CLEMENT GREENBERG AVANT-GARDE AND KITSCH 1939 PDF

Avant-garde and kitsch are contrasting concepts of art. These two concepts prevailed in the art world during a trivial time in history for artist. This made trying times for artists of this era because artists rely on these exact subjects to construct art appealing to a particular audience. For the first time in decades would the idea of what acceptable art was would be questioned.

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What is life? The prevailing and popular art style, American regionalism, was waning when Greenberg set out to make the distinction between a true genuine culture and popular art.

Greenberg was writing at a very unique time indeed. It was rare for contemporary art to be under the kind of attacks that had been underway for years in Europe. In the Soviet Union, the avant-garde was completely suppressed. For years Greenberg, an English major in college, wrote mostly as a literary critic, and his first published article was on Berthold Brecht, a Berlin theater producer.

Brecht, a devoted Communist, thought of popular entertainment as a means to raise the consciousness of the audience. The entire world was poised on the edge of another world war and was witnessing the horrifying spectacle of a fascist war machine rolling over Europe.

The ability of Hitler and Mussolini to make war with little opposition from their own people who supported the aggression was the result of a years-long, carefully orchestrated campaign of propaganda.

Any form of culture that could protest the philosophy of the Nazis had long since been shut down and dissident artists were brutally silenced. But the critic is an American living in New York. If the examples of the demise of the avant-garde in Europe were extreme, the governmental use of American artists to its own end was also disturbing to an intellectual.

Although many artists owned their careers to government patronage during the thirties, there was a cost to carrying on this kind of work.

That said, in America, there was artistic freedom, and Greenberg equated the freedom to make art with the freedom to make avant-garde abstract art. But there was also a small arena for avant-garde artists in America and the artists lacked the open playing field of art galleries that existed in France. Writing at the end of the avant- garde in Europe, Greenberg explained the significance of the avant-garde tradition.

As a force for cultural critique, avant-garde art separated itself from the bourgeoisie. Greenberg made reference to the avant-garde artists,. Greenberg wrote,. Academicism and commercialism are appearing in the strangest places. This can mean only one thing: that the avant-garde is becoming unsure of the audience it depends on — the rich and the cultivated.

Greenberg looked elsewhere and wrote that the avant-garde was threatened by the rear guard, which, to Greenberg, was the dreaded phenomenon— kitsch , which he defined as,. According to the critic,. The precondition for kitsch , a condition without which kitsch would be impossible, is the availability close at hand of a fully matured cultural tradition, whose discoveries, acquisitions, and perfected self-consciousness kitsch can take advantage of for its own ends.

It borrows from it devices, tricks, stratagems, rules of thumb, themes, converts them into a system, and discards the rest. It draws its lifeblood, so to speak, from this reservoir of accumulated experience.

In other words, kitsch , using for raw material the debased and academicized simulacra of genuine culture, welcomes and cultivates this insensibility. It is the source of its profits. Kitsch is mechanical and operates by formulas. Kitsch is vicarious experience and faked sensations.

Kitsch changes according to style, but remains always the same. Kitsch is the epitome of all that is spurious in the life of our times. Kitsch pretends to demand nothing of its customers except their money — not even their time. The urbanized proletariat was given an ersatz culture—fake art, kitsch , which used a debased and academicized simulacra of genuine culture. Kitsch operated, according to Greenberg, as vicarious experience, as faked sensations, taking advantage of a fully matured cultural tradition for its own ends.

Kitsch loots real art, borrows what it needs, converts inventions into formulas, waters down experiments and turns out familiar art-like images mechanically. These totalitarian regimes reject the avant-garde for two reasons.

First, the dictatorial government must get close to the people in order to rule them and no government wishing to disperse propaganda would use avant-garde art to do so. The public simply would not understand the language. In point of fact, that is precisely what happened to the Soviet avant-garde which was deemed inarticulate.

Second, Greenberg considered the avant-garde to be inherently critical and unsuited for governmental manipulation. Greenberg was certainly prophetic in recognizing that kitsch would become an international language, taking over indigenous folk cultures; but he was wrong in assuming that avant-garde artists would succumb to actually making kitsch.

It is one of the ironies of art history that the kitsch -producing government commissions allowed financially marginal artists to become professional artists who would later become the center of the avant-garde. What Greenberg could not foresee was that, after World War II, a consumer society would be kicked into high gear, producing a generation of artists who grew up with kitsch or popular culture. Eliot remained. The following words could have been written today:.

Most often this resentment toward culture is to be found where the dissatisfaction with society is a reactionary dissatisfaction which expresses itself in revivalism and puritanism, and latest of all, in fascism. Here revolvers and torches begin to be mentioned in the same breath as culture. If you have found this material useful, please give credit to. Jeanne S. Thank you. According to the critic, The precondition for kitsch , a condition without which kitsch would be impossible, is the availability close at hand of a fully matured cultural tradition, whose discoveries, acquisitions, and perfected self-consciousness kitsch can take advantage of for its own ends.

The following words could have been written today: Most often this resentment toward culture is to be found where the dissatisfaction with society is a reactionary dissatisfaction which expresses itself in revivalism and puritanism, and latest of all, in fascism.

If you have found this material useful, please give credit to Dr.

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Avant-garde and KITSCH – Clement Greenberg

Avant-Garde and Kitsch is the title of a essay by Clement Greenberg , first published in the Partisan Review , in which he claimed that avant-garde and modernist art was a means to resist the " dumbing down " of culture caused by consumerism. The term " kitsch " came into use in the s or s in Germany's street markets. Greenberg believed that the avant-garde arose in order to defend aesthetic standards from the decline of taste perpetuated by the mass-production of consumer society, and saw kitsch and art as opposites. One of his more controversial claims was that kitsch was equivalent to Academic art : "All kitsch is academic, and conversely, all that is academic is kitsch. He later came to withdraw from his position of equating the two, as it became heavily criticized. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

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Avant-Garde and Kitsch

What is life? The prevailing and popular art style, American regionalism, was waning when Greenberg set out to make the distinction between a true genuine culture and popular art. Greenberg was writing at a very unique time indeed. It was rare for contemporary art to be under the kind of attacks that had been underway for years in Europe. In the Soviet Union, the avant-garde was completely suppressed. For years Greenberg, an English major in college, wrote mostly as a literary critic, and his first published article was on Berthold Brecht, a Berlin theater producer. Brecht, a devoted Communist, thought of popular entertainment as a means to raise the consciousness of the audience.

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Clement Greenberg, “Avant-Garde and Kitsch” Analysis

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“The Avant-Garde and Kitsch,” 1939 by Clement Greenberg

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