Modernism in art is a trend that signifies the development of society through the rejection of old traditions and concepts of artistic expression. One example of modernism is cubism, which is a style of painting developed in the 20th century. Cubists rejected the classical art tradition by using different techniques and shifting the focus from people to objects and still life. Another example of modernism is 20th-century architecture, which also signified the rejection of classical concepts, ideas, and forms. Most of the buildings created in 20th-century America are visually different from those constructed just one century earlier. In particular, modernist buildings no longer had columns, soft, curved lines, or clock towers.
The third example of modernism relates to philosophy. The development of the science of psychology enabled people to consider philosophical notions in a new light, and this caused the rejection of certain ideas that were prevalent earlier. For instance, Sigmund Freud regarded human behavior as a consequence of previous experiences and development instead of as a reflection of human nature and the influence of duty, spirituality, and other factors. The study of science thus enabled philosophers to shed light on specific ideas, showing how the past understanding of them was limited and incorrect.
Upon examining the issue in greater depth, I found that the notion of modernism is not as radical as might seem at first glance. Moreover, the text provided some insight into the reasons for the development of modernism, which also affected my position. First of all, in order to understand modernism, it is essential to explore its sources. According to the chapter, the key reason for modernism was the development of new technology, because it prompted shifts in the economy and society. For example, mass production technology was probably the key premise that made consumerism possible. It also supported the development of businesses, thus facilitating the evolution of capitalism.
The reflection of these changes in art is what gave it a modern look. Hughes mentions that Cubist paintings were designed to signify the transformation of society and consciousness, and thus, they can be read as an allegory to social development as well as a result of it. By painting still life in obscure forms, cubists reflected the notions of consumerism and capitalism without portraying the technologies that prompted these concepts. Similarly, the design of the Chrysler building was influenced by the shift in construction technologies that made it possible to create tall buildings with straight lines and geometric shapes.
The other idea that came to my mind after studying the chapter and the readings was that modernist art is less radical than it appears to be because it still draws from the influences of the past. In his article on Sigmund Freud’s work, Thornton explains that Freud’s ideas mirror those of an Ancient Greek philosopher Plato. Similarly, although the Chrysler building is presented as a symbol of new ideas in architecture, individual elements of it can be found in classical architecture. Hence, I would suggest that the modernist approach in art does not aim to reject the past entirely, but rather to draw from a variety of influences to present a new product.