when’s modernism?


IMAGINE AN ART EXHIBITION called “Modernism” focusing on the years 1914 to 1939. Sounds unlikely, doesn’t it? We think of artistic modernism as having had two great expansive phases: the first leading from Cézanne through Cubism to the birth of abstraction in the Netherlands and Russia but soon eclipsed—in the West by the postwar “return to order,” in Russia by the political changes wrought by Lenin’s death in 1924 (though the complete triumph of socialist realism would only come a decade later)—and the second, very different phase, commencing after World War II with the Abstract Expressionists and centered as much on the United States as on Europe. Not that this modernism did not undergo compelling developments in the ’20s and ’30s, far from it, but those difficult and embattled years would certainly not be the ones an overview of the movement would take as its focus.

All the more fascinating, then, for an observer schooled in art more than in design to be reminded that, in the latter field, the interwar period might be considered modernism’s heyday.

more from artforum here.