Off the Wall: Postmodern Art at Reynolda

West Bedroom Gallery

During the 1960s when postmodernism was first used to describe contemporary art, it was generally understood that it meant that a work of art was not only chronologically “after” modernism, it was also “against” it, rejecting the dominant art movement of the twentieth century’s ideology. Postmodernism has since become an accepted descriptive term for culture during the final decades of the twentieth century. But what does it mean for art (architecture, literature, dance, music, film, fashion) to be “postmodern”?

In Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, published by the Museum of Modern Art in 1966, author and architect Robert Venturi declared: “I like elements that are hybrid rather than ‘pure,’ compromising rather than ‘clean,’ distorted, rather than ‘straightforward,’ ambiguous, rather than ‘articulated,’ perverse as well as impersonal, boring as well as ‘interesting.’ I am for messy vitality over obvious unity. I am for richness of meaning rather than clarity of meaning; for the implicit meaning as well as the explicit function.”

This small exhibition in the historic house includes works of art from the Museum’s collection by Alan Shields, Anni Albers and Carl Andre, alongside painting and sculpture by Thornton Dial Sr., Vik Muniz, Louise Nevelson and Lloyd Toone; all that can be considered “off the wall,” illustrating Venturi’s desire for “messy vitality.”