THE REVENGE OF THE PHILISTINES: Art and Culture, 1972-1984 by Hilton Kramer

THE REVENGE OF THE PHILISTINES: Art and Culture, 1972-1984

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Kramer, for 30 years one of this country's most perceptive and provocative art critics, here explores the impact of the Postmodernist movement on the art world today. Revisionist attitudes are challenging the ""verities""--seriousness and high moral commitment--that Kramer sees as the hallmarks of the Modernist school. The espousal of kitsch, Camp, Academic and Salon painting and political art, among other Postmodernist manifestations, by a new generation of curators, critics, gallery owners, collectors and artists represents for Kramer the ""revenge"" of his title. Kramer is not unaware of the irony inherent in the fact that, as soon as Modernist tenets were not only accepted but embraced by the very bourgeois individuals and institutions that the avant-garde had been epatering for generations, Modernism was attacked from within the art establishment itself. To the author, the present situation merely reflects the widespread nihilism and spiritual bankruptcy, the search for ""easy answers"" and the ""show-biz"" hucksterism of the 1970's and 80's. Kramer is an elitist. To him, today's world is threatened by ""aesthetic illiterates""--a group that includes radical feminist artists, political propagandists, museum directors with pedagogical propensities, and. in Kramer's iconoclastic view, that most blessed of bovines, the National Endowment for the Arts. Many of the essays concern themselves with modern masters Cezanne, Bonnard and Picasso; the lesser-known Elie Nadelman, Marsden Hartley and Sonia Delaunay; fashionable ""illustrators"" Maurice Sendak and Saul Steinberg; photographers Ansel Adams and Walker Evans; intellectuals' darlings like Thomas Hoving and Tom Wolfe, as well as such Postmodemist superstars as Julian Schnabel and Malcolm Morley. Always clearly written and cogent, more frequently controversial than not, Kramer's essays and reviews present an unintimidated survey of the triumphs, tempests and tarradiddles that have marked the American art scene over the past 15 years.

Pub Date: Oct. 28th, 1985
Publisher: Free Press/Macmillan