No discussion of Contemporary Art is complete without addressing three “Post’s”: Post-Painterly Abstraction, Post-Medium Condition and Post-Minimalism.
Post-Painterly Abstraction is a term first coined in 1964 by the great art critic Clement Greenberg (one of the three kings of the Cultureburg) for an exhibition that he himself curated in LA. The exhibition featured names like Morris Louis (with his ‘unfurleds’), Frank Stella and Kenneth Noland (with his ‘targets’), among others, and served as an umbrella term for a number of styles that broke away with Abstract Expressionism (which Greenberg called Painterly Abstraction): Color Filed and Hard-Edge Abstraction are the two most important such styles.
linear in design, bright in color, lacking in detail and incident, and open in composition (leading the eye beyond the frame of the canvas). Moreover, and as Greenberg said: “In their reaction against the ‘handwriting’ and ‘gestures’ of Painterly Abstraction, these artists also favor a relatively anonymous execution.”
Postminimalism is a term first used by Robert Pincus-Witten in 1971 in reference to the emerging trend first visible in an exhibition titled Eccentric Abstraction (NY, 1966), featuring works by Eva Hesse, Bruce Nauman and Louise Bourgeois. As the name implies, the term refers to a range of styles that appeared after (and in reaction to) Minimalism: Performances, Earth Art, Site-Specific Art, Installations, Conceptual Art (in part), etc.
From Minimalism, Postminimalism borrowed abstraction and anonymity. To that it added emotion and a personal touch, in reaction to the impersonal nature of Minimalist works. The Postminimalists rejected the industrial processes involved in executing Minimalist artworks and decided to allow for softer forms, and hence the term ‘anti-form’.
Post-Medium Condition is a term used by the art critic Rosalind Krauss in her 2000 book “A voyage on the North Sea: Art in the Age of the Post-Medium Condition”, in which she uses the art of Marcel Broodthaers to argue against Clement Greenberg’s notion of medium specificity. This notion, which calls for exploiting aspects specific to a given medium (like flatness in the case of painting on a canvass) lost much of its credit in the postmodern age, in big part due to the rise of countless media –and mixed media- that became commonly used by artists regardless of their ‘specificity’. Postmodernism witnessed the meltdown of many boundaries in art, and the typical media conventionally considered ‘art media’ (like the canvass in case of painting or metal/wood/rock in case of sculpture) are giving way to an art scene in which everything and anything can serve as a medium of artistic expression, from the artist’s own body to video and computer games.