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Essay: Concept Art - Henry Flynt Philosophy
If the avant-garde imitates the processes of art, kitsch, wenow see, imitates its effects. The neatness of this antithesisis more than contrived; it corresponds to and defines the tremendousinterval that separates from each other two such simultaneouscultural phenomena as the avant-garde and kitsch. This interval,too great to be closed by all the infinite gradations of popularized"modernism" and "modernistic" kitsch, correspondsin turn to a social interval, a social interval that has alwaysexisted in formal culture, as elsewhere in civilized society,and whose two termini converge and diverge in fixed relation tothe increasing or decreasing stability of the given society. Therehas always been on one side the minority of the powerful -- andtherefore the cultivated -- and on the other the great mass ofthe exploited and poor -- and therefore the ignorant. Formal culturehas always belonged to the first, while the last have had to contentthemselves with folk or rudimentary culture, or kitsch.
The making of superior art is arduous, usually. But under Modernismthe appreciation, even more than the making, of it has becomemore taxing, the satisfaction and exhilaration to be gotten fromthe best new art more hard-won. Over the past hundred and thirtyyears and more the best new painting and sculpture (and the bestnew poetry) have in their time proven a challenge and a trialto the art lover -- a challenge and a trial as they hadn't usedto be. Yet the urge to relax is there, as it's always been. Itthreatens and keeps on threatening standards of quality. (It wasdifferent, apparently, before the mid-nineteenth century.) Thatthe urge to relax expresses itself in changing ways does but testifyto its persistence. The "postmodern" business is onemore expression of that urge. And it's a way, above all, to justifyoneself in preferring less demanding art without being calledreactionary or retarded (which is the greatest fear of the newfangledphilistines of advancedness).
Henry Flynt ESSAY: CONCEPT ART [As published in An Anthology (1963)
It is a platitude that art becomes caviar to the general whenthe reality it imitates no longer corresponds even roughly tothe reality recognized by the general. Even then, however, theresentment the common man may feel is silenced by the awe in whichhe stands of the patrons of this art. Only when he becomes dissatisfiedwith the social order they administer does he begin to criticizetheir culture. Then the plebian finds courage for the first timeto voice his opinions openly. Every man, from the Tammany aldermanto the Austrian house-painter, finds that he is entitled to hisopinion. Most often this resentment toward culture is to be foundwhere the dissatisfaction with society is a reactionary dissatisfactionwhich expresses itself in revivalism and puritanism, and latestof all, in fascism. Here revolvers and torches begin to be mentionedin the same breath as culture. In the name of godliness or theblood's health, in the name of simple ways and solid virtues,the statue-smashing commences.
But even during the Renaissance, and as long as Western artwas endeavoring to perfect its technique, victories in this realmcould only be signalized by success in realistic imitation, sincethere was no other objective criterion at hand. Thus the massescould still find in the art of their masters objects of admirationand wonder. Even the bird that pecked at the fruit in Zeuxis'picture could applaud.
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Now the post in postmodern can be taken in a temporal chronologicalsense. Anything that comes after something else is "post"that something else. But this isn't quite the way in which postmodernis used. It's supposed, rather, to mean or imply art that supersedes,replaces, succeeds the modern in terms of stylistic evolution,the way that the baroque succeeded mannerism and the rococo succeededthe baroque. The corollary is that the modern is over and donewith, just as mannerism was over and done with when supersededby the baroque. But the problem for those who claim this becomesto specify what they mean, not by post, but by modern. Anythingin its own time can be called modern. However, what we usuallymean by modern is something considered up-to-date, abreast ofthe times, and going beyond the past in more than a temporallyor chronologically literal sense.
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Nevertheless, if the masses were conceivably to ask for avant-gardeart and literature, Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin would not hesitatelong in attempting to satisfy such a demand. Hitler is a bitterenemy of the avant-garde, both on doctrinal and personal grounds,yet this did not prevent Goebbels in 1932-1933 from strenuouslycourting avant-garde artists and writers. When Gottfried Benn,an Expressionist poet, came over to the Nazis he was welcomedwith a great fanfare, although at that very moment Hitler wasdenouncing Expressionism as . This wasat a time when the Nazis felt that the prestige which the avant-gardeenjoyed among the cultivated German public could be of advantageto them, and practical considerations of this nature, the Nazisbeing skillful politicians, have always taken precedence overHitler's personal inclinations. Later the Nazis realized thatit was more practical to accede to the wishes of the masses inmatters of culture than to those of their paymasters; the latter,when it came to a question of preserving power, were as willingto sacrifice their culture as they were their moral principles;while the former, precisely because power was being withheld fromthem, had to be cozened in every other way possible. It was necessaryto promote on a much more grandiose style than in the democraciesthe illusion that the masses actually rule. The literature andart they enjoy and understand were to be proclaimed the only trueart and literature and any other kind was to be suppressed. Underthese circumstances people like Gottfried Benn, no matter howardently they support Hitler, become a liability; and we hearno more of them in Nazi Germany.
Custom Modern Art Prints essay writing - …
Sometimes a writer will be so uneasy before the naked power of his artthat he will install within the work itself - albeit with a little shyness, atouch of the good taste of irony - the clear and explicit interpretation of it.
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Where today a political regime establishes an official culturalpolicy, it is for the sake of demagogy. If kitsch is the officialtendency of culture in Germany, Italy and Russia, it is not becausetheir respective governments are controlled by philistines, butbecause kitsch is the culture of the masses in these countries,as it is everywhere else. The encouragement of kitsch is merelyanother of the inexpensive ways in which totalitarian regimesseek to ingratiate themselves with their subjects. Since theseregimes cannot raise the cultural level of the masses -- evenif they wanted to -- by anything short of a surrender to internationalsocialism, they will flatter the masses by bringing all culturedown to their level. It is for this reason that the avant-gardeis outlawed, and not so much because a superior culture is inherentlya more critical culture. (Whether or not the avant-garde couldpossibly flourish under a totalitarian regime is not pertinentto the question at this point.) As a matter of fact, the maintrouble with avant-garde art and literature, from the point ofview of fascists and Stalinists, is not that they are too critical,but that they are too "innocent," that it is too difficultto inject effective propaganda into them, that kitsch is morepliable to this end. Kitsch keeps a dictator in closer contactwith the "soul" of the people. Should the official culturebe one superior to the general mass-level, there would be a dangerof isolation.
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