The Shock of the New by Robert HughesAgain today I was lost in admiration of this history-with-attitude of 20th century art. I think it’s the best single art book I’ve read. It’s stuffed full of ideas and sentences that refresh like a splash of seaspray. Viewing Paris from the Eiffel Tower in 1889 was “one of the pivots in human consciousness”. The phonograph was “the most radical extension of cultural memory since the photograph”. Cezanne “takes you backstage”. In cubist paintings the world was “a twitching skin of nuances”. “Machines were the ideal metaphor for that central pornographic fantasy of the 19th century, rape followed by gratitude.” “To make ‘socialist’ art, one must stop depicting ownable things: in short, go abstract.” “The idea that fascism always preferred retrograde to advanced art is simply a myth.” “Mass media took away the political speech of art.”
This book is the 1991 expanded version of the 1980 book-of-the-TV-series. He moves the story forward in several broad themes – how art confronts or is absorbed by power; what architecture thinks it’s doing to us; the interior landscapes of art like surrealism and abstraction; and how art has lost any kind of plot it thought it might have had, and if that might be a good thing.
I opened at random and my eye fell on p 382:
Duchamp invented a category he called “infra-mince”, “sub-tiny”; it was occupied, for instance, by the difference in weight between a clean shirt and the same shirt worn once.
The only thing wrong with this book is that Mr Hughes didn’t do an even more expanded and updated version before he died in 2012. But you can’t have everything.
The Shock of the New : Art and the Century of Change
Aug 14, ISBN A beautifully illustrated hundred-year history of modern art, from cubism to pop and avant-guard. More than color photos. Robert Hughes was born in Australia in In he moved to the United States to become chief art critic for Time, a position he held until Category: Art. Ebook —.
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