The art of Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg during the 1950s and 1960s : the transition from modernism to postmodernism.
This dissertation is intended as an investigation into the art of Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg.The aim of thisinvestigation is to assess the possibility that the art produced by Johns and Rauschenberg during the 1950s and 1960s constitutes a transition from modernism to postmodernism in the visual arts in America. This dissertation is introduced by means of a broad outline of relevent developments within the visual arts during the1950s and 1960s in America. This outline also contains explanations of modernism and postmodernism and looks at how these terms are presented throughout this text. In the outline I describe how Johns and Rauschenberg can be identified with a shift that occurred in the visual arts in America during the mid 1950s away from two prominent modes of painting within modernism, namely' action' painting, as described by Harold Rosenberg (1982:28), and Clement Greenberg's 'American-type' painting (1973:208). Both Johns and Rauschenberg actively produced art during the 1970s and 1980s the period in which postmodernism is generally regarded to have been most prominent. However, in an attempt to assess the possibility that their art is transitional from modernism to postmodernism, this investigation focuses upon a selection of artworks produced during the 1950s and 1960s. I intend to discover whether or not these works signalled a departure from modernism and if they did, at what point this occurred and what the specific nature of this departure was. These works are examined from conceptual, formal, iconographical, stylistic and technical viewpoints. Throughout this dissertation I attempt to describe how Johns and Rauschenberg anticipated and embraced various postmodem tendencies that have subsequently emerged in the arts and other related disciplines. Parallels are drawn between the artworks of Johns and Rauschenberg and the disciplines of architecture and literary theory. These parallels are drawn with the intention of aligning Johns and Rauschenberg's attitude towards making art in the 1950s and 1960s with a relatively widespread mood in literary theory, philosophy and the social sciences concerning the inability of these disciplines to deliver totalising theories and doctrines, or enduring answers to fundamental dilemmas and puzzles posed by objects of inquiry, and a growing feeling, on the contrary, that chronic provisionality, plurality of perspectives and incommensurable appearances of the objects of inquiry in competing discourses make the search for ultimate answers or even answers that can command widespread consensus a futile exercise. (Boyne and Rattansi 1990: 12).