The Cult of the Avant-garde Artist

The Cult of the Avant-garde Artist

Paperback

By (author) Donald B. Kuspit

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  • Publisher: CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS
  • Format: Paperback | 188 pages
  • Dimensions: 152mm x 226mm x 16mm | 322g
  • Publication date: 1 July 2008
  • Publication City/Country: Cambridge
  • ISBN 10: 0521469228
  • ISBN 13: 9780521469227
  • Edition statement: Revised ed.
  • Illustrations note: black & white illustrations

Product description

The Cult of the Avant-Garde Artist examines the philosophical, psychological and aesthetic premises for avant-garde art and its subsequent evolution and corruption in the late twentieth century. Arguing that modernist art is essentially therapeutic in intention, both towards self and society, Donald Kuspit further posits that neo-avant-garde, or post-modern art, at once mocks and denies the possibility of therapeutic change. As such, it accommodates the status quo of capitalist society, in which fame and fortune are valued above anything else. Stripping avant-garde art of its missionary, therapeutic intention, neo-avant-garde art instead converts it into a cliche of creative novelty or ironical value for its fashionable look. Moreover, it destroys the precarious balance of artistic narcissism and social empathy that characterizes modern art, tilting it cynically towards the former. Incorporating psychoanalytic ideas, particularly those concerned with narcissism, The Cult of the Avant-Garde Artist offers a reinterpretation of modern art history. Donald Kuspit, one of America's foremost art critics, is a contributing editor to Artforum and the author of many books.

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Back cover copy

The Cult of the Avant-Garde Artist examines the philosophical, psychological, and aesthetic premises for avant-garde art and its subsequent evolution and corruption in the late twentieth century. Arguing that modernist art is essentially therapeutic in intention, both toward self and society, Donald Kuspit further posits that neo-avant-garde, or postmodern, art at once mocks and denies the possibility of therapeutic change. As such, it accommodates the status quo of capitalist society in which fame and fortune count above everything else. Stripping avant-garde art of its missionary, therapeutic intention, neo-avant-garde art converts it into a cliche of creative novelty or ironic value for its fashionable look. Moreover, it destroys the precarious balance of artistic narcissism and social empathy that characterizes modern art, tilting it cynically toward the former. Incorporating psychoanalytic ideas, particularly those concerned with narcissism, The Cult of the Avant-Garde Artist offers a reinterpretation of modern art history. Exemplary avant-garde and neo-avant-garde artists, including Picasso, Malevich, Warhol, and Beuys, and such movements as surrealism, expressionism, and appropriationism, are examined in depth to demonstrate their therapeutic aims and intentions, or lack thereof. The varieties of artistic expression and their attendant ideas are viewed in light of Kuspit's basic thesis, providing a fresh understanding of developments in the art of this century.

Table of contents

1. Avant-Garde and the neo-avant-garde: from the pursuit of the primordial to the nihilism of narcissism; 1A. The idealisation of the avant-garde artist as transmuter of value; 1B. Fame, fortune, publicity, paratism: The narcissistic illusions of the neo-avant-garde artist; 2. Preliminary therapeutic attitude: the provocative object as a path to primordiality (Picasso and Duchamp); 3. The geometrical cure: art as a matter of principle (Mondrian and Malevich); 4. The expressive cure: art as the recovery of primal emotion (Expressionism and Surrealism); 5. Fame as the cure-all, or the charisma of cynicism: Andy Warhol; 6. Enchanting the disenchanted, or the artist's last stand: Joseph Beuys; 7. The decadence or cloning of the avant-garde: appropriating art; Notes; Index.