Kitsch - My MVNU

Hideously Sincere
In connection with Gilbert
Highet’s “Kitsch” 386- 393
From the Oxford English Dictionary
• Art or objets d'art characterized by worthless
pretentiousness; the qualities associated with
such art or artifacts.
• 1926 B. HOWARD
Let. in M. J.
Lancaster Brian
Howard (1968) ix.
166 A healthy week
. . riding, chasing
dogs and listening
to ‘Kitsch’ on his
• 1939 Partisan Rev. VI. 40
– 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.
• 1958 Observer 23 Feb. 14/1
What is so extraordinary about
some of these kitsch masterpieces
is the way they can be enjoyed on
two planes, both as themselves
and as their own parodies.
From Gilbert Highet’s “Kitsch”
In the decorative arts kitsch flourishes, and is
particularly widespread in sculpture. One of
my favorites pieces of bad art is a statue in
Rockefeller Center, New York. It is supposed
to represent Atlas, the Titan condemned to
carry the sky on his shoulders. That is an ideal
of somber, massive tragedy: greatness and
suffering combined as in Hercules or
Prometheus. But this version displays Atlas
as a powerful moron, with a tiny little
head, rather like the panfried young men
who appear in the health magazines.
Instead of supporting the heavens, he is
lifting a spherical metal balloon: it is
transparent and quite empty; yet he is
balancing insecurely on one foot like a
furniture mover walking upstairs with a
beach ball; and he is scowling like a
mad baboon. If he ever gets the thing
up, he will drop it or else heave it onto a
Fifth Avenue bus. It is a supremely
ridiculous statue and delights me every
time I see it.
Kitsch often results from the unholy
marriage between the Artist and the
Kitsch is always sincere:
• Kitsch will
often bring
together two
which do not
belong and
seriously try to
fuse them
You just know
that the individual
who designed this
shirt and
marketed it mean
to glorify Christ
but somehow did
not recognize that
Jesus’ sacrifice of
his life and a soda
just do not belong
on the same
plate—why did
not the alarms
Just a final thought
• Gilbert Highet’s essay “Kitsch” on one hand
is a great example of what we call a “definition
theme.” However it is also a reminder to the
writer that creating text which is
presumptuous, which tries to impress, and
which depicts what the author assumes every
reader believes leads to bad writing—a bad
kind of writing can fits under the larger
underclass of art in all genres called Kitsch.

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