Art and Culture: Critical Essays
By Clement Greenberg (1961, 1989)
Part 1: Culture in General, Section 1: Avant-Garde and Kitsch
While I know far less about the history of art and art theory than Clement Greenberg, I do know an elitist when I encounter one. After finishing the first section of Chapter 1 of this book, I’m fairly certain it’s written by en elitist who believes that the “lower classes” is limited in its ability to understand art and appreciates only kitsch while the "privileged elite class" support and protect the “fine art” produced by the avant-garde. Phooey! I’ve been in many poor and working class homes that hang prints of great works of art on their walls. True, they can’t afford the real thing, but they value it enough to stick it in a frame and hang it on their walls.
But, there are some interesting ideas in this book. Greenberg gives us insight into the control of World War II politics on art, especially Hitler’s rejection of fine art in favor of kitsch, and Stalin’s use of kitsch for propaganda. This led me to think about how I, as an artist, would react to absolute control over my work.
Would I continue to paint if forced to produce kitsch and/or propaganda? Although the urge to make art would be irrestistible to me, I wouldn't want to produce propaganda. At least, I’d like to think that I could be that pure of heart and deed.
What about you?