It borrows from it devices, tricks, stratagems, rules of thumb, themes, converts them into a system, and discards the rest. All four are on the order of culture, and ostensibly, parts of the same culture and products of the same society. Even the bird that pecked at the fruit in Zeuxis’ picture could applaud. And the Flarf or the new Abject poets appear to think they’re doing something really new and naughty to disturb the Culture Industry. It has many different levels, and some of them are high enough to be dangerous to the naive seeker of true light. How is this virulence of kitsch, this irresistible attractiveness, to be explained? So I’m glad you took the time to post about this very readable, insightful essay, and I hope it pushes more poets into finding it for themselves.

Today this strikes us as the exact opposite of the truth, because no art seems to us to have less reference to something outside itself than music. Self-evidently, all kitsch is academic; and conversely, all that’s academic is kitsch. What is meant is that when enough time has elapsed the new is looted for new “twists,” which are then watered down and served up as kitsch. The same point can be made with respect to kitsch literature: But for all that, the essay stakes out new territory. For it is to the latter that the avant-garde belongs.

Clement Greenberg, “Avant-Garde and Kitsch” Analysis | ART

Now I don’t believe in this cliche idea of subversion and I actually think academics come up with some pretty neat ideas, so I’m not bothered by these contradictions. The first section is on Doubled Flowering. And the Flarf or the new Abject poets appear to think they’re doing something really new and naughty to disturb the Culture Industry.

I hated it and you know how subversive I was? Because “there is no disconnectivity between art and life”.

The literature and art they enjoy and understand were to be proclaimed the only true art and literature and any other kind was to be suppressed.


But they’re going to change the text and have a new one up at the site tomorrow– they essau up a late draft of the piece, with editors’ commentary in the text.

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

Losing, nevertheless, their taste for the folk culture whose background was the countryside, and discovering a new capacity for boredom at the same time, the new urban masses set up a pressure on society to provide them with a kind of culture fit for their own consumption.

Advances in culture, no less than advances in science and industry, corrode the very society kitssch whose aegis they are made possible. Today we look to socialism simply for the preservation of whatever living culture we have right now. If avant-garde imitates the process of art, kitsch imitates the effect of art.

They are not immediately or externally present in Picasso’s painting, but must be projected into it by the spectator sensitive enough to react sufficiently to plastic qualities. Perhaps they revel in kitwch, but their doing so with a little wink, a knowingness, is what makes it an avant garde impulse?

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clement greenberg avant garde and kitsch essay

Where state educational systems take the trouble to mention art, we are told to respect the old masters, not kitsch; and yet we go and hang Maxfield Parrish or his equivalent on our walls, instead of Rembrandt and Michelangelo.

Good job, Kent, you’ve managed to utterly contradict yourself. The influence of popular culture is reinforced by market values due to its mechanicalness and reproducibility.

Avant-Garde and Kitsch | essay by Greenberg |

It is only then that the recognizable, the miraculous and the sympathetic enter. Kitsch is mechanical and operates by formulas.

I have a hard time respecting you if you can’t carry on a conversation without such rhetoric. That said, in America, there was artistic freedom, and Greenberg equated the greennerg to make art with the freedom to make avant-garde abstract art. Repin, or kitsch, is synthetic art. The art must be true to itself; content must be true and whole. Proudly powered by WordPress. I’ve always thought of the “hipster” as part of a social-cultural avant garde, though.


It’s a very nebulous term.

Avant-Garde and Kitsch

The nascent avant-garde broke free of society, eventually rejecting its political foundation in favor of a cultural goal — to move art “forward” on its own terms. As for references to “what’s come before,” or however you put it at end of your reply, or there being no real relation between dynamics of the visual arts and poetry, well, your post is more or less premised on the analogy, as are a number of your posts–always thought-provoking to me, for sure, so please don’t peg me avat some kind of disrespectful person who can’t carry on a conversation.

The answer involves more than an investigation in aesthetics.

clement greenberg avant garde and kitsch essay

Kent, a lot of your arguing is to gaarde out that in very broad terms things have been done before. Nor, without the moral aid of revolutionary political attitudes would they have had the courage to assert themselves as aggressively as ktsch did against the prevailing standards of society. This needs, after all, a considerable amount of “conditioning.

Somehow by claiming everything has been done before we can just go back to good old hierarchy-think. Hence it developed that the true and most important function of the avant-garde was not to “experiment,” but to find a path along which it would be possible to keep culture moving in the midst of ideological confusion and violence.