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06/15/2011

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My only quibble here is this:

shocking the middle class has been a cherished goal of the avant garde since the birth of the movement in the nineteenth century

Seems to be throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I don't think it was the cherished goal of the likes of Debussy, Satie, Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Picasso, Dali, etc., to shock the middle class. That lineage can, IMO, be extended up through present day.

I think we can assume they (whoever wrote the piece) didn't mean that. The magazine generally pretty much reveres the high modernists. It was founded by Hilton Kramer, an art critic who seems to be very much a partisan of abstract expressionism and other forms of modernism in the visual arts. Most of those you name didn't seem to have much if any desire to shock people. Satie & Dali are possible exceptions. I expect that in using the phrase "avant garde" the writer meant specifically to refer to those for whom upsetting conventions was definitely part of the point, such as the Dadaists, as opposed to those who were just doing what they felt driven to do.

Yeah, I don't know that guy, the magazine, or the author, so I didn't know the background. Anyway, I guess that's the trouble with the term "avant garde" -- it means & has meant different things to different people at different points in time.

Part of the problem with the term, and part of what they're getting at, is that "avant garde" became a fossilized set of attitudes and techniques, not a description of genuinely new ideas. Someone who's basically just trying to recapitulate Duchamp may or may not be doing interesting work but certainly isn't "avant" of anything.

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