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“Modern Art,” by Cottington: An Introduction
David Cottington in his book showed bewilderment for the contempt of the modern arts as well the growing interest in the art on the other hand by many people. The primary aim of his book is to analyze and interrogate the concept of the contemporary art and to explore its significance to qualify the art to be called as modern. Cottington believed that, all art that has been made in the last century or so is considered as modern. However, there is a need to study the complex question of how the art that is chosen as such, and that has until the twentieth century been labeled as `modernist`, related to the vibrant cultural, socioeconomic, and political modifications in the western countries have been considered as `modernity` for over the last century. The few questions like what work of art meets the criteria as modernist? By whom and how such a selection has been made? What is the relationship between modern and contemporary art? And finally, what does the word `postmodernism` imply for art and do the word `postmodernist` art is no longer current, or is no longer modernist than why, and what does this imply, both for art and for the notion of `the modern`?
The book `Modern Art: A Very Short Introduction` by David Cottington involves the readers by presenting them not only the facts and statistics of the modern arts. It worth noting that, this book is relevance with regard to the modern art history. The book primarily concentrates on the controversial ideas of the modern art with some questions about the arts to be qualified as modern arts or not. As well, it also interrogates the selection criteria for such decision. Besides, it also questions about the relationship between modern and contemporary art, about the post-modernism and the notion of modern. Furthermore, Cottinghan was interested in studying many important features of this subject that beset the issue of controversy in modern art history from Manet to Picasso and Tracey. He also studied at length at the role of the dealer from the leading Cubist artist Kahnweiler, to Charles Saatchi.
Nevertheless, it becomes quite evident that the public`s incomprehension at modern art has been a continuous all over the last century or so from the time when `avant-garde` artists began to defy conventional art traditions in an uncomfortable and fanatic manner. In fact, it can be noted that the two words are more or less interchangeable: `modern art` is actually can be termed as `avant-garde` in its characteristics, goals, and relationships, whilst what `the avant-garde` comprises is, essentially be called as, `modern art`. This relationship, therefore, is critical, and it is consequently worth noting, as the basis for the study, the question of the beginning and the implication of `the avant-garde`.
Specifically, the characteristics and goals of art can be called as `avant-garde` art that explored something new in its time, to understand the meanings of the modern visual media, to claim for artistic freedom, or to defy the prevailing values that surfaced, in the mid-nineteenth century, prior to that there exist many aesthetically radical artists to create a community. That community itself surfaced about the conclusion of the twentieth century, and at that time of the era when the word `avant-garde` first became linked with the modern art, by its opponents and fans alike. This type of community soon became a norm in that art, its very survival affecting, the forms that it took and what its implications were supposed to be.
The rationales why a number of artists started to have `avant-garde` goals in the mid-nineteenth century are complex. Yet, in the western societies over the last century motivated some artists to try to escape the rules, the commodification, and the complacencies of an `establishment` art in which those norms were valued. The authors for example Baudelaire and Flaubert, and painter like Manet, showed their very existence as members of a worldly, status-looking and their revulsion for such principles not only marginalized them from the present social and artistic bodies however it also created a deep sense of psychological isolation. This double division was argued to be the outcome of avant-gardism.
However, there were other reasons for such state of affairs. It is no twist of fate that many of these were French artists as that country was the fastest-developing cultural capital of Europe, with deep-rooted cultural bureaucracy as well as art schools, and professional structure of art. Consequently many artists and writers from all over the world thronged the French capital Paris for its remarkable growth of the art and culture.
Anyhow, most of the art aspirants were unsuccessful in their objectives, by being hindered by various protocols of the profession. Thus, they sought other options for advancement for instance collaborating in various informal groupings, promoting and contesting new ideas and practices, through many magazines. Hence, for such activities both avant-garde art and the avant-garde community were born and which led the emergence of the `modern art`
Yet, the isolation the avant-garde felt was not a one-sided approach. Integral to the confusion that supported much public outcry against modern art was a feeling of its sincerity, of the observer being `cheated` or being found defective – of that art being created by hungry avaricious artists whose sole aim was for fame and wealth as well for those dealers sold who wanted commercialization. The suspicion was increased by the disclosures of the role of various art dealers and collectors for example Charles Saatchi in its sponsorship and show. Moreover, it is to be noted that either that the modern art market that came into being at about the conclusion of the twentieth century did so together with avant-garde art and the avant-garde creation, in fact as a major endorsement of both, or that this market should have been caused by venture capitalists.
Comparison and Contrasting Between the Book and Course
At the dawn of the twentieth century, then, the concept and the community of the `avant-garde` artist continued the art practices whose deliberate indiscretions of the prevailing presumption of what was in fact, ethically, or politically acceptable were at the time the sponsor of the individuality that was core to the modern art ideology. Hence, artists like Van Gogh, Picasso, and Jackson Pollock applied the individuality in arts that all aspired to and were not within the reach of capitalist social relationships which the philosopher Herbert Marcuse termed as the `affirmative` traits of culture, by at the same time reassuring the artists as well as making good, the deficiencies of these relationships.
By affirmative culture is meant that culture of the bourgeois epoch which led in the course of its own development to the segregation from the civilization of the mental and spiritual world as an independent realm of value that is also considered superior to civilization. Its critical aspect is the claim of a generally obligatory, perpetually improved and more important value that obligation be categorically asserted: a world in essence dissimilar to the real world of the daily struggle for survival, though attainable by people for themselves `from within,` without any transformation of the state of fact…their reception becomes an act of celebration and exaltation” (p. 95).
The affirmative culture to Marcuse implied “a world to be brought about not through the overthrow of the material order of life but through events in the individual`s soul. Humanity becomes an inner state…. [that] exalts the individual without freeing him from his factual debasement” (p. 103). It has been this character and the ignored traits of human characterized the avant-gardism of modern artists. However, at the same time has also placed them, and the new art in various paradoxes.
Thus, the twentieth century art distinguished itself from what was not art by its materials as much as anything else. Today, in contrast, it is quite difficult to consider of a material that could not be used to make the modern art differently (See for example Anya Gallaccio`s 1994).
The theme describing the significance of the art reproduction
Color Field Painting belongs to the Abstract Expressionist family of artists. It was also known as “Post-Painterly Abstraction” by Clement Greenberg. Normally, such types of paintings are made on the canvases. By standing closer to the canvas, the colors appear like a sea. These huge size rectangles motivate the mind and eye leap into the stretch of red, blue or green. The artists can generally feel the colors themselves.
The analyst Harold Rosenberg (1952) explained the expression action painting as `At a certain moment the canvas began to appear to one American painter after another as an arena in which to act. … What was to go on the canvas was not a picture but an event`. This theory drew strongly, and unequivocally, upon the concepts than the current intellectual fields, especially by Jean-Paul Sartre`s who stated that `there is no reality except in action`.
Avant-garde refer to people or works that are new or original, especially relating to art, culture, and politics. In accordance with its advocates, the avant-garde promotes the limits of what is recognized as the standards within definitions of art.
Greenberg, the most influential critic of the mid-20[th] century and chief architect of the formalist doctrine, decoration was `the specter that haunts modernist painting` (Greenberg, 1961). On the other hand, Matisse was unashamed of being thought decorative. He stated. `The decorative for a work of art is an extremely precious thing. It is an essential quality. It does not detract to say that the paintings of an artist are decorative` (Flam, 1978). Thus, modernism displayed its unique art history. It identified its own mythical aspects of origin with cubism and Picasso. Together with this, Picasso`s own profession gave a particular explanation, giving stress to some features of his work, in fact downgrading others.
Postmodern art works were the outcome of the reaction and some say in denial to modern art movements. Nevertheless, many contemporary museums treated postmodern works to be an extension of modern artworks. The ideals rejected by the modern art movements are now seen to be re-establishing all over postmodernism eras in a more contradictory manner. The book gives a lucid and vivid view of the art history and its conflicting nature which the writer Cottington has tried to depict in considering the past and post-modern art movements.
Flam, Jack D. Matisse on Art. New York, 1978.
Gallaccio, Anya. Stroke, Blum and Poe, Los Angeles. 1994.
Greenberg, Clement. `Milton Avery`, reprinted in his Art and Culture. Boston, Mass., 1961.
Marcuse, Herbert. “The Affirmative Character of Culture”. Negations Essays in Critical Theory. Boston: Beacon Press, 1968.
Rosenberg, Harold. “American Action Painters”. ARTnews, 1952.
Sartre, Jean-Paul. L`Existentialisme est un humanisme Paris: Nagel, 1946), pp. 59-60. Eng. trans, by Bernard Frechtman, Existentialism. New York: Philosophical Library.
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