How can you lump together all of these different styles and movements and call them Modernist"? "

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How can you lump together all of these different styles and movements and call them Modernist"? "

From Brian K. Yoder

Published before 2005


Q: How can you lump together all of these different styles and movements and call them "Modernist"?

I generally do (unless I am talking about narrow sectarian disputes) talk about "modernism" as a very broad general category that encompasses a number of different fashions and sects that have developed over the past 100 years or so. The reason I do so is because I don't consider the differences between the various movements to be significant relevant to their opposition to good art. Whether a given movement opposes good art on the grounds that tradition is bad, or that clarity of meaning is bad, or that skill is bad, or that flat canvas is bad, or that white males are bad, or that the old masters were bad, or what have you, the "sides" are still the same... genuinely good art on one side and an endless parade of arguments against it on the other. It is natural that such an irrational and unfounded attack on art would have to constantly be shifting positions and following fashions as one after another failed argument falls. That is exactly what we have seen over the course of the modernist era...each particular kind of charlatanry arises, has its day in the sun, and fades into obscurity as it fails to accomplish its expressive goal.

Look at it this way, if one was to explain what is wrong with quack medicines and why people are taken in by them, would one carefully distinguish between sellers of snake oil, magnetic bracelets, and homeopathy? Or would one generalize about them all together? Of course this would be almost certain to raise the ire of practitioners of one or the other of these "cures", but that doesn't mean that the broader issues aren't basically the same for all of the sub-categories. I'm doping the same thing when I talk about abstract expressionism, pop art, post-modernism, and all the rest by a single name rather than enumerating each individual sub-category one at a time.