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,