The V&A launched their major autumn exhibition last Friday; Postmodernism: Style and Subversion and IDOL were at the opening to take a look. The exhibition draws on the some of the most definitive icons and pioneers of Postmodernism – a movement beyond any simple comprehension. Described as ‘toxic’, she is the sultry sister of modernism who prospered in the industrial revolutions of the Western world. She proudly denies the minimal, clinical and functional offerings of modernism, laughs in the face of high art and sits comfortably at the helms of pop culture whilst producing work that is subversive, provocative and unashamedly shallow.
The exhibition itself takes up three rooms of the V&A, each designed to guise the museum as anything from Laurie Anderson’s apartment to a pseudo-industrial nightclub to the gritty set of Wall Street. There are over 250 objects on display and the curators efforts to navigate through the realms of architecture, design, art, fashion, music and club culture of the 80s, creates delicate cross-section of the pan-cultural soup that is Postmodernism.
Stand out pieces within the exhibition include a presentation drawing of the AT&T building designed by Philip Johnson. The building brazenly riles the crux of consumerism in the best sense - ironically. With a Chippendale top and granite detailing, the structure resembles a logo and conveys the brutal monumentality of corporate companies. With other pieces such as Grace Jones’ notorious maternity dress, art work by Peter Saville, a range of work by Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Browns as well lashings of Warhol, Ai Wei Wei, Frank Gehry and Martine Bedin; the exhibitions promise to assault your senses and overwhelm you with nostalgia. This being from a not so distant past that you may or may not like to be reminded of. However, for a younger audience who can only identify with the cultural references explored within the exhibition, through regurgitations of an older generation and a penchant for anything, well, vintage - Postmodernism is a movement still very much moving. The V&A are fashionably offering an enthralling incite to a world that hoards of vibrant young people strife to replicate everyday, in every facet of their lifestyle from apocalyptic outfit choices sourced in charity shops, to incessant obsessions with vinyl to the revival of analogue photography.
At the end of the exhibition, you are left with an understanding that all creative practitioners involved in postmodernism had a common feat in their work; they all examined the past with an eye to the future; sampling motifs of history to hyper-inflate the inadequacies of modernism and fashion consumerism and excess as the emblem of the postmodernist ethos.
The exhibition is on view at The Victoria & Albert Museum until 15th January 2012.
© V&A Images
Written by Kamaldeep Dhillon