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The End Robert Gonzales


I admit it. When it came time to voice an opinion,

I used copy lifted from my essays and forum

I took a curmudgeonly stance and kept reiterat-

prompts as a collage material. With any good col-

ing the difference between graphic art and fine

lage, the artist finds resonance between compo-

art that uses graphic art language. So, now safely

nents. Hopefully I found some resonances in some

esconced away in academia, away from marketing

passages of content and form.

directors and even modernist professors, I can use this final project to do what I previously scorned.

Aside from the screen shots of computer games,

Which is make an insanely indulgant piece of self- all the images came from my collection of clip art directed art that uses graphic art language.

that I draw from when I make self-directed work. With enough time this project could have easily

Am I making any groundbreaking formal trans-

been hundres of pages. It was critical that these

gressions? No. Am I inventing a new language?

images originated in print to show that Postmod-

Nope. What I am doing is engaging the form of

ernism didn’t begin with the internet but is part of

postmodernism that doesn’t need to make sense.

a technological lineage that made images readily

The strain that revels in the putting together of

available. With so much printed material to find

pieces that were left over from something else.

and use, the end of print may never come.


Postmodernism has two strains. The first critiques modernity using and playing with the categories. It may question and experiment with these categories and their distinctions, but still acknowledges their value in the overriding goal of seeking understanding or knowledge. This is the strain of postmodernism that I see as a continuation of modernism and its ability to critique itself and move closer towards the truth. The second strain of postmodernism is one with a more nihilistic impulse. It rejects the notions of categories outright. It has at its heart a relativism. Categories and distinctions are part of the impulse to contain everything within one hierarchical system. So these constructs are artifices of the powers that be and are talked about as agreed-upon fictions. Any truth is contingent on individual or cultural histories and may not be the truth for anyone else.


Both the academics and learned designers, ironically, use postmodernism to take the very modern pose of critiquing the conventions of what was was there while offering something new and different, lumped together in the form of yet another “-ism.� The dumb strain postmodernism that celebrates low culture lets go of any notion of critique or utopian goals of modernism, but gladly plays with the cultural detritus that modernism has produced.


I would argue that the most vital issues of postmodernism are integral parts of modernism and that it is more useful to talk about postmodernism not as the end of modernism, but at as an expansion of modernism. Changes in the cultural environment allowed some of these ideas to move from being undercurrents to the cultural dominant, while others were always dominant forces in modernity. The driver for modernism is economic and it’s the same economic forces that are driving the change in the postmodern era. Mass media and advertising. Globalization. Understanding demographics. The commodification of resources, natural and human.


B a s e d o n s i m i l a r d i s t i n c t i o n s I p i ck e d u p o n o u r re a d i n g s , w h a t I s e e i s a s m a r t p o s t m o d e r n i s m t h a t i s ro o te d i n m o d e r n i s m ’s c h a l l e n g e o f t h e n o r m t h ro u g h ex p e r i m e n t a t i o n a n d ex p a n s i o n o f o u r u n d e rs t a n d i n g o f t h e e r a w e l i ve i n a n d a d u m b p o s t m o d e r n i s m t h a t d o e s n’t d o e s n’t q u e s t i o n , d o e s n’t p u t fo r t h a v i s i o n to w o r k to w a rd s , bu t i n s te a d e m b r a c e s ,


i n t e l l e c t u a l i z e s a n d c e l e b r a t e s a d ve r t i s i n g ’s c o nve n t i o n s , i t s e m b r a c e o f e m p t y s y m b o l s a n d g i v i n g t h e p e o p l e D i s n ey l a n d . U n c r i t i c a l ly a c c e p t i n g t h e d i s s o l u t i o n o f m e a n i n g a n d c o n t ex t s , t h e u n c r i t i c a l s t r a i n o f t h e p o s t m o d e r n i s , fo r m e , t h e d e s i g n w i n g o f g l o b a l c o r p o r a te c a p i t a l i s m . I n 2 013 , I c a n’t t h i n k h av i n g a s t r i p m a l l t h a t l o o k s l i k e a b a s t a r d i z a t i o n o f a Tu s c a n v i l l a i s a g o o d t h i n g a n d o r i n te re s t i n g.


Designing becomes curation

Effects of Technology

A careful and sophisticated selection of elements to serve a style appropriate to the project. Designers collect images, read design magazines and understand the trends of the moment to give the audience what they want while pushing their tastes just enough to give them the unexpected. When the right situation is given, the sum of their refined design tastes and professional experience gives them an arsenal of styles and methods to choose from, selecting and using them.

The internet only sped up the currents that were present in the 80s and early 90s. Those decades had collected the visual detritus of the past and made them more readily available in the form of books of vintage clip art and type sample books. With internet, the access to the materials of the past exploded. Designers now have access to anything recorded, along with access to typefaces that no typesetter had just a generation ago.


Is time/space disruption that happens from a pre-modern society without radio to a modern society with radio any less amazing than the disruption between the modern society to the postmodern society with internet?

Or the stage between the era before telephone to instant communication that the telephone brought within the modern era?

All these incredible shifts were set up in modernism and it’s simply been a quantitative jump, not a qualitative one to the postmodern era.


By any standard Output is text-based fine art. It is fine art that uses the graphic art language. It operates with the same goals of personal expression and formal experimentation as modernist art did almost a century ago. However, there can be no design-for-design-sake for designers the way the modern artists had art-for-art’s-sake. Graphic design is, an a way a craft, because it is a creative field that serves a purpose - to communicate ideas visually. Fine art occupies another space. It is there to express the thoughts or feelings of the artist. It is self-directed because, within the modernist ideal, it operates without consideration to the marketplace, serving only the vision of its creator.

There are no obligations to clarity of meaning or need to appeal to an audience outside the world of art, so the artist can be as oblique and as inscrutable as they want. If a creative person tries their hand at the craft of chair making, they can’t lay down a pile of alarm clocks and half inch drywall nails and claim they are chairmakers, trying to push the boundaries of what chairs are. It might be art, but they have definitely failed at the craft of chairmaking.

To call art graphic design is to make both categories meaningless. Pushed to its natural conclusion, without any categories, hierarchies, distinctions and questioning the entire notion of truth or knowledge, this second strain of postmodernism drifts off into nihilism, where there is no way of understanding truth and no common vocabulary to engage in discourse.


Designers must have an inferiority complex when compared to the other creative fields. If some want their signature on their pieces and claim it as their own, I think that’s fine. But if they feel the need to engage in the same formal and theoretical transgressions that fine art made decades ago or to express themselves on a paid project in order to most fully design, then that’s where the limits of who Michael Rock is talking about really begins to show. He’s not talking about design as most of us practice it. He’s talking about a very small strata of designer that work on highly specialized projects. The design that is able to fit Rock’s criteria of a signature style and interior meaning is most likely happening in what Heller calls the “hothouse” environment of academia or as personal projects, because I don’t see it happening where I work or where most designers earn a living. It’s where these designers want to engage those issues really informs why they want to engage them. This work happening in academia, or somewhere else outside the the marketplace, can produce something like Output that engages art issues because that product IS art. As art, it is self-directed and can be expressive or engage in formal play for its own sake. But its not really graphic design.

Designers who work in the marketplace, not in an ivory tower, design lab or on personal projects and want inclusion in the arts, with the concerns over a similar sets of issues and problems, then don’t look to the fine arts. I say look to crafts as a template. You listen to your client. You bring your expertise and intuition and solve the design problem in a way that ideally satisfies you and and the person that’s paying for it. Someone who genuinely transcends the category, like Paul Rand, can sit alongside others that transcended their category, like Sam Maloof or Louis-François Cartier or José Guadalupe Posada. I don’t think that’s such a bad place to be. It’s certainly better than producing fully author-ed, second-tier art project made in a design lab.


Writing is just a form on media and I think that every type of media has its strengths and weaknesses based on the needs of the content. I don’t believe that the written word has primacy over every other form of communication. The written word was a way to capture and transmit thoughts when there was no other technology.


New technologies represent a quantitative

that would revolutionize the way in which we

rather than qualitative difference of how

organize and use information. Tapia writes “if

information is ordered and presented. Web

the traditional order of discourse was held to

pages, Tapia points out, use the metaphors of

impose a kind of power on the basis of the hi-

the map, the book or the encyclopedia to order

erarchical organization of thought, it must be

data. Certainly the comments section of web-

said that with this new nonlinear, multi-access

sites are hyped-up version of the letters to the

order, the power and control have not disap-

editor and the prompts to retweet are just sped

peared but rather have taken on new forms.�

up ways in which we can share with people

I wonder if the academics of the mid-nineties

that are out of reach by phone or in person.

would be disappointed in the very predictable

This seems very obvious today, but in the mid-

ways that hypertext and new technology would

nineties hypertext was heralded as something

be used twenty years in the future.

The differences between print and web based material inform the interpretation of content, but do not define it. A s a reader, it is really the navigation between pages that I felt the differences between the two.


Postmodernism was a reaction against some elements of modernism that might not seem to work. The disdain of ornament. The idea of universal forms that transcend culture and can be deployed from the top down. Categorizing visual art as either fine art or graphic art. Think of all the things that were foreign before Modernism. The removal of all ornament was never a goal before modernism. There has nothing like the late modernist removal of all ornamentation. The postmodern reaction against this and an acceptance of ornament and decoration puts us back in line with every other culture in human history not rooted in 20th century modernism.


Modernism ignored the value of context, both historical and regional. Postmodernism is move toward a regionalism that respects local culture and its history. The idea that the glass and steel boxes of modernist architecture can be deployed from the top down in either New York and Brasilia doesn’t seem like the ideal anymore. Postmodernity is a movement against the monoculture of Western European modernity. In its critical forms, it embraces alternative views and local, personal histories.


It is only in modernism that you had an unlinking of what we call fine art with a system of commerce. At the same time of this unlinking was the creation of the category of graphic art. In postmodernity, these categories have become more fluid. Fine art uses graphic art language and graphic artist want greater autonomy and room for personal expression. It is self-direction that is the distinction between fine and graphic work. This work might use the same tools and techniques, but there is fuzzy and sometimes indistinct spectrum of autonomy between the two categories.


I’m not saying what’s not

authorship, how an artist uses

up for discussion, but my point is that

where these concepts

up for discussion is how an artist

engages in the questions of

ugliness for formal or conceptual reasons, or for what reasons

an artist uses popular culture. Those are absolutely

these issues are all almost universally accepted and

resolved as ones that art engages in, unlike graphic art

that are still being argued out.

Like they are right now.


The End that Never Came  
The End that Never Came  

Final Project for Postmodernism

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