Popular culture

DEFINITION

Low (as opposed to high) culture, parts of which are known as kitsch and camp. With the increasing economic power of the middle- and lower-income populace since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the nineteenth century, artists created various new diversions to answer the needs of these groups. These have included pulp novels and comic books, film, television, advertising, "collectibles," and tract housing. These have taken the place among the bourgeois once taken among the aristocracy by literature, opera, theater, academic painting, sculpture, and architecture. But modernist artists rarely cultivated the popular success of these new cultural forms. Modernist works were little appreciated outside of a small elite. Life magazine's 1950s articles on the abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock (American, 1912-1956), and the silkscreened paintings by Andy Warhol (American, 1928?-1987) of soup cans and celebrities signaled unprecedented fusions between high and low art and the transition to the postmodern age.Quotations: "Popularity is the crown of laurel which the world puts on bad art. Whatever is popular is wrong." Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), Anglo-Irish playwright, author. Lecture, June 30, 1883, to students of the Royal Academy, London (published in Aristotle at Afternoon Tea: The Rare Oscar Wilde, 1991). "The artist should never try to be popular. Rather the public should be more artistic." Oscar Wilde. "The fact is popular art dates. It grows quaint. How many people feel strongly about Gilbert and Sullivan today compared to those who felt strongly in 1890?" Stephen Sondheim (1930-), contemporary American composer, lyricist. International Herald Tribune (Paris, June 20, 1989). "Popular art is the dream of society; it does not examine itself." Margaret Atwood (1939-), Canadian novelist, poet, critic. "A Question Of Metamorphosis," interview in Malahat Review, no. 41 (1977; reprinted in Conversations, edited by Earl G. Ingersoll, 1990). "Popular culture is the new Babylon, into which so much art and intellect now flow. It is our imperial sex theater, supreme temple of the western eye. We live in the age of idols. The pagan past, never dead, flames again in our mystic hierarchies of stardom." Camille Paglia (1947-), American author, critic, educator. Sexual Personae, chapter 4 (1990). Also see brummagem, counterculture, ephemera, gewgaw, high art, low art, mass media, memorabilia, paint-by-number, Pop Art.

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