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Subject - CSG / CSV (Cultural Studies)

Courses: Diploma of Graphic Design (CUV50311), Diploma of Visual Art (CUV50111)

VUIT Digital Arts

Teacher Name: Lisa Cianci - email:
Education Manager: Adam Hutterer - email:

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Class 12 - Lecture Notes

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Lecture Notes

TOPIC: From Modernism to Post Modernism



Counter Culture

  • Time of social freedom, of permissiveness and unconventionality

Dada and Surrealism were to go on and influence visual and popular culture through out the later half of the 20th century via Pop art the Counter culture of the sixties, through the Beats and later the Hippie movement. Art and Design for the counter culture in the Sixties was no longer just about formalism and function, instead it had begun to embrace personal liberation both psychologically and sexually. It was a time of social freedom, of permissiveness and unconventionality. Young people were no longer content to grow up as replicas of their parents they wanted change.

Beat poet Allen Ginsberg

As the counter culture took over as the major force in mainstream western culture, London, New York and Paris fast became the cultural capitals of a new-found and much celebrated sub culture, which through mass communication paved the way for its development on a truly global scale including Australia.

For a brief moment in history it was time of optimism, reflected in a buoyant mood that anything was possible, often bought about by the consumption of mind expanding drugs such as marijuana and LSD and alternative social awareness and sexual freedom.

Monterey Rock festival 1967

Rejection of mainstream culture was best embodied in the new genres of psychedelic rock music and new explorations in spirituality. Musicians who exemplified this era include The Beatles, The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Cream, The Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin and Bob Dylan.

Martin Sharp, “Blowing in the Mind”, Bob Dylan, 1967


  • Turn on tune in drop out

Sentiments were expressed in song lyrics and popular sayings of the period, such as "do your own thing," "turn on tune in drop out,” "whatever turns you on," "Eight miles high" and "light my fire." The counter-culture included interest in free love, astrology, communal living, oriental mysticism and the peace movement all of which have been a marked characteristic of post war youth culture since the days of the beatniks.

Peace Movement


“The Merry Pranksters” bus 1967


  • The psychedelic experience

A psychedelic experience is characterized by the striking perception of aspects of one's mind previously unknown, or by the creative exuberance of the mind liberated from its ostensibly ordinary fetters. Psychedelic states are an array of experiences including changes of perception such as hallucinations, synaesthesia, altered states of awareness or focused consciousness, variation in thought patterns, trance or hypnotic states, mystical states, and other mind alterations.

Dr Timothy Leary


These processes can lead to experience changes in mental operation defining their self identity different enough from their previous normal state that it can excite feelings of newly formed understanding ranging from revelation and enlightenment. Psychedelic states may be elicited by various techniques, such as meditation, sensory stimulation or deprivation and most commonly by the use of psychedelic substances.

Richard Avedon  “John Lennon” 1967



Within the mid-1960s rock culture of San Francisco, a radical new form of graphic design, informed by the psychedelic experience, was born. This was a bold new art form meant to advertise the dance concerts produced by promoters Bill Graham and Chet Helms between 1965 and 1971. These events were multisensory happenings at which LSD, then a non-controlled substance, was dispensed to those attending.

Wes Wilson, “Fillmore Auditorium”, 1967


The bands most frequently featured at the dance concerts, the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Moby Grape, and Big Brother and the Holding Company, emerged from the local hippie community flourishing in the city's Haight-Ashbury neighbourhood. The dance concerts were participatory events combining sound, light, and motion. The audience moved about the hall freely, dancing, listening, and watching the transporting projections of light-show artists.

Haight-Ashbury neighbourhood 1967

Psychedelic rock posters are the graphic extensions of the dance concerts and lasting documents of these events. Breaking long-established conventions of graphic design, the artists abandoned legibility and order for entwining, flowing, and distorted forms and lettering. The dizzying patterns, charged hues, wit, and visionary imagery of their designs reflect the sound and spirit of a particularly provocative moment in the history of American culture.

Bonnie MacLean ”The Yardbirds/The Doors/Richie Havens”, 1967



Numerous underground magazines sprung up in a wave of idealism. The best known of these was The International Times, Rolling Stone and OZ magazine, which started in Australia before moving to London in 1966.Its psychedelic graphics and imagery were published under the supervision of Richard Neville. It featured early writings by Germaine Greer and the psychedelically inspired artworks by Martin Sharp.



Stylistically Psychedelic art was inspired by a number of sources including

  • Art Nouveau’s sinuous curved lines?
  • Op arts use of bright optical colour and line vibration.
  • Use of bold complementary colour found in Pop art.
  • Psychedelic visual impulse induced by LSD with its subconscious expression.
  • Rock music and surreal imagery



  • Mass consumption of Hippie culture.

Although the Woodstock rock festival fulfilled everything the Hippies expected and dreamt of – a chaotic event full of music, love and peace – it was clear that the Movement in its original form couldn't exist any more. The masses had discovered hip culture, and the same way this culture found its way to public acceptance, the real Hippies started to withdraw into their imaginary “Woodstock Nation”.

Hippy fashion.

Mass culture assimilated most of the peripheral things of the Movement, but it did not adopt its essentials. Being hip became a trend, running around in old clothes and with flowers in the hair was something a lot of people were fond of – but it was only a trend, not a philosophy of life. Trends don’t last for long, early in the Seventies, being hip gave way to the upcoming Disco era. Being deeply deranged by this sell-out of their very own identification, the real Hippies began to radicalise in several ways.

  • Political resistance became more and more extreme

Nick Ut's  “Trang Bang after Napalm Attack”, 1972


The political resistance to both the Vietnam War and the American government became more and more extreme. With demonstrations and sit-ins becoming expressions of political outrage. A new extreme Leftists group, “The Weather Underground” formed within the counter culture, which looked for new extreme, violent ways to gain public attention.

Although it had no support within the general population and nearly none within the peaceful Hippies, the Weather Underground caused bad publicity for the New Left and its political aims by doing a series of bomb attacks on a number of US governmental installations. With this background, the last hope of the counter culture achieving a  “peaceful” political status passed away, particularly with Richard Nixon being president.



Post modern art and design describes an international cultural movement which was thought to be in contradiction to some aspects of Modernism having emerged or developed in its aftermath, hence the terms ‘post modern’ or “after modernism”. It had become the predominant term for art produced after the end of the 1960s and extended throughout the last quarter of the 20th century.

Richard Hamilton 'Just What Is It That Makes Today’s Homes So Different, So Appealing?' 1957



Although commonly known as Pop, artist such as Andy Warhol and Richard Hamilton with their use of appropriated and second degree imagery are now considered to be the earliest practitioners of a postmodern style and sensibility in art and graphic design.

Andy Warhol “Coke cola” 1962


  • Modern art should be “Popular, Transient, Expendable, Low-cost, Mass-produced, Young, Witty, Sexy, Gimmicky and Glamorous.

Richard Hamilton is considered to be the first British Pop artist. This was because, although he was the creator of iconic “Pop” images, and was the first artist to use the word in a painting, Hamilton exhibited an eclectic style, which resisted easy definition.

Whether working with “found objects”, or as painter, typographer, collagist, printmaker, graphic designer, digital image manipulator, screen printer, photographer, software programmer or computer builder, Hamilton was committed to exploring and blurring the boundaries of “high” and “low” culture even as they were refashioned by television, cinema and rock music.

Richard Hamilton “Interior II” 1964

Modern art, he wrote, should be

  • Popular (designed for a mass audience),
  • Transient (short-term solution),
  • Expendable (easily forgotten),
  • Low-cost, Mass-produced,
  • Young (aimed at youth),
  • Witty, Sexy, Gimmicky, Glamorous,
  • Big Business.



Peter Blake ”Tuesday” 1961


This painting by Peter Blake is named after Tuesday Weld, a young screen actress who began her career in the early 1960s and became one of the sex symbols of the day. Blake selected her as the subject of this painting because of her unusual first name. Two photographs of her are included at the top of the painting. The three bands of colour in the lower section of the work can be seen as alluding to the contemporary hard edge abstract painting of such artists as Albers, Kelly and Noland.

  • Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

The Beatles' Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, released in 1967, is arguably the most famous album sleeve of all time. The image on the album cover is composed of a collage of celebrities.

There are eighty-eight figures, including the band members themselves. Peter Blake and his wife Jann Haworth conceived and constructed the set, including all the life-sized cutouts of historical figures.

Peter Blake “The Beatles- Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band” album sleeve 1967

Michael Cooper photographed the set, with the Beatles standing in the centre. Copyright was a problem as Brian Epstein, the Beatles' manager, had to locate each person in order to get permission to use his or her image in this context.

The album cover design represents the strong relation between pop art and pop music, further contributing to the diminishing of the distinction between High culture and Popular culture. This would become a prominent reoccurring theme, defining the difference between Modernism and Post modernism.



David Hockney “A bigger splash”, 1967.

A Bigger Splash is a large pop style painting by British artist David Hockney. It depicts a swimming pool beside a modern house, disturbed by a large splash of water created by an unseen figure who has apparently just jumped in from a diving board. It was painted in California in 1967. The "A Bigger Splash" shows a typical California day – warm and sunny, with a cloudless blue sky.

Hockney’s composition is based on photographs of Californian buildings and swimming pools, seen in books and on earlier drawings he produced as studies. The canvas – almost a perfect square – is dominated by the strong vertical and horizontal lines of the trees, the building, and the edge of the pool; The calmness of the overall composition contrasts with the violent explosion of water caused by diver. Hockney has expressed his pleasure at taking two weeks to paint a moment that lasted two seconds.


Social Context  

  • To react against or reject avant-garde trends in Modernism

Pop art and Postmodernism describes art and design movements, which both arise from and react against or reject Avant–garde trends in Modernism. Specific trends of Modernism that are reacted to include the formal abstract purity encouraged by Constructivism and Bauhaus design and the purity authenticity and medium specific art and design practices such as American Abstract Expressionism in painting, printmaking or photography.

Clifford Still: “Untitled”, 1956


Ideas questioning originality and authenticity and the eclectic use of multi media in art and design became prevalent during Postmodernism.

Roy Lichtenstein “Whaam! “ 1963


·      The Death of the Author

The highly influential social critic Roland Barthes had produced writings in appropriation theory the 1970s namely ‘The death of the author” that directly suggested the idea of originality being textual in that originality was the result of artist and writers engaging and weaving together pre existing text or images in order to create new hybrid versions of images and texts. As a result many artist and designers from this period did engage in the practice “image scavenging” where images are recorded from existing sources found in any given media including print, television and cinema.

Ed Ruscha “Standard Station, Amarillo, Texas”1963

Appropriation Theory

Appropriation theory forms the corner stone of postmodern art it contends that appropriation can take the form of homage, parody, or eclecticism. The act of homage openly acknowledges a source of influence, as being superior and an artist will imitate its aesthetic features acknowledging reverence to it. To parody something would entail some form of imitation in order to ridicule the original source and eclecticism means to borrow and mix freely from a number of sources.   

Barbara Kruger “I shop therefore I am” Photographic silkscreen 1987

Despite her widespread feminist activism, Kruger’s art does not deal solely with the theme of women’s rights and gender roles. In many of her works, she seeks to challenge the consumerist culture of an increasingly mass-market society, as can be seen in I shop therefore I am, created in 1987.

Through the use of the caption “I shop therefore I am”, which is the most prominent element of the work, Kruger suggests that consumer culture and society’s increasing value for material goods are influenced significantly by advertising stereotypes. Kruger’s use of this cliché provokes audiences into questioning their own values in regard to consumer culture, and into considering the extent to which they are influenced by media stereotypes glorifying consumerism, such as the work’s caption. Under this interpretation, the work challenges the artificial, stereotypical notion of universal identification consumerism, and encourages audiences, particularly males, to form a more complex and realistic view of female cultural identity.



In general Postmodernism and contemporary trends in art and design encompasses movements such as Appropriation art, Neo Expressionism, Conceptual art, Installation, video and new media art. Some Postmodern artists include

Barbra Kruger

Barbra Kruger “We don’t need another hero” Photographic silkscreen on vinyl 1988

In We don’t need another hero, the central image is reminiscent of war propaganda posters, making a comment on the political context of growing militarism in the late 1980s, while also alluding to the traditional gender roles that construct males as powerful and dominating.

In the image, the young boy is portrayed as the archetypal male hero, exhibiting his strength to the girl, who glances at him in awe and submission. Through this, Kruger shows the power and influence of such stereotypes in constructing traditional cultural identity from an early age, particularly through their use in the mass media and advertising.

The image is augmented by the caption “We don’t need another hero”, which is presented in bold typography on a red background, once again alluding to propaganda advertising. This statement, which seems to come from a male perspective, further highlights the traditional, patriarchal notion that only men should be seen as heroes, and that another hero, in the form of a woman, is not needed.


Sherrie Levine

Sherrie Levine “Fountain (After Marcel Duchamp)” 1991

Levine is known for appropriating the images of other artists, of taking them and reproducing them, sometimes almost exactly, and then exhibiting them as her own. Having absorbed Duchamp’s lessons, Levine boldly selects, then undermines his and other prime examples of modernism (Brancusi, Malevich, Rodchenko,


David Salle

David Salle “Mingus in Mexico” Acrylic and oil on canvas 1990

David Salle has taken the device of pastiche, which is central to post modern art, and made it both the form and content of his work.

Juan Davila


Juan Davila "Bedroom Ensemble" 1980

Juan Davila’s work has been called "a collage of quotations” and references other artists, psychoanalysis and pornography.

 Imants Tillers.

Imants Tillers “Pataphysical man” oil on composite board. 1984


 ‘Pataphysical man’ embodies appropriation strategies, in this painting the large figure is derived from Giorgio de Chirico’s ‘The archaeologists’ of 1926–27. De Chirico’s habit of recycling his own imagery and his style of classicism fascinated Tillers. Other image sources include Latvian children’s books and the hand-prints found in Aboriginal rock art.

Some Postmodern graphic designers include:

Milton Glaser

“In my own case, when I did the Dylan poster, I acknowledged using Duchamp‘s profile as an influence. I think unless you’re modifying it and making it your own, you’re on very tenuous ground. It’s a dangerous example for students, if they see that appropriating people’s work is the path to success. Simply reproducing the work of others robs you of your imagination and form-making abilities. You’re not developing the muscularity you need to invent your own ideas”.


April Greiman

Greiman moved to Los Angeles in 1976, where she established the multi-disciplinary, multi layered approach that extends into her current practice. During the 1970s, she rejected the belief among many contemporary designers that computers and digitalization would compromise design; instead, she exploited pixilation and other digitization "errors" as integral parts of digital art, a position she has held throughout her career.


Tibor Kalman

Kalman uses cross cultural references from present and historic sources. Looking at this image at first glance the patient in bed has noticeable similarity to Jesus. The second thing is quite strange as the surrounding people look a lot healthier than the one in bed and this gives a contrast to an image and maybe a hint to obesity, as it turned out, the people in the picture are all family and the person in bed is suffering from AIDS and the photograph was used as a poster for the AIDS awareness.


Neville Brody.    

This is a poster designed by Neville Brody which has a strong Constructivist influence applied to a contemporary subject. The “Red” on the design stands out amongst the figures in the crowd, contrasted against how he has designed the shadows so they look like they are walking on the numbers, which gives it the impression that it is 3D.


David Carson

American Graphic Designer, David Carson is probably the most influential Graphic Designer of the nineties. His introduction of imaginative ideas in magazine design together with his use of experimental typography is very influential. Carson was the art director for the magazine Ray Gun in the early nineties. I just really like this design with the use of shapes in different colours to make the selection of objects stand out better. The use of type is very strong and almost looks like it is carved into the person’s hand.




The aesthetic practices associated with the term Postmodernism in art and design includes:

  • bricolage;
  • pastiche;
  • montage;
  • collage;
  • appropriation;
  • second-degree imagery.

The stylistic conventions of postmodernism graphic design include mixing diverse type sizes and weight, over laying of eclectic sources and references, cluttered pages layout and the use of wide ranging appropriated images.



Just as the postmodern design aesthetic was in the wind before the name was coined, its influence would continue into architecture. As a new generation of architects adopted the same pluralistic, expressive principles of as graphic artist. The works of Philip Johnston in the United States epitomized the postmodern style through out the 1980s.

Since the 1990s Western artists and designers have been open to an eclectic range of postmodern styles often combining kitsch with high art such as the work of Jeff Koons.

The term Kitsch is used to identify bogus imitations of genuine artistic creations in the fine and applied arts, architecture, literature, fashion, photography, the theatre, cinema and music.

Kitsch is sometimes used to refer to virtually any form of popular art or mass entertainment, especially when sentimental, but, although many popular art forms are cheap and somewhat crude, they are at least direct and unpretentious.

Kitsch can thus be defined as a kind of parasitic art, whose essential function is to flatter, soothe and reassure its viewer and consumer. There has been a greater acceptance of Kitsch as it is found in the use of diverse material such as street art, comics, and other non-traditional graphic media in popular culture such as the music video. Contemporary artists and designers now feel comfortable referencing popular culture in eclectic mixes of mediums and viewing contexts, together with the rapid development in new media technology.

Jeff Koons “Michael Jackson and Bubbles” 1988




Research Questions

  1. What time period is considered for the emergence of Postmodernism in art & design?

  2. Why are Andy Warhol's artworks considered to be the forebearers of the postmodern style?

  3. In what ways was Postmodernism a reaction against Modernism?

  4. In what ways was Postmodernism a continuation of Marcel Duchamp's early anti Modernist position?

  5. What did Roland Barthes mean by "Death of the Author"?

  6. What is Appropriation Theory in postmodern art & design?

  7. What is meant by the discontinuity in the binary between high and low culture?

  8. Find examples of how the postmodern visual elements of pastiche, montage and eclectic sampling can be found in the works of Barbara Kruger, Sherrie Levine, Juan Davila, Milton Glaser, April Greiman and Neville Brody.