Contemporary art criticism is deeply rooted in modernist and postmodernist theories. Modernism, which drew on the formalist theories of critics like Ad Reinhardt and Clement Greenberg, was a period of art-for-art’s sake that called for ‘pure painting’ that was free of illustration, distortion, illusion, allusion or delusion?’. For Clement Greenberg, the physical dimensions of the medium defined ‘pure painting’ and ‘pure sculpture’. Artists stripped their paintings of three-dimensional illusions and embarked on academic studies that emphasized “the flat surface, the [rectangular] shape of the support, the properties of pigment”. Greenberg’s formalist theories sought to establish objective criteria for the evaluation of art based on this interaction of form and medium. Modernist theory, however, was highly deterministic with only one approach to evaluating the aesthetic quality of artwork.
As formalism reached a peak in the 1960’s, body, performance, pop, and conceptual art rejected the modernist doctrine and ushered in the era of postmodemism which challenged all restrictions on form and aesthetics. For many theorists, the fragmented pluralism of postmodernism led to ‘. . . depthless styles, refusing, eluding, interpretation’. Out of this aesthetic chaos, new forms of artwork emerged including artworks that use computer graphics as an integral part of the design process. However, much of this art is criticized for its lack of aesthetic quality, with critics maintaining that the work merely imitates earlier art forms.
- Patricia Search, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York ,USA
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