In Pursuit of the Lost Audience
By the time he wrote ‘Modernist Painting’ in 1965, Greenberg had espoused another aspect of modernism, in common with Leavis and Adorno: the notion of continuity, or backward-looking history that traces influences from painter back through painter to establish that there is nothing definitively new, nothing definitively dangerous or subversive, about modern art. At the same time, I have tried to argue in the previous chapter that ‘primitivism’ plays a core role in modernism, a colonial and neo-colonial turn of formal interest towards the technical and/or expressive possibilities of exotic cultures. Gauguin’s Tahiti (a more exotic alternative to Paris than Brittany), Picasso’s masks and Breton’s characterisation of Mexico as the truly surrealist country are all colonial gestures.
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