Doubtless there are many folks who either don’t know what postmodernism (aka pomo) is, and/or frankly don’t care. And some may disagree with me when I assert without reservation that we are in the midst of the full flowering of pomo, just as the turn of the last century saw some of the finest examples of primo modernism in all its “shock ‘n’ awe,” experimental glory.
Furthermore, the modernist era is as “over” as the Renaissance or Romanticism before it, though their influence echoes through the centuries that survive them. It’s hardly coincidence, for example, that Jesus is still typically envisioned as blond haired and blue eyed—for that one can thank the Renaissance masters who made him over in their ideal artistic image centuries before we were born.
Just as the great modernists looked back to the era before for anti-inspiration so they would know what to rebel against (for instance, the art Academy, in the case of the major painters of the 20th century), so pomo could not have taken root and thrived without its precursor, modernism - which arguably existed in its purest form from the mid-19th to mid-20th century. The great clarion call of modernism was, first and foremost, to be shockingly “original”—discarding and rejecting all that had gone before in a mad frenzied dash to come up with the next new, pure creation.
Thus, the impressionists were soon “trumped” by the Dadaists and surrealists; who were in turn “supplanted” by the cubists and Abstract Expressionists; who were done one better by the Pop artists; from which sprung the artists who took advantage of the new “anything goes” climate by becoming minimalists; and finally outdone altogether by the conceptual artists (with a nod to the Dadaists and Marcel Duchamp), for whom a work of art could be anything from a roll of toilet paper mounted on a gallery wall to a pair of “artistes” in a rocky rowboat serving one lump or two/cream or lemon to their audience on the Hudson riverbank as part of a New York art world “tea party” to a dog turd wrapped in a silk blanket.
By the end, “art for art's sake” made it more and more difficult to define where art stopped and the mundane and commonplace began, and even who could be deemed an “artist” to begin with. Perhaps this is one reason why reality television and blogging are such popular genres now; as our media becomes more and more accessible and democratic to all, everyone has the potential to become a star.