There Are Too Many Isms In Art And I’m Tired Of It

A comedic rant about the insane world of art and its isms.

Test day in your art appreciation class that you’re taking for an easy A. Little do you know this A won’t be so easy because your professor has decided to litter the exam with isms. Hope you’ve studied, cause there are hundreds!

This is literally just the modern art isms. Only. Modern. Art.

To start, what are isms? (Note: this is talking about isms in the art world. This is not about sexism, racism, etc.) The official term for isms is an art movement, which is a tendency or a style in art with a specific goal that was/is followed by groups of artists in a set time frame. Art movements are big in the modern art period, since every consecutive ism was considered to be a new avant-garde. Every ism defines a different time period, which is why they’re so popular in history, art history, and the dreaded art appreciation final.

Isms are crazy. Some isms are super specific, some are super broad, all of them are really annoying to learn about. Some artworks even fall under multiple isms which just makes everything worse and suddenly you’re on the floor crying because you can’t remember if White Painting (Rauschenberg, 1951) falls under massurealism or post-postmodernism. Isms are the bane of every single student’s existence. Who really sat down and thought “Let’s catergorize every single artwork and label it as either neo-romanticism, luminism, or maybe futurism”? Who had this idea? Who wants people to suffer this much and why? These are the real questions that we should be asking.

Another thing about isms other than the insane amount of them is the names of the isms themselves. To start, they don’t even all end in -ism. But that’s fine, because we all know every single rule has a bunch of exceptions that have to be learned. These ism names are insane and specific, such as: Norwegian romantic nationalism, proto-cubism, abstract expressionism, transavangaurdia, and altermodernism to name a few. It’s like they wanted to make studying for that final as difficult as humanly possible.

Not only are the names bizarre, some of the actual artworks in these isms are crazy as well. Of course there are the basics like cubism, impressionism,

Picasso, 1910, Girl with a Mandolin. Cubism.

realism, pointillism, etc., but if you really want to study art, you’ll have to learn the obscure back-alley isms. Thanks to the internet, a lot of new, strange isms have surfaced that future students in 2050 are going to have to cram their data chips with on the night before the big eFinal. These new 21st isms, such as postpostmodernism or Vaporwave (yes, the internet meme/trend known as vaporwave is considered an ism) are extremely obscure and nothing like your grandma’s post impressionist lake painting hanging above her fireplace.

Resonance and Reverberations. Post-postmoderism.
Vaporwave. Just think, someone is going to have to memorize this exact image for a test.

Why do we have so many isms? Because art is constantly changing. There is not one set art style for everyone to draw in. If there was, it would be easier for art appreciation students, but it would be boring and art would have no life to it. Though isms are an annoying burden of strange histories, bizarre artworks, and crazy names, they are needed for art to be any kind of interesting at all.

So before your next art class pop quiz, just be thankful you won’t be an art student who has to learn thousands of internet memes because it’s an ism.

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