How is this virulence of kitsch, this irresistible attractiveness, to be explained? No telephone booths available. Now and then it produces something of merit, something that has an authentic folk flavor; and these accidental and isolated instances have fooled people who should know better. Once, however, it was abandoned, music was forced to withdraw into itself to find a constraint or original. They belong to the “reflected” effect.

There’s a long tradition of it, and much of it is comfortably integrated into fine arts discourse, exhibited at the best museums, etc. It has been capitalized at a tremendous investment which must show commensurate returns; it is compelled to extend as well as to keep its markets. Culture requires support and, thus, the avant-garde maintains its connection its “umbilical cord of gold”, to borrow a phrase from Marx to the dominant culture. Bob, I agree wtih what you say about contextualizing a critic like Greenberg, of course. I don’t know who the “new abject” poets are or what their stance is.

It has many different levels, and some of them are high enough to be dangerous to the naive seeker of true light.

clement greenberg avant garde and kitsch essay

Of course, this cannot exclude other preoccupations in their work, for poetry must deal with words, and words must communicate. I have many more things to say but I will limit myself to one thread of thought: Under these circumstances people like Gottfried Benn, no matter how ardently they support Hitler, become a liability; and we hear no more of them in Nazi Germany.

clement greenberg avant garde and kitsch essay

Repin is what the peasant wants, and nothing else but Repin. Yes it is — but folk art is not Athene, and it’s Athene whom we want: Go to the Whitney or the MoMA and take a look.

Avant-Garde and Kitsch – Wikipedia

All values are human values, relative values, in art as well as elsewhere. This welcomed and cultivated insensibility to the origin of art — opposite of avant-garde.


This is possible only under democratic socialism where quality, cooperation, freedom of thought and action, and social criticism can flourish. The peasants who settled in the cities as proletariat and petty bourgeois learned to read and write for the sake of efficiency, but they did not win the leisure and comfort necessary for the enjoyment of the city’s traditional culture.

To fill the demand of the new market, a new commodity was devised: The Historical Emergence of the Avant-Garde When tradition is challenged in a society, the artistic response has historically been to ossify by means of “academicism” the fine points of style and form, theme and variation. A Theory of Mass Culture.

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However, if it were easier to define poetry, modern poetry would be much more “pure” and “abstract. When Bourdieu talks about “the popular aesthetic” which is a way of looking at cultural objects, not a genrehe says what the general populace wants in art is emotional participation, connection to their particular experience, the collapse of critical distance, etc. Writing at the end of the avant- garde in Europe, Greenberg explained the grernberg of the avant-garde tradition. However, aside from the fact that in a sense Aristotle may still be right, it must be explained that ancient Greek music was closely associated with poetry, and depended upon its character as yarde accessory to verse to make its imitative meaning clear.

Kitsch arose together with the avant-garde as a product of the industrial revolution and an increase in literacy. And so we find Mussolini announcing a “new Imperial style. Kent, a lot of your arguing is to point out that in very broad terms things have avznt done before.

clement greenberg avant garde and kitsch essay

Proudly powered by WordPress. It is lucky, however, for Repin that the peasant is protected from the products of American capitalism, for he would kitssch stand a chance next to a Saturday Evening Post cover by Norman Rockwell.


The necessity lies in the fact that by no other means is it possible today to create art and literature of a high order.

So for me, it’s not a matter of kicking Greenberg around, or of valorizing him although he was always very supportive of the artists he admired, and did a lot for them, including one of my dad’s painter friends.

And I ask that realizing full well the matter of “instititutional legitimation” is a complex one! When Lcement say “Abject” poetry, by the way, I mean it as a broad term for Gurlesque and Flarf and some other things being done, like Jon Leon’s energetically libidinal work, for example. Kitsch, by virtue esay a rationalized technique that draws on science and industry, has erased this distinction in practice.

But it’s just a distillation, really, of what you’ve been arguing in posts on the Gurlesque. Ambitious writers and artists will modify their work under the pressure of kitsch, if they do not succumb to it entirely. Today this strikes us as the exact opposite of kitsfh truth, because no art seems to us to have less reference to something outside itself than music.

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

They showed kitsch how. 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.

Resolving the Illusions between High and Low Art. Aavant the necessity of education and leisure necessary for appreciating “high art”, and recognizing that only a privileged few have the means and the time, the disparity between avant-garde art and kitsch is clearly underwritten by class distinction and power.