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Has Modernism Failed?, Second Edition

Has Modernism Failed?, Second Edition

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Amazon.comTwenty years ago, a noted art writer lobbed a hand grenade at the smug world of contemporary art. In Has Modernism Failed? , Suzi Gablik castigated a culture in which total submission to "the big, powerful machine" of the art market replaced the artist's independent moral authority. Modern art broke the old rules, creating subversive work intended to shock the viewer into a new way of seeing. But consumer culture eventually co-opted shock value. In Gablik's view, successful artists of the1970s and early '80s traded their autonomy for the money and security of "institutionalized individuality" offered by aggressive art dealers and museums increasingly reliant on corporate support. Gablik argued that by losing its last vestige of belief inspiritual values, art also lost touch with society as a whole. While praising the "spiritual dignity" of work by Anselm Kiefer and Josef Beuys, she viewed spiritual imagery in neo-expressionist paintings with suspicion. How could artists who didn't actively believe in this imagery invest it with mythical power? In the revised edition of her book---which includes two new chapters---Gablik revisits the issue of moral vision in art. She divides the post-9/11 art world into artists whose work promotes the materialism of Western culture and those few who have found a "socially redeeming purpose" for art. Most controversially, she proposes that "the truly significant product of an artist is his life." Her highest praise goes to artists whose work consists of social service projects, whether attempting to feed the hungry or restore damaged ecosystems. Worthy as these projects may be, Gablik's failure to address the aesthetic component of art undermines her views. Her writing can be repetitive, and her arguments, too narrowly focused. But her passion, fearlessness and inclusion of the diverse viewpoints of artists, critics, dealers and others make her book compelling reading. —-Cathy Curtis Book DescriptionIn 1984, Suzi Gablik's Has Modernism Failed? was one of the first books to confront the social situation of contemporary art. In describing a world whose central aesthetic paradigm of modernism had lost its vitality, with an "avant-garde" that reflected the culture of consumerism, her book struck a chord in an audience that had once responded to the heroic idealism of modernism. Reprinted many times, Has Modernism Failed? became one of the most popular and influential works of contemporary art criticism.

Now Gablik has revised and expanded her work to encompass developments over the last two decades. A new prologue looks at changes in the cultural context of art, especially at the radical split between artists who still proclaim the self-sufficiency of art, "in defiance of the social good," and artists who want art to have some worthy agenda outside of itself. In a new chapter, "Globalization," she looks at the ruthless cultural homogenization of a universal consumer society and how a number of artists and curators are challenging it. And in a passionate new chapter called "Transdisciplinarity" she offers a way forward for individuals to break free of the limiting ideologies of modernism and consumerism and shows how some artists are reflecting both spiritual and social concerns intheir art.