No ornament can any longer be made today by anyone who lives at our cultural level. I can tolerate the ornament of the Kaffir, the Persian the Slovak peasant woman, my shoemaker's ornaments, for they all have no other way of attaining the high points of their existence. We have art, which has taken the place of ornament.
This Eurocentric culture relentlessly codified and observed everything about the non-European or presumably peripheral world, in so thorough and detailed a manner as to leave no item untouched, no culture unstudied, no people and land unclaimed. All of the subjugated peoples had it in common that they were considered to be naturally subservient to a superior, advanced, developed, and morally mature Europe, whose role in the non-European world was to rule, instruct, legislate, develop, and at the proper times, to discipline, war against, and occasionally exterminate non-Europeans.
Was there anything in 1975 that would have led anyone to predict that the United States was about to begin an extraordinary three decade plus economic and technological surge, the likes of which the world had never seen before? In retrospect, this post Vietnam era, which at the time, anyone in any position of power, any commentator talked about as the decline of the United States actually were the seeds, the roots of a great American rebirth and a great sort of renaissance in American power. It was actually the birth date of our current age of power triggered by globalization-led economic growth... the release in 1977 of the movie Star Wars, the highest grossing movie of all times highlighting the increased dominance of U.S. popular culture that would spread around the globe like wildfire. People are probably familiar with Joe Nyes A Notion of Soft Power, the idea that your culture and your ideas and your beliefs are an incredibly important instrument in spreading your national interest. Well, how does that manifest itself? Coca Cola, Levi Jeans, Star Wars. This is the signal that American culture which one could have imagined would be in a period of decline. This is the beginning when we see American culture actually stepping up and increasing its influence around the world.
Middlebrow does not mediate between Highbrow and Lowbrow; and therefore it should not be championed by those who are attempting to champion social mobility... HiLobrow may not actually be a disposition that anyone can actually inhabit; it might be more of an ideal — Highbrow and Lowbrow, reunited and it feels so good... I have not in my experience encountered any certain specimen of this type; but I do not refuse to admit that as far as I know, every other person may be such a specimen. At the same time I will say that I have searched vainly for years….”
C-3PO and R2-D2. Because they’re artifacts of the “White” world who exhibit “Brown” values. To the extent that they’re an eccentric, unpredictable, funny slapstick duo one is tempted to call them hilobrow.
Tony Smith - who I worship like a God - was both a high Modernists and something over and beyond. According to the art Historian William Agee, "Smith was born in 1912, the same year as Jackson Pollock, one of his oldest and closest friends, placing him squarely in the generation of the Abstract Expressionists." But Smith wouldn't have his first artistic success until the after Pollock had died and Abstract Expressionism was on the wane. For its 1967 cover story on Smith, Time Magazine described his as a "minor" architect, a "Sunday painter of geometric abstractions" and a "semiprofessional Irishman." Whatever the jerks at Time Magazine made of him, within the artworld Smith was an avuncular figure who bridged the otherwise uncrossable generational divide that had split the American art world during the 1960s. His art, architecture and ideas had the rigor and severity one associates with modernist architecture.
Smith's Modernist credentials are unimpeachable (he studied for a year at the Chicago Bauhaus, during the late 1930 worked under Frank Lloyd-Wright, and his own architecture was akin to the striped down International Style), but he is commonly pointed to as an ur-minimalist.Smith was quoted by Robert Morris in his Notes on Sculpture essays, is name checked by Donald Judd in his essay Specific Objects, the critic Michael Fried used Smith as a bludgeon in his attack on Morris and Judd, Art and Objecthood. The artist Smith may have been most important to was the earthworks artist Robert Smithson, who quoted Smith in a half dozen different essays over the years. Smith's Modernists roots are revealed however when it comes to the split between the lowbrow minor art and the highbrow master art. Smith makes the modernist appreciation for the primitive all the more explicit when his opposes it to what he doesn't like:
I’m interested in the inscrutability and mysteriousness of the thing. Something obvious on the face of it (like a washing machine or a pump), is of no further interest. A Bennington earthenware jar for instance, has subtle color, largeness of form, a general suggestion of substance, generosity, is calm and reassuring - qualities that take it beyond utility…Glenn does consider the Moisture Farm "whose organic shape," he writes, "conceals high-tech condensers and transformers and droids" as a possible candidate to occupy the HiLoBrow position. Perhaps because he is analysing the film as literature and his effort is to map "aesthetic and lifestyle choices" and to do so, at least in part, in terms of "social class" he settles on the droids. But he immediately undoes even his own choice because, he explains, "this is a George Lucas Movie! That doesn't seem possible." I perfectly understand Glenn's point about Lucas, but I think he is wrong. HiLoBrow it would seem, would be something as inscrutable and mysterious as a Bennington earthenware jar, and as obvious as a washing machine or a pump. Whether or not Star Wars is a synthesis of high and low, I will leave up to Glenn to decide. On the merits of its visual program, it can however be judged to be a very successful synthesis of the "minor arts" and the "master art."
What marks the Modernist architecture of the Post War years was not the technologies of glass and steel construction, but was instead a shift in ambition. The shift had begun before the war as architects increasingly saw themselves as being able to solve the vexing political questions of urbanism. They offered themselves, but were largely ignored, dismissed as utopians. The exception was New York where Robert Moses was able to radically restructure the city from the ground up as the MoMA's Alfred Barr worked from above to normalize the radical vision of Mies, Gropius and Corbusier for the city's elites.From the eighteenth century on, every discussion of politics as the art of the government of men necessarily includes a chapter or a series of chapters on urbanism, on collective facilities, on hygiene, and on private architecture. Such chapters are not found in the discussions of the art of government of the sixteenth century. This change is perhaps not in the reflections of architecture, but it is quite clearly seen in the reflections of political men.
After the War political men were ready to accept radical ideas whole swaths of Europe needed to be rebuilt and the Modernists were there with fast inexpensive solutions that they sold as as a cure for all that ailed the Old World. Elsewhere I have written about Utopia at length, but it is worth repeating here that:
The Death Star is a flying saucer that has been inflated to the size of a moon. Like the minimalist art it resembles, the Death Star is a utopia stripped of all progressive justification: It has monastic barracks, its sexuality is defined negatively (see Darth Vader’s masochistic garb), and its entryway is a breach in the “equatorial trench.”
he was one of those Marxist critics who likes to think he’s really involved with the people, making great gestures and so forth, but they’re hardly in the world at all. Anyway he was talking about pot-making and weaving and everything. And my feeling was that was not all historical art but not folk art. As far as I am concerned, a folk art is when you take a utilitarian object, something you use everyday, and you give it overlays of your own personality, what it is you feel and so forth. You enhance it with your life. And folk art in the current period of time would more appropriately be in the area of something like a motorcycle. I mean, a motorcycle can be a lot more than just a machine that runs along; it can be a whole description of a personality and aesthetic.