ARTWORK > Publication



The suspended animation of figurative sculpture began with one small statement by Clement Greenburg in 1939. “Don’t touch the figurative image or you’ll land your self in Kitsch.” Since that moment figurative sculptors became suspended in a strange limbo, unable to obtain avant-garde status and afraid of being labeled kitsch. Every serious artist unspoken fear is being associated with Elvis paintings, sentimental landscapes, cubistic knock offs, trite and crass items sold in touristy Carmel Galleries. Greenberg’s desire was to give breathing space for the budding abstract expressionist. Inadvertently he helped create the dysfunctional totalitarian art train we have today. Academic tradition and the avant-garde have formed and intellectual conglomerate, supported and perpetuated by the state and sold to the public by curatorial art brokers. The elitist art train left the station sixty years ago devoid of form, nature and emotion, rumbling along its linear progression, faster than the red train in Dr. Zhivago, eliminating opposition and crushing dissent, piloted by self-serving culture hunters.
This is a great system except for one uncontrollable factor, the collector. Remember the relationship between Picasso and the Steins. Art collectors have passion in common and that is kitschs mother’s milk. Placing art in collectors homes has been a pillar in the evolution of kitsch. It began in the late 19th century in Europe as a way to place culture in peoples homes on the cheap. The lowly art that dealt with emotion, technique, aesthetics, history, plastic arts, a place for disenfranchised artists, has now become the high art celebrating its own language of expression. Conditions have reversed. Kitsch is now the system producing high art where as the former academic avant-garde conglomerate has become irrelevant, victim of its own intellectual inbreeding. Pursuing experimentation for the sake of experimentation, over indulging in concocted high-sounding esoteric ideas.
Artist, ask yourself. Have you developed a competent technique based on skill, feeling and emotion? Are hard work, education, study, and a command of materials new and old central to your art? Have you conducted independent research drawn from history and borrowed from fellow artists? Have you been beaten up by university professors who practice thought control? Do you make artwork to please phantom art critics or do you create to satisfy inner desires? Do you have an audience that loves your work? Are galleries, those impure vehicles of capitalism, a large part of your existence? Do you like to sell your work? If you have these passions, you are probably kitsch. It’s OK, Picasso was the ultimate kitsch man.
Why are representational artists referring to themselves as kitsch rather than post modern. In part it’s the insurgency factor. Talented artist feel it’s my house and my rules. They are tired of being dictated to by the latest fashion and art ideology emanating from New York. No ideology or label would be best. If it is necessary to have one I choose kitsch. It allows me to be intelligent and home grown. It gives freedom to make a contemporary figurative sculpture without playing the self-indulgent art establishment game.


A article by Dan Corbin, about contemporary sculpture.