Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Cubism, The great paradigm shift

Thomas Kuhn wrote that in the history of science, there are normal science periods where small problem solving happens and then there are periods of great revolution. Many art historians date cubism somewhere in the middle of the Modernism movement, however, I think Cubism and Dada was the real turning point or paradigm shift in art. Cubism did something completely different than any other art up until that time and that was portray a subject matter in multiple perspectives which opened the door to non-representational art. Dada changed questioned what art Is. Cubism and Dada changed the attitude and thinking of artists, as well as, debunking the realm of possibilities an art work could depict. The Renaissance was another period of paradigm shifts in art. This period latest a few generations. So, are we still in the shift, or are we not just in the normal period of rethinking, reworking, and solving out the new forms of art?


Troy Camplin said...

If art movements go through the stages of primitive, developed, baroque, and decadent, it seems to me that the primitive stage is the tentative feeling out of something new (impressionism, postimpressionism), the developed stage is the time of the truly revolutionary works (cubism, dada), baroque is the settling down of the movement (pop and pomo), and decadent is the falling off, sending the signal that something new is needed (contemporary art?) The last two are perhaps "normal art" in the Kuhnian sense.

Todd Camplin said...

Wow, that clears that up. Modernism art movements cycled at a lighting speed compared to the previous art cycles.

Scott said...

The art movements of the past were all based on or rooted in some form of the assertion that things are ultimately knowable or provable. This basis might have been God's truth, or natural reason, the heroic genius of an individual artist... The new movements bulldozed through past ones, claiming, "Your basis is wrong... here's the right one." Then, "No, that one's wrong--this is the right one." The strength of a movement was its ability to claim its place as the true mediator of objective reality.

We are not in the shift, nor are we in the 'normal period': we've broken out of the cycle. Lyotard called postmodernism 'incredulity towards the metanarrative'--our culture no longer has nor wants a single objective basis on which to found a movement. He also called on artists to make meaning for an environment that rejects totalizing statements of meaning.

We can take advantage of an artistic environment written on flowing water instead of stone: innovation is easier and more acceptible. But there's no room for true paradigm shifts: no old conventions to shatter. The new ideas float on the surface, sink to the bottom, or become another aspect of the flow.

Until or unless the culture is realigned on the basis of a universal--the water frozen into ice or mixed into concrete--there won't be another true shift. Just an indefinite "normal period of rethinking, reworking and solving out".

Todd Camplin said...

I use to believe as you did Scott, but like fashion, art has always run in cycles. Talk to any of your professors that have been around a while and they will tell you that cycles of taste are what they have observed from the art world. Then talk to some art historians and they will tell you, in a roundabout way that art runs in cycles. Regionally and globally a type of art becomes in vogue to buyers, dealers, and museum curators, then that art goes out of vogue. Now a truly good artists sticks to her/his convictions and makes the work despites the trends of buyers. Great artists set the next trends of buyers, but then stick to their convictions once the trend has pasted. Art Stars set many trends or they just don’t go out of vogue when the trend has changed. Now it may be the case that we are at the end of art, were art is open to all styles and ideas at once. But, then this would be the greatest paradigm shift of all, because this new age of not having cycles would have ushered into the world. However, I think this would be an optimistic utopian talk where all art is accepted and no art style dies. Post-Modernism claims to not have a style, but not having a style is a style. Thus, if Post-Modernism is a style, we have not left the cycle. Cycles are not bad. We live in cycles, civilization live in cycles, the economy lives in cycles, and so does art. Just because the last cycle was about constant overturning of each movement doesn’t mean the next one will be like so aggressive and exclusive. Modernism was about revolution. The Renaissance cycle was more fluid and less confrontational with itself at each passing phase. This cycle is going to look different for the last one, because that is the nature of the cycle. You alluded to the cycle yourself when you said, ‘the new ideas float on the surface, sink to the bottom, or become another aspect of the flow.’ This is a description of a cycle.

Troy Camplin said...

But Scott, your last statement actually agrees with my point about us being in a "normal" stage of art. At the same time, you are actually identifying one of the features of decadence in your description of pomo. Take a look at decadent periods in history, and you will see periods of people rejecting truth, virtue, etc., in the same way as pomo does.

Todd, things cycled at lightning speed because information communication was so much faster in the 20th C. Thus, new ideas spread at lightning speed.

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Brandon said...

Hello, I came across your blog and you raise a very great point on cubism. I am doing my Thesis on Artistic Paradigm shifts focusing on how art became what it is today.

To one comment on art in cycles,to some extent that is correct, but in painting not so much. Artists work from previous art forms, but not exactly "exact" to the form. Artists may enhance or omit certain things they like or dislike.

To the original poster, I would love to speak to you more on this topic! If you are interested e-mail me at