Modern Art USA: Men, Rebellion, Conquest, 1900-1956

By Rudi Blesh | Go to book overview

13. Isms and Wasms

A string of firecrackers: these were the isms exploding for the first fifteen years of modern art. Fauvism--before the red paper fragments could settle to the ground, it was over and done with. Then two bangs almost together--cubism and futurism-and the whole string began to go. Orphism and synchromism, vorticism, expressionism, rayonism, constructivism, and suprematism. Ism, ism, ism-the very suffix became a separate word, a symbol and a standard joke of the time.

Was it new? Was it nutty? Then put it down as just another ism by those wild young artists. Do you call that a picture? My four-year-old could paint better than that!

While we watched the artists, some giant crackers-the foot-long, dollar kind-were letting go: anarchism and nihilism. Then the bugles blew. It was our First World War, and we touched off our own firecrackers: patriotism and nationalism. Fought the war through and found our own little string going off: communism, fascism, national socialism -and isolationism.

Then there was Dadaism, and the artists were laughing at us. And we're off again: neo-classicism and neo-plasticism, non-objectivism, purism and immaculatism, surrealism and magic realism. Our private joke of common sense had long since worn thin. We grew uneasy; there was just too much noise. The kids' firecrackers began to seem more like sticks of dynamite in the foundations. Anyway, the house was undoubtedly falling apart, beginning with the cornerstones: Love, Marriage, Home, and Peace. The props that were offered to take their places seemed pretty flimsy: for Love a two-by-four called Biological Urge, and for Marriage a dry stick called Divorce. The corner called Home kept collapsing,

-185-

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Modern Art USA: Men, Rebellion, Conquest, 1900-1956
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations viii
  • 1. the World Stirs in Its Sleep 3
  • 2. Home Life on the Other Side of the Moon 9
  • 3. Plot in an Attic 23
  • 4. Rebellion in an Amory 41
  • 5. Aftermath 57
  • 6. Independents' Day 68
  • 7. Dada and Despair 85
  • 8. Modern Art's First Museum 103
  • 9. Art in a Skyscraper 114
  • 10. the Artist is the Man Next Door 131
  • Ii. Passage to Permanence 145
  • 12. Termite, Time Capsule, and Pedestal 162
  • 13. Isms and Wasms 185
  • 15. Go West, Young Art, Go West 222
  • 16. Arriving 241
  • 17. Presences 262
  • 18. the Present 282
  • Index i
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