Thursday, 22 September 2011

“Weird for the sake of weird.” While it may have been written for comic effect, this flippant definition of Postmodernism, given by Moe Syzlak  aka the bartender in The Simpsons, pretty much sums up the general public’s take on an often misunderstood cultural movement.

Fortunately the V&A is here to set things straight. The museum’s ambitious autumn exhibition – Postmodernism: Style and Subversion 1970-1990 – promises to chart how Postmodernism, from its origins in architecture, came to dominate popular culture and design during the 1970s and 80s. Far from being gratuitous, the show insists PoMo was a deliberate rejection of the simplicity of Modernism in favour of a radical rethinking of design through humour, clashing styles, mixed references and vibrant images.

As well as high profile fine art pieces, such as Dollar Sign (1981) by Andy Warhol and Ai Weiwei’s Han Dynasty Urn with Coca Cola Logo (1994), this comprehensive show includes everything from a hologram portrait of Boy George to a Mickey Mouse tea set. Video installations of Koyaanisqatsi, Godfrey Reggio’s mesmerising 1982 time-lapse film of a city at night and O Superman (1981) by performance artist Laurie Anderson should also be savoured.

Look out for graphic designer Peter Saville’s beautiful, pared down album covers, Hip-hop mix pioneer Grandmaster Flash’s trusty Technics and an extraordinary Constructivist Maternity Dress (1979), designed for Postmodernist icon Grace Jones by her then lover, Jean-Paul Goude. The latter is a necessary education for anyone who believes Lady Gaga’s outlandish style is every bit her own. 

Postmodernism: Style and Subversion 1970 – 1990 is open daily from 24 September 2011 – 15 January 2012 at the V&A, Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RL. Tickets are £11.


This interview originally appeared on The Cultural Exposé

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