California Funk

"Kitsch is mechanical and operates by formulas. Kitsch is vicarious experience and faked sensations. Kitsch changes according to style, but remains always the same. Kitsch is the epitome of all that is spurious in the life of our times. Kitsch pretends to demand nothing of its customers except their money—not even their time.” - Clement Greenberg
Reminder! Exam 2 must be submitted by 11:59 PM tonight!
Ed and Nancy Kienholz, The Portable War Memorial, 1968.












Avant-Garde and Kitsch, 1939
  • Modern art was a means of resisting the leveling of culture produced by capitalism
  • Distinction between high and low art/ culture
    • kitsch = mass produced, low quality, consumer culture











Towards a Newer Laocoon, 1940
  • Modern art was like philosophy in that it explored conditions under which we experience and understand the world
  • Urged artists to break with traditional dominance of subject matter and narrative
    • Art should not simply illustrate experience
  • Used the fear of communism in support of abstraction and formalism
Hitler touring the Degenerate Art Exhibition, Munich, 1937






















Alfred Baar Jr. torpedo diagram
Alfred Baar Jr. on the founding principles of MoMA and the Metropolitan Museum











  • Borrowing from Kant's argument on philosophy, Greenberg asserts "purification"
  • The arts should remain autonomous
    • Art forms should avoid "confusion" with each other as they are stronger when they do not mix

Kenneth Noland, Tide, 1958.











  • Argued that the avant-garde had not broken with tradition.
    • Rather, that painters were moving towards greater emphasis on the flatness of the picture plane.
    • Dialogue on flatness moved their art away from the Old Masters
    • Artists had previously seen the flatness of the picture plane as a hurdle to overcome in the attempt to depict three-dimensional space on a two-dimensional surface
  • Content is the effect of the work on the viewer
Helen Frankenthaler, Mountains and Sea, 1952.











Luncheon on the Grass
Modernist Painting, 1961
  • Traced interest in the flatness of the picture plane back to the Impressionists
  • Considered the history of the avant-garde as a continuous stripping away of subject matter, illusion and pictorial space
    • Favored dialogue on unique, formal qualities of paint
  • Concept of "mainstream" as a strictly linear progression of art history
    • Each new style builds on its predecessors
  • Only one style exists at any given time
    • Ignored all other styles
Edouard Manet, Luncheon on the Grass
(Le Dejeuner Sur L'Herbe)
, 1863.












Alfred H Barr Jr., cover of the Cubism and Abstract Art catalog, MOMA, 1936











  • Concept of "mainstream" as a strictly linear progression of art history
    • Each new style builds on its predecessors
  • Only one relevant style exists at any given time
    • Ignored all other styles
Titian, Venus of Urbino, 1538.
Diane Arbus, A family one evening at a nudist camp, 1965.










































Claes Oldenburg, Pie a la Mode, 1962.
Claes Oldenburg, Two Hamburgers with Everything (Dual Hamburgers), 1962. Burlap soaked in plaster painted with enamel, 17.8 x 37.5 x 21.8 cm.











"The erotic or the sexual is the root of art." - Claes Oldenburg
Oldenburg notebook page
Claes Oldenburg, Floor Cake, 1962.
4' 10" X 9' 6" X 4' 10".

Claes Oldenburg, Soft Dormeyer Mixer, 1965.

Claes Oldenburg, Notebook page: Dormeyer Mixer. 1965.











Claes Oldenburg in The Store
Claes Oldenburg with soft Ice Cream sculpture






















West Coast Pop
a.k.a. California Funk movement
funk = bad smelling
California Funk movement defined by Berkeley University's Art Museum Director, Peter Selz as being "hot rather than cool, committed rather than disengaged, bizarre rather than formal, sensuous and frequently quite ugly."

Gold Marilyn


Andy Warhol, Gold Marilyn Monroe, 1962.
Ed and Nancy Kienholz, Birthday, 1964.











Bob Arneson, Typewriter, 1965.
Bob Arneson, Doggie Bob (Self Portrait), 1982.












Robert Arneson, George Muscone, 1981.