The Modern Kitsch Experience

Tue, Mar 9, 2010

Blogs, Fearless Creativity

The Modern Kitsch Experience

Appreciation of an object by aesthetic judgment comes from discriminatory taste, emotional empathy and intellectual passion honed as a result of experience and deep consideration.

Warhol believed art is contextual; put something in an artistic location and it becomes art.  This agrees – somewhat – with Tolstoy who maintained that artistic value is one of viewer empathy not the consequence of a creator’s intent.  If true,  it must follow that artistic creativity is in direct proportion with an ability to engage the audience’s aesthetic sensibilities.

Defining art has never been all that controversial;  it’s the “good” part that carries the debate.  New tools have made discernment tougher still. It’s not all that hard to make the work appear good through imitation or mechanized craft and then assert its worthiness.

Straightforward printed reproductions of famous paintings are not in themselves kitsch, but objects that adapt high art images from one medium to another are paradigmatically kitsch, for instance ….. repainted versions of historical masterpieces that are adapted to the aesthetic expectations of the modern eye (a copyist once told an interviewer that his paintings of Leonardo’s Mona Lisa improved on the original by ‘taking a bit of the chill out of her expression’). – Denis Dutton

Like a TV Dinner that exceeds expectations; gourmet isn’t gourmet if you must peal back foil.  A sofa sized reproduction enjoyable enough for a downtown Marriott or a Barry Manilow cover band singing “Mandy” is part of the modern Kitsch experience.  A printed photograph made to look like a painting using the latest digital tools updates the modern Kitsch experience; there is a heavy draw of nostalgia and comfort while avoiding surprises except for how it was made. “Wow, that’s a photograph?”

Ironically, more and more gallery portrayals display pride that the artist used “real film” for a show, in a clear attempt to move the work to higher ground.

Generally the Modern Kitsch experience is possible when:

  1. There is no distinct author of self expression, or no individual placing value on copyright.
  2. It’s primarily the artifact of money and desire with the solitary aim to comfort and please.
  3. It’s point of view is pure nostalgia, void of conflict , not disruptive or avant-garde.
  4. The artwork’s creation is perfunctory or only modestly mindful; a spurious exercise designed to entertain.

Historically, Kitsch has been reserved for gaudy shallow inauthentic efforts that, in spite of a dubious origin, maintain an air of pretension.  And while this remains true, high design within easy reach has moved the needle – Wal-Mart is boasting a new aesthetic – the Kitsch experience is demanding expanded territory.  What looks like Italian handmade tile was a gratuity for subscribing to a magazine and drop shipped from China.  The new commodity position of creative artifacts is diminishing authentic uniqueness.  In its place is a modern Kitsch experience with both fine and applied faux art that – while no longer as overtly gaudy as a black velvet Mona Lisa – perpetuate a shallow inauthentic effort precariously indistinguishable from a higher aesthetic.

Beauty is comforting and we are drawn to comfort, but one job of the creative mind is to move us away from comfort even if not so abruptly that we reject the newness of it out of hand; the expression of familiarity and surprise together.

Benedetto Croce (1866-1952) suggested that “expression” is central in the way that beauty was once thought to be central.

Art, Artistic Expression, Craft, fine art, Kitsch, Trendy

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