Avant-Garde and Kitsch by Clement Greenberg
Avant-Garde and Kitsch
All four are on the order of culture , and ostensibly, parts of the same culture and products of the same society. Here, however, their connection seems to end. A poem by Eliot and a poem by Eddie Guest — what perspective of culture is large enough to enable us to situate them in an enlightening relation to each other? Does the fact that a disparity such as this within the frame of a single cultural tradition, which is and has been taken for granted — does this fact indicate that the disparity is a part of the natural order of things? Or is it something entirely new, and particular to our age? The answer involves more than an investigation in aesthetics.
Greenberg is writing to discern and define two relatively recent antipodes of art and culture. The avant-garde and kitsch are both products of modernism, and both have emerged concurrently, affecting each other through their opposition. Greenberg begins his essay by noting that the answer in their difference lies deeper than mere aesthetics. The avant-garde is a product of Western bourgeois culture. Outside of this moment of culture and the abundance produced by capitalist society, the avant garde would not have been possible, and bohemia would never have been established. The avant-garde came to being by emigrating from the old model of aristocratic patronage, to instead pursue art for its own sake as opposed to for funding. The avant-garde never fully detached from bourgeois society, still depending on its money.
In "Avant-Garde and Kitsch", Greenberg defends the view that there is such a thing as "high art" distinct from "low" or popular art. Furthermore, he makes his case based on certain social, historical and political assumptions and empirical observations. He takes a formalist position, to be sure, but attempts to justify his position by appeal to a broader social context -- broader than just the artworld or the technical achievements of individual artists. Structure of the Analysis [ 2 ]. Greenberg argues that we need to distinguish and understand. 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.