A Dictionary of the Avant-Gardes  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

A Dictionary of the Avant-Gardes (1993) is a reference book by Richard Kostelanetz concerned with avant-garde art. It covers artists, performers, movements, and styles from music, film, literature, the visual arts, dance, and theater. The two criteria for inclusion are aesthetic innovation and initial unacceptability, plus art that is extreme, unique, distinct, coherent, witty, technological, and aesthetically resonant.

In the words of the author, "this book was written not just to be consulted but to be read from beginning to end."

The artists included are mainly twentieth century, with no birth date earlier than Edward Lear's (1812). Included are Edward Muybridge, Ambrose Bierce, and Igor Stravinsky, Christo Laurie Anderson, Eisenstein, James Joyce, Merce Cunningham, Buckminster Fuller, Mary Quant, Allen Ginsberg. Topical entries include kinetic art, serial music, Zaum (poetry), SoHo, and Something Else Press. Entries are alphabetically arranged, with dates and alternative names. There are cross-references to appropriate headings. It features highly personal prose and a cross-media treatment (film, criticism, music, visual arts), Kostelanetz dislikes the notion that the avant-garde is dead, likes modernism and dislikes postmodernism.

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