Following Charles Jencks, avant-garde art of the 20th century can be divided into two main trends: the Purist avant-garde and the Radical avant-garde. Each of these trends is marked by the unique perception of reality and the world around us. Both trends of avant-garde art move away from mass art by becoming less and less available to mass audiences, academic art moves toward mass art by becoming more and more accessible. Though, the way in which the avant-garde movement is achieved compromises it.
The main features of the Purist avant-garde are spiritual freedom, artistic imagination. It is the “art for art’s sake”. For the Purist avant-garde art recycles the high art of yesteryear-most notably in terms of its forms — as if this involved a pioneering, personal view. Thus, as a result, artists, inasmuch as all they do is depicted past achievements, are also guilty of impersonality. The Purist avant-garde artists attempt to palm off past expressions of personal viewpoints as genuine, original expressions of their own. The Purist avant-garde is appropriated to counterfeit the patina of high art. Ethnic humor is putatively inaccessible to people lacking the appropriate cultural background references1. Thus, for the Purist avant-garde to appeal to a mass audience, it must be impersonal and homogeneous. This is part of the magnetism of the Purist avant-garde for modern audiences. So among the many problems that the Purist avant-garde raises is that it will erode the resources of individual expression and vision in community2.
In contrast to the Purist avant-garde, the Radical avant-garde explores new social and artistic methods and ways of expression. It denies traditional perception and representation of art and inspires new social forms of artistic vision and perception. It is aim is to break boundaries between the art and the social life. Also, the Radical avant-garde tends to promote the degradation of whatever potential for art remains in the culture. The response of the Radical avant-garde with pretensions to high art is perverted into academic or middlebrow art. The Radical avant-garde reflects that this is likely to occur because in order to compete with traditional art, the purveyors of traditional art attempt to adapt to the situation by making their works more accessible, and this inclines them toward the recycling of old forms of art. Thus, through its own agency and through the Radical avant-garde’s influence on the development of art, art will destroy or pervert the sources of individual expression in the modern culture3.
The main movements of the Purist avant-garde are Cubism, Abstraction and Abstract Expressionism. Each of these movements reflects the main idea of Purist art is to maximize the scale of the audience, thereby reinforce very low standards of taste, sensitivity, and intelligence in audiences. And, in addition to the impact that each artwork wreaks directly in its own right, there will be dire, indirect, methodical repercussions as well4. The main representatives of this movement are Pablo Picasso and George Braque. Both of them follow rational and scientific approaches in art and tries to influence emotions and imagination of viewers. If an art object is to appeal to a large number of viewers, the most natural way in which it can perform its function is for it to appeal to what is universal to that audience in terms of its interests and abilities.
That is, the aim of the artist at attracting people in terms of the common, live interests that are shared in society. And, at the very least, in order to appeal to large number of viewers, the Purist art must be accessible to audiences by establishing some common ground with them. This principle is apt to be defended as common sense — as the main law of the art. Thus, in addition to the problem that the Purist avant-garde is not genuine art, there is a further problem with it, that Purist avant-garde tends toward the cheapening of aesthetic stimulation, and of taste. Les Demoiselles d’Avignon is the first work of Cubist painting. This artwork is not an accidental feature of art; it is mandated by a consideration of what the Purist art is designed to do — to secure viewers. That is, the downward tendency of the Purist art in terms of taste, intelligence, and sensitivity follows from the nature of the Purist art, since it is presupposed that in order to direct audiences it is necessary to aim low, given the presumed structure of the market-place5.
The main trends in the Radical avant-garde are Futurists, Dadaists and Constructivists6. The essential feature of these trends is their status as a commodity manufactured for consumption. This is the essential feature of the Radical avant-garde. And in order to realize Radical avant-garde essence — i.e., to accommodate the largest number of viewers — art is going to have to aim at the generic or common denominator in terms of taste, sensitivity, and intelligence in its possible audiences. This movement is associated with Constructivism and Productivism in Russia, Italian Futurism and Dada. So if the producers of the Pedicel ideas want to attract the largest audience, they will have to accept, any absurdity Thus, the features of the Radical avant-garde which focuses on deduction are not its representational properties, but its commodity-based features. The Radical avant-garde artwork is aimed at securing audiences. In order to do this, it follows that it must be generic, thereby precluding individual and social expression, since individualizing expressivity limits the possible audience of the artwork.
In sum, the Purist avant-garde and the Radical avant-garde reflect modern trends and ideas of art and create a new social reality for audiences. In spite of differences in their principles and methods, these movements reshape reality and create a new vision and understanding of art. The presence of avant-garde art in the marketplace affects other domains of production. The Purist avant-garde promotes sensitivity and idealization of modern society through spiritual freedom while the Radical avant-garde promotes close relations between social life and art as the main part of community traditions and values.
Edwards, S. Wood, P. Art of the Avant-Gardes (Art of the Twentieth Century). Yale University Press, 2004.
Jencks, CH. A Post-Modern Reader. St. Martin’s Press, 1995.
Krauss, R. E. The Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths. The MIT Press, 2002.
Krauss, R. E. The Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths. (The MIT Press, 2002), 65
Edwards, S. Wood, P. Art of the Avant-Gardes (Art of the Twentieth Century). (ale University Press, 2004), 22.
Jencks, CH. A Post-Modern Reader. (St. Martin’s Press, 1995), 33.
Edwards, S. Wood, P. Art of the Avant-Gardes (Art of the Twentieth Century). (ale University Press, 2004), 65
Jencks, CH. A Post-Modern Reader. (St. Martin’s Press, 1995), 44.