Kitsch Art is undoubtedly one of the most divisive formats of art to spring up in recent times. Coming from the German word which literally translates to ‘trash’ or ‘to smear’, kitsch art is an aesthetic category that definitely raises eyebrows among critics and the general public alike. And raises even more questions about whether or not kitsch art can truly be considered as a category of art — or is it just a blatant yet failed attempt in breaking new ground in the many types of art that have been widely accepted in the industry?
Many artists have their personal takes on the validity of kitsch as an art form, with some even going as far as to discredit the entire category. Clement Greenberg, a prominent visual essayist and art critic in the 1930s, did not mince his words when talking about kitsch art, he said, “Kitsch is mechanical and operates by formulas. Kitsch is a 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.”
However, some art aficionados have preferred not to look at kitsch art from the point of view of an art purist. Odd Nerdrum, considered to be one of the highly respected classical figurative painters of our time, regarded kitsch as being worthy of being called art, he remarked, “Kitsch is the expression of passion at all levels and not the servant of truth. It keeps relative to religion and truth”.
While mostly used as a negative term given to artworks that are allegedly ‘pretentious’ or ‘done in bad taste’ — kitsch art in itself is actually a thriving sub-genre of art that is not all that bad as it may sound. Credit has to be given to kitsch art for its willingness to stretch the boundaries of what can be called art.
In a nutshell, kitsch is the antihero of art. It acts like it is not art but in the process of breaking the rules, kitsch actually becomes an artistic expression — albeit a rebellious one at that. Shying away from the pretentious vibe and foregoing the snobby and rigid impression of traditional art – kitsch art introduces a style that is suited to a wider audience of art lovers
While there are no specific guidelines that can help identify what artworks can be defined as kitsch — a common denominator among many pieces that may fall under kitsch art is that there is frequent use of imagery from contemporary culture. From simple everyday items such as a beer bottle to famous celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe — kitsch is a no-holds-barred battleground of artistic elements that all blend together to create a powerful and unique work of art that is all too personal to its maker.
Kitsch Art continues to be a hot topic in pop culture up to today. From works such as Andy Warhol’s ‘Marilyns’ to Yeo Kaa’s art performance marked by smashing three neon paint-filled piñatas in the SEA Focus event held in 2019, it is without a doubt that Kitsch Art has gone global and that it is the new artistic standard (or lack of it) in the modern world.
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