Tate Modern


Suggested displays/exhibitions/viewings/readings

1.      State of Flux

2.      Poetry and Dream

3.      Hear about the two pioneers of Modernism (Albers and Moholy-Nagy: From the Bauhaus to the New World


4.      Read about the kinds of questions the Tate are asking in their research project Rethinking Modernism.



 1.      From your exploration of the galleries visited in the Tate Modern, list five general characteristics of Modernism as well as five specific movements associated with the Modernist period.

Maybe the saying that would describe Modernism and its worldview could be “out with the old and in with the new”. Modernist era in Western art started circa 1860s lasting until c.1960s. There was an overall attempt to be innovative, improve, new and come up with progressive ideas. Also rejection of tradition, questioning/ re-examining  “the old”ways or leaving them behind in art/culture but also in the social environment and technology for new solutions.

´The ideology of modernism had several sources. One of the earliest was the English artist William Morris, whose writings formed the basis for the arts and crafts movement. Morris advocated a return to well-made, handcrafted goods instead of mass-produced, poor quality machine-made items. In his famous statement, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful,” Morris outlined the modern belief that utility was as important as beauty.

Another important figure in this development, and the first great modern architect, was the American Louis Sullivan, who coined the phrase “Form Follows Function.” For Sullivan, functionalism meant the elimination of ornament so the building plainly expressed its purpose, and the principle led to the idea of designing buildings from the inside outwards, letting the essential structure dictate the form and therefore its external appearance.´

Le Corbusier, probably the most influential modern architect, introduced a fascination with the designs of engineers, such as grain silos, cruise ships, and automobiles. His radical ideas were given full expression in his 1923 book Vers Une Architecture (“Towards a New Architecture”), an impassioned manifesto. It is still the best-selling architecture book of all time, and it includes Le Corbusier’s famous motto: “A house is a machine for living in.”


Modernist art movements : Impressionism, Fauvism, Expressionism,Futurism, Cubism, Dada, Surrealism, Bauhaus, Abstract Art, Abstract Expressionism.

2.      How would you define Modern Art as opposed to Modernist Art? What kind of art is included within the term Modern Art? How helpful is this term for you? Do you agree that everything included within in it is art? If not, why not?

“In the field of art the broad movement in Western art, architecture and design which self-consciously rejected the past as a model for the art of the present. Hence the term modernist or modern art.” This is how Tate Modern defines the term in its glossary. To be honest I do find it difficult to find huge difference especially when it comes to Modern Art opposed to Modernist Art. Could it be that Modernism is a broader term?

Art that I saw being exhibited especially in the Poetry and Dream section in Tate Modern for example did range from paintings to odd objects molded by Marcel Duchamp “Wedge of chastity” or Julian Trevelyan’s “Bomblet”, and everything in between. Perhaps certain displays were not to my particular taste and therefore I am not agreeing with everything being displayed and seen as art, but I guess its idea is also to evoke discussion and wonderment to be effective and what is then considered art anyway.

Then if reflecting back on those aforementioned pieces, they have their place in the museum of modern art, when binding together all the different movements, eras and creations.

 3.      From listening to the clip under link 3 above, what contribution did Albers and Moholy Nagy make to Modernism? What was the significance of the Bauhaus movement? How did this affect the spread of Modernist ideals? What was its political agenda?

German-born Josef Albers (1888-1976)was one of the founder members of Bauhaus and so was also very strongly involved developing the movement, and carrying on the European Modernism/ Bauhaus movement even after he emigrated to America,where he introduced the movement to a new generation. Albers’ experience in Germany with the Bauhaus, and their integration of architecture, fine art, and craft, influenced his teaching methods at Black Mountain College, where was the head of the art department,  informed his students to the modern European artistic concepts. Especially his revolutionary colour paintings which take time for the viewer to understand the interaction between colour and geometry, went on to influence new art forms like Op-Art, Geometric Abstraction and Colour Field painting.
In addition to painting, printmaking, and executing murals and architectural commissions, Albers published poetry, articles, and books on art theory

Hungarian-born László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) using new and industrial techniques, experimenting with light and shadow in his works and also to experimenting with in different fields of art(photography,photograms, painting, writing, films). Political instability of 1930 Germany affected the Bauhaus and its team all, when the school was closed down in 1933 by the Nazi. The again he also moved to America,and his  legacy was the version of Bauhaus teaching he brought to the United States, where he established the highly influential Institute of Design in Chicago.

Because of the political situation in Europe and especially in pre-second world war Germany these artist felt restricted by the authority. The pressure that led to closing of Bauhaus school drove them to emigrate and find more open surroundings to continue their work, and that freedom was available in America.

Bauhaus school of architecture and applied design was founded by Walter Gropius in 1919 with a strong idea – the notion that the artist should be involved in the technological innovations of mechanization, be open to new ideas and mass production. Also Bauhaus was a socially oriented, teaching that the artist must be conscious of his responsibility to the community and the community should support the artist.
4.      What connections have the Tate curators emphasized between the different movements included in the State of Flux display?

The State of Flux displays art of the early twentieth-century movements Cubism, Futurism and Vorticism to Pop-Art etc. The exhibition tries to convey with its vast display of different art  and new methods was being produced in different eras by different artists, but also show political situation in the world at the time. The new innovations and advances in technology and science, the overall Modernism that was taking place.

Also evident are the links how some era has influenced the next and how influences in art are actually connected to each other. Like how Cubist collage, entertainment industry and capitalism influenced Pop-Art. How Bauhaus  teachings of modern, professional approaches to art, architecture and industrial design influenced and  has reached to other countries like Japan and America. Especially the Japanese Photography and the Bauhaus (Room 4) shows this imminent connection how Bauhaus school gathered students like Iwao Yamawaki (photographer) and others, also international exhibitions held at the time helped to mold and develop other artists work.

Architecture and Power (Room 10) also showcases how architecture and the power games in politics by molding the actual environment according to certain idealism. “Through architecture, therefore, the artists explore wider concerns such as the aspirations and failures of modernist utopianism, the effects of colonialism, revolutionary and independence movements and subsequent efforts towards nation building. Their work also addresses how architectural structures mirror the exercise of state power or play a role in war and repression.”

 5.      The display Poetry and Dream uses Surrealism as a focal point. What was modern about the surrealists focus on the unconscious? How relevant to our society is the more contemporary work that has been informed by the surrealists? Why?

Surrealism was influenced by Sigmund Freud’s theories of the unconscious, primal drives and dreams. Surrealists in art, politics and literature were immersing themselves in their work by using different and new methods like free association, symbolism and the use of chance without correction, overall trying to liberate imagination and eventually liberation of the man.

Surrealists have also been linked with political movements like Communism, anarchism and revolutionary beliefs. Surrealism also went on to influence Abstract Expressionism on to Postmodernism. Surrealism has had and continues to have immense influence in art, literature, cinema, social sciences etc.

 6.      Think about the exhibits you have seen and read the online summary of the Tate’s project Rethinking Modernism (see link 4 above). Are any of these questions relevant in terms of your time travel project? What other questions might you now research in connection with that brief?

Seeing the exhibition and reflecting on the Time travel brief, both of these encourage to look deeper into how social, political and artistic work are connected to one another, also being aware of it and how difficult definitions can sometimes be in art. How ideas have spread across various parts of culture and how the past still keeps on influencing the present.

 7.     Use the Tate Modern as a resource to find out what is understood by Postmodernism. Identify five characteristics of postmodernist art and five postmodern artists whose work is held by the Tate.

Term Postmodernism ( perhaps starting with Pop-Art) is used in Western art starting from 1970s as a reaction against Modernism,(big shifts happened after the 2nd world war) rejecting previous views and questioning classifications of Modernism. Postmodernism also likes to blur the boundaries between what is considered high and low/popular art and culture.

Postmodernist artists held by Tate are Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Cindy Sherman, Laurie Simmons.

 8.     What inspiration have you drawn from the various exhibits in terms of developing correspondence with your chosen artist in the Wish You Were Here Brief? What might you ask them about either Modernist or Postmodernist Art?

My chosen artist for the brief will be Russian Constructivist artist Varvara Stepanova who was strongly involved developing the Constructivist movement in the 20th century. I would like to find out what it was for a artist and a woman artist in the tumultous years after the Russian Revolution. Although she was an artist in her own right, her work can be sometimes overshadowed by her husbands Alexander Rodchenko but I  guess it is only natural because they used to collaborate a lot aswell.

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