of all the major art-historical 'isms' or concepts.
--the Politics of Modernism

Picasso's Guernica

Modernism was a movement that took hold with the coming of the 20th century and lasted up until the end of World War II. There is no clear cut definition due to Moderism's erratic nature and countless contextual meanings. It contains so many facets that even today we are still refining many of it's concepts. It was based on the belief that through enlightenment we could figure out many of the problems related to living with ourselves while considering others and rejecting hundreds of years of traditions and superstitions.

It is the push that moved society forward.


Some of the major political, cultural, and social events that occurred at this time include: The Battle of Wounded Knee; aspirin being invented; the first steel framed skyscrapers were installed; Plessy vs. Ferguson went to trial; The Gold Rush started; The Spanish-American War was fought; President McKinley was assassinated and Roosevelt took office; Ford established Ford Motor Company; Music was listened to through the radio; the Panama canal was dug; Woodrow Wilson took office; the Titanic sunk; WWI came and went; Prohibition was ratified; The Russian Revolution occurred; Race riots in Chicago; the Black Sox scandal; Odessa (now the major city of the Russian mob) was taken by the Red Army; the gun was patented; Einstein won the Nobel peace prize; the KKK flared up; Joyce's Ulysses was burned by the USPO; the USSR was established; Gandhi did time for civil disobedience; Insecticides were first used; Marie Curie won the Nobel Prize; the Scopes Monkey Trial ensured the right to learn about evolution; Women received the right to vote; Hitler wrote Mein Kamph Vol.1; Tommy Guns were produced; Hoover was elected president; TV began to be broadcast; the stock market crashed; The Depression set in; Color movie film was invented; The empire state building was erected; the Lindberg kidnapping took place; the USSR starved; Hitler rose to power; Spanish Civil War; the WAR of the WORLDS was delivered by Orson Wells; World War II declared; and women got that extra lift so desperately needed from the Bra.

The Women's movement also took root with works such as Kate Chopin's Awakening, Virginia Woolf and her use of 'stream of consciousness,' the Sanger birth control clinic opened, bobbed hair becomes the rage, Marianne Moore is published in the twenties, Gertrude Stein surfaces and Josephine Baker WOW-ed Paris.

Some of the prevalent Avant Guard movements through the arts included Art Nouveau, Cubism, Abstractism, Russian Constructionism, Dadaism, Fauvism, Marxism, Expressionism, Bauhaus, Surrealism, and Futurism. With these movements, artists were free to explore form and substance rather the concentrate on fine tuning realism techniques, since photography was able to conquer that realm.

With the booming media of film and photography, public film exhibitions were held in Paris, Stieglitz open gallery 291 on 5th avenue, Mayakovsky produced the first meta-cinematic film, Nosferatu was released, and cinema determined how the government was to spread a fevered nationalism and patriotic propaganda.

Mayakovsky, a Russian Futurist
by Rodchenko

Carl Jung
During this time there the main shift in thinking and change in human consciousness was fueled from the ideas and beliefs of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. These men allowed a language to be created for artists to express themselves.
Sigmund Freud

Man Ray& Bauhaus Design& KANDINSKY& Italian Futurism& Max Ernst

Feelings, perceptions, emotions took the forefront as psychology was developed and the art world was wide open for interpretation. This was a volatile time for politics
because there seemed to be no stability or cohesion in Europe. Everything meant something and symbols were looked to as omens of what was to come or what was to be interpreted.

Buildings became more usable and livable as architects rejected ornate designs. The Bauhaus had it's own school of thought to blend form and function. They took the actual living and working spaces into account over the beauty of the outside.

marcel du Champ

Taking all of the above information into account, we can take a look outside our windows and see what kind of impact Modernism has had upon our lives physically.

Since we are post Jung and Freud (except for PhD. Webber) they represent a critical way of viewing our environment and thinking about ourselves and our situations in relation to the world around us. Their cultural impact moves over us like seismic waves, bring a new way of seeing something each time the earth settles.

Politics was constructed and deconstructed in an endless pattern. Walls went up in order to be torn away; Communism did not flourish; women did get the right to vote. The internal structures of our political system was not damaged by the other problems the rest of the world faced, but it was forced into change and consequently redefined stricter social convictions throughout the fifties because of the Cold War and fear.

Our art, our politics, everything that we are today went through this revolution of Modernism and every thing reflects the massive change that enabled the Technological Age to begin and humans to better communicate.

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