Avant-Garde and Kitsch
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Avant-Garde and Kitsch is a 1939 essay by American art critic Clement Greenberg in which he claimed that avant-garde and modernist art was a means to resist the 'dumbing down' of culture caused by consumerism. Greenberg termed this 'kitsch', a word that his essay popularised.
Greenberg believed that the avant-garde arose in order to defend aesthetic standards from the decline of taste involved in consumer society, and seeing kitsch and art as opposites. He outlined this in his essay "Avant-Garde and Kitsch". One of his more controversial claims was that kitsch was equivalent to Academic art: "All kitsch is academic, and conversely, all that is academic is kitsch." He argued this based on the fact that Academic art, such as that in the 19th century, was heavily centered in rules and formulations that were taught and tried to make art into something learnable and easily expressible. He later came to withdraw from his position of equating the two, as it became heavily criticized.
High art and culture
The ignition point for the definition of American modernism as a movement was the austere rejection of popular culture as kitsch by important post-war artists and taste-makers, most notably Clement Greenberg with his essay Avant-Garde and Kitsch, first published in Partisan Review in 1939.