A Study of Form Theory and Context

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A Study of Form Theory and Context through Modernism High Modernism and Postmodernism

Within this paper, one will find three distinct, yet oddly similar, evolutionary design practices/movements. With regard to formal, theoretical, and contextual considerations, the design practices within Modernism, High Modernism, and Postmodernism will be explored. Each movement has it’s own distinct features which I hope to touch on. I will be using the Bauhaus as a means to better explain Modernism. With High Modernism, a concept that is important to understand is that of international style. Finally, Postmodernism would best be accompanied with the idea of eclectic visual language. Accompanying each movement with a designer who is well known within the respective practice is important to further the idea of this paper.

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To begin, it is important to understand that Modernism and Postmodernism have somewhat blurred lines. There was some programmatic negation of modernism on the role of postmodern authors, and even postmodernism endured with and produced some contemporary ideas and techniques. Whether postmodernism should be seen as a distinct escape with modernity or its continuation is a matter of current serious discussion. Modernity is often characterized as the rejection of Modernism and all its effects urban isolation, capitalism, shifting social relations, contemporary innovations. But various stances towards modernity differ from writer to writer and from part to part. It’s not unexpected to find clashing positions within one literary thing. Modernism really attempts to shatter thought or to produce an outright denial of logical. While some scholars see modernism continuing into the twenty-first century others see it evolving into late modernism or high modernism, which is then superseded by postmodernism. A notable characteristic of modernism is self-consciousness and irony concerning literary and social traditions, which often led to experiments with form, along with the use of techniques that drew attention to the processes and materials used in creating a painting, poem, building, etc. Modernism explicitly rejected the ideology of realism and makes use of the works of the past by the employment of reprise, incorporation, rewriting, recapitulation, revision and parody. To fairly examine postmodernism, it is vital to consider modern art. The reason being is that postmodernism is seen as the critical review of the history and institution of modern art. Modern art is at the heart of postmodernism and the representations in them can clearly be portrayed. The “post” in postmodernism suggests, not quite a chronological sequence rather than an opposition, and an intimate relationship. Sorting postmodernism’s precise relationship to what went before is difficult. Modernism and high modernism are related with the advancement and the possibility of human association to make about constructive adjustments in the system of the world. High modernism, or high modernity, is characterized by an unfaltering confidence in science and technology as means to reorder the social and natural world. Modernism thrived primarily in consumer/capitalist societies, despite the fact that its advocates frequently rejected consumerism itself. However, High Modernism started to integrate with consumer society after World War 2, particularly during the 1960s.

Over the span of a 44-year career, Lester Beall was proficient in producing resolutions to design problems in new and groundbreaking ways. Beall studied the vibrant European avant-garde scene, which he combined with his own graphic design for quite imaginative applications. After 25 years in the business of being an accomplished independent designer, Beall It is very difficult for me to imagine ever having, even on rare occasions, considered the possibility of working within an established organization. From this, what can be gathered is that even in his personal life he still could be considered a modernist at heart.

Modernism was a movement that wanted to break away from classical and traditional ways of creating art, which is interesting when considering his life as a successful independent artist. Growing as an independent artist instead of being under the constraints of an organization, Beall took life by the reins and did not conform to the stereotypical lifestyle of most people in that time period. He attended the University of Chicago, graduating during the great depression.

What Lester Beall was trying to do with his design practices was connecting the present and past with the Bauhaus. Founded in 1919, by Walter Gropius, the Bauhaus became the most important influence on graphic design in the 20th century. The Bauhaus went through many destination changes throughout the two decades that it was in operation. Typography, painting, design, architecture, and furniture design were all brought together to make something truly amazing for the arts. Although the Bauhaus was influential in voluminous ways, the typefaces that came from the school are still being used to this day. Before being admitted to the workshops, students at the Bauhaus were required to take a six-month preliminary course taught variously by Johannes Itten, Josef Albers, and L??szl?? Moholy-Nagy. The workshops??”carpentry, metal, pottery, stained glass, wall painting, weaving, graphics, typography, and stagecraft??”were generally taught by two people: an artist (called the Form Master), who emphasized theory, and a craftsman, who emphasized techniques and technical processes. After three years of workshop instruction, the student received a journeyman’s diploma.

With that being said, Beall happened to be in Chicago when the disjointed members of the Bauhaus were being put back together; therefore, one of the main reasons that he was so inspired by the Bauhaus. As he began to produce more and more designs, audiences feel in love with the stylizing that he chose to use. His work was even exhibited in 1937 at the MOMA in NYC.

One design that Beall is particularly known for is his cover design for PM Magazine. Showing a nice contrast of black, red, and white/cream color, possibly referencing El Lissititsky’s Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge, the P on the cover is different from that of the M. Not only does the P have a different typeface that seems to reference a Victorian style typeface, but it is also about 4 times smaller than the M on the cover. Another difference between the two letters on the cover is their color, as the P is red, while the M is black. To the side of the cover and somewhat hiding part of the M are two parallel lines that also happen to be red. More associated with high modernism, Walter Gropius, like his dad before him, became an architect. Gropius could not draw, and was reliant on collaborators and partners during his career. In 1908 Gropius found employment with the firm of Peter Behrens. Originally designing the Bauhaus in Weimar, Dessau and, Berlin, Gropius immigrated to America in 1937 where he began teaching at the School of Design at Harvard. Among the Bauhaus, Gropius is also credited with designing the graduate center at Harvard and also the Pan Am Building in New York. Although the international style had been around since the 1920s in parts of Europe, with the help of Gropius, America was ready for an artistic undertaking that symbolized socialism, after the depression. The style became a staple for American architecture during the middle part of the 20th century, especially in skyscrapers. Due to the fact that the style of these buildings were sleek and orderly, institutions and commercial buildings also borrowed from this style, ditching the traditions that had been set in place for years.

The way in which international style relates to the design practices of high modernism is the minimalistic ways in which the buildings are conveyed. High Modernism is a design practice that takes modernism but adds the idea of science and technology as concepts to be integrated into our art. Both the exterior and interior of international style architecture is meant to be designed in a way that almost makes them look uniform if they are all in a city together. Some architecture may be different sizes, but for the most part the design of each building is extremely similar. It could be argued that technological advancements at the time could make this style more easily put together. A nice contrast to this style of architecture would be that of Frank Gehry, whose building designs are quite extravagant.

As the Bauhaus is one of the first reiterations of international style, it seems to be the piece that needs to be described the most. The Bauhaus buildings in Dessau are made up of the strongest materials that they could get at the time of construction in the 1920s, steel, reinforced concrete and glass. However, Gropius refused to cover up the materials like most architects would do in this time period. This included large areas of glass just exposed to the elements, which could have been the basis of his idea for the international style. Postmodernism cannot be explained without the help of Tibor Kalman’s work, as he was one of the most influential designers to come out of the movement. Kalman immigrated to America from Budapest at the tender age of seven. He started attending NYU in 1967 but dropped out in 1970. After a brief trip to Cuba, he returned to New York in 1971, where he was hired by a student book exchange. It was during this time that he taught himself to design advertisements, store signs, and shopping bags. This business actually turned into Barnes and Noble, which Kalman designed the logo for. However, what Kalman is most known for would probably have to be his magazine design for Colors. Many of his covers would stop any normal passerby dead in their tracks. His concepts throughout all of his works are often quite tongue in check. However, not all of the covers give the effect that they are supposed to be provocative. It is safe to say that all of the covers have a grittiness or grime to them almost as if you shouldn’t be looking at them, which is what makes his art so interesting. Kalman is considered a postmodernist due to the fact that his work is following the philosophy that there are no boundaries in art. You can see this in all of his art, even in his series where he changed the race of popular and important figures of the time. Kalman was hoping that he could get people to realize that the skin color shouldn’t change their perspective on the person Part of this series was more than likely the social activist in him coming out. Due to this series he suffered from a plethora of backlash and in the process most likely lost some supporters.

Although he was considered to be controversial figure, it could be argued that Tibor Kalman was inspirational graphic designer. The following could be used as an argument for the latter: Graphic designers like Tibor Kalman inspired the designers to take responsibility for their works. Throughout his career, he urged designers to question the effects of their works and refuse to accept any client’s product exactly the way it appears to be. Kalman inspired graphic designers to use their work to increase public awareness of a variety of social issues.

Each artist has their own style associated with them this mostly comes down to the period in which they started their work. Starting his craft soon after the great depression, Lester Beall was able to combine two existing design forms, that of the Bauhaus and American style. With Walter Gropius, the world was able to experience a new form of architecture, which revolutionized the way in which architects design most of their buildings to this day. Pushing the boundaries on what art is in a powerful way, Tibor Kalman was able to open the eyes of many people to what should be. In a way, although each artist that was talked about has their own unique style, each of them was able to create a new way of looking at things. In conclusion, modernist artists wanted to break the classical and traditional forms, something that Beall was successful in doing with his combination of Bauhaus and American design. In the realm of High Modernism, science and technology was key to making great art. Gropius was able to design buildings that would be easily made with technology in later years as it was Americanized. Finally we have Kalman who is considered to be a postmodernist but has modernist tendencies in his art. However, what makes him truly a postmodernist was his ability to break from the mold and push art further than what it had ever been. Art is all about communication and they all opened the floor to countless others for discussion on content, context, and form.

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A Study of Form Theory and Context. (2020, Mar 23). Retrieved November 30, 2022 , from

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