David Antin’s wonderful remark about modernism has been coming back to me a lot lately: “From the modernism you want, you get the postmodernism you deserve”.  I’m guessing he said it sometime in the 1970s or 1980s.  It may have been the impulse behind my own thoughts about a figure-to-ground relationship between the two.  Figure-to-ground has, I think, a lot of advantages: it dispenses with the temporal implications of “post” modernism.  They are simultaneous, and even better, you can understand them to be potentially compensatory, that is, they adjust to fit one another, one taking up what the other leaves off.  And finally, you can decide how you’ll see it at any given point: the drawing reproduced here is really harsh, but makes it clear. You can decide whether it’s a goblet or two opposed profiles. Depending on which you choose to be the “figure,” the other will be the “ground” you deserve.     

Author: Nancy Roth