Postmodernism is the cultural context that defined many advanced nations starting in the late 1970s and 1980s. It included a wide variety of approaches and disciplines, from literature to art, from music to architecture, from the philosophy of science to that of economics.
In terms of visual arts, postmodernism developed in contrast to formal reductionism and the often anonymous and impersonal nature of much of the conceptual and minimalist art that dominated the 1960s and 1970s.
In fact, postmodernism rejected the notion of progress in (modern) art and thus aimed to overturn the myth of the avant-garde. That gave rise to the taste for playing with styles and references with an anti-reductionist slant, and to concepts that were once considered obsolete, such as representation, personal narratives and expression, and manual skill.
From a strictly stylistic point of view, the artists who took part in this cultural context tended to mix old and new, high brow and low brow, giving life to pieces in which references to fine art traditions are combined with kitsch and pop culture.
The result is a sort of hybrid that indifferently, sometimes ironically combines materials coming from different sources according to the optics of pastiche, collage and fragmentation.
Postmodernism is expressed through physical forms that are mainly traditional and, at its height, mediums such as painting and sculpture made a triumphant return to the art scene (and art market).
Some of the most representative artists of this historical period who made use of borrowed images are: Sigmar Polke, Martin Kippenberger (both German) and David Salle (USA).