The Homage To Kitsch Series

Clement Greenberg remains the outstanding critic of American Post World War II Modernism. His essay from 1939 on "The Avante Garde and Kitsch" laid the foundation for American Art as we know it today. After 75 years his description of Kitsch is the best I've read, although extremely dated.

"True enough simultaneously with the entrance of the avante-garde, a second new cultural phenomenon appeared in the industrial west: that thing to which the Germans give the wonderful name Kitsch: popular, commercial art and literature with their chromeotypes, magazine covers, illustrations, ads, slick and pulp fiction, comics, Tin Pan Alley music, tap dancing, Hollywood Movies, etc. For some reason this gigantic apparition has always been taken for granted. It is time we looked into it's whys and wherefores.

 

VISION of the St. CROIX

Bringing the traditions of the past and the experiments of contemporary aesthetics together. This is definitely a modern piece when you see it in person, it could not have been made 100 years ago, yet steeped in the traditions of the past. About 30 layers of clear polyester resin with transparent glazes in between. 1 inch thick in the center.

A Celebration of Timeless Craftsmanship

All art work on this site Copyright Mike Vye
2011 all rights reserved

 

Kitsch is a product of the industrial revolution which urbanized the masses of Western Europe and America and established what is called universal literacy...To fill the demand of the new market, a new commodity was devised: ersatz culture, kitsch destined for those who, insensible to the values of genuine culture, are hungry nevertheless for the diversion that only culture of some kind can provide. Kitsch, using for raw material the debased and academized 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 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, strategems, rules of thumb, themes,converts them into a system, and discards the rest. It draws its life blood, so to speak, from this reservoir of accumulated experience. This is what is meant when it is said that the popular art and literature of today were once the daring, esoteric art and literature of yesterday. Of course, no such thing is true. It has many different levels, and some of them are high enough to be dangerous to the average seeker of light. A magazine like the New Yorker, which is fundamentally high class kitsch for the luxury trade, converts and waters down a great deal of avante-garde material for its own uses. Nor is every single item of kitsch altogether worthless. Now and then it produces something of merit..." Clement Greenberg

Some of what Greenberg says about kitsch could easily be applied to High Art today. The notion of the Shock of the new is empty today. Really, we did everything in the 70's to push the boundaries of art beyond absurdity. The 21st century needs a new focus.

Bringing the traditions of the past and the experiments of contemporary art together just makes sense. There are a plethora of inspirations artists can draw from. From ancient history to current events.

Mike Vye

KITSCH vs. the AVANTE GARDE
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