Criticisms of modernism
The most controversial aspect of the modern movement was, and remains, its rejection of tradition. Modernism's stress on freedom of expression, experimentation, radicalism, and primitivism disregards conventional expectations. In many art forms this often meant startling and alienating audiences with bizarre and unpredictable effects, as in the strange and disturbing combinations of motifs in surrealism or the use of extreme dissonance and atonality in modernist music. In literature this often involved the rejection of intelligible plots or characterization in novels, or the creation of poetry that defied clear interpretation.
After the rise of Stalin, the Soviet Communist government rejected modernism on the grounds of alleged elitism, although it had previously endorsed futurism and constructivism. The Nazi government of Germany deemed modernism narcissistic and nonsensical, as well as "Jewish" and "Negro" (see Anti-semitism). The Nazis exhibited modernist paintings alongside works by the mentally ill in an exhibition entitled Degenerate Art. Accusations of "formalism" could lead to the end of a career, or worse. For this reason many modernists of the post-war generation felt that they were the most important bulwark against totalitarianism, the "canary in the coal mine", whose repression by a government or other group with supposed authority represented a warning that individual liberties were being threatened. Louis A. Sass compared madness, specifically schizophrenia, and modernism in a less fascist manner by noting their shared disjunctive narratives, surreal images, and incoherence.
In fact, modernism flourished mainly in consumer/capitalist societies, despite the fact that its proponents often rejected consumerism itself. However, high modernism began to merge with consumer culture after World War II, especially during the 1960s. In Britain, a youth sub-culture emerged calling itself "modernist" (usually shortened to Mod), following such representative music groups as The Who and The Kinks. The likes of Bob Dylan, Serge Gainsbourg and The Rolling Stones combined popular musical traditions with modernist verse, adopting literary devices derived from James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, James Thurber, T. S. Eliot, Guillaume Apollinaire, Allen Ginsberg, and others. The Beatles developed along similar lines, creating various modernist musical effects on several albums, while musicians such as Frank Zappa, Syd Barrett and Captain Beefheart proved even more experimental. Modernist devices also started to appear in popular cinema, and later on in music videos. Modernist design also began to enter the mainstream of popular culture, as simplified and stylized forms became popular, often associated with dreams of a space age high-tech future.
This merging of consumer and high versions of modernist culture led to a radical transformation of the meaning of "modernism". First, it implied that a movement based on the rejection of tradition had become a tradition of its own. Second, it demonstrated that the distinction between elite modernist and mass consumerist culture had lost its precision. Some writers[who?] declared that modernism had become so institutionalized that it was now "post avant-garde", indicating that it had lost its power as a revolutionary movement. Many have interpreted this transformation as the beginning of the phase that became known as postmodernism. For others, such as art critic Robert Hughes, postmodernism represents an extension of modernism.
"Anti-modern" or "counter-modern" movements seek to emphasize holism, connection and spirituality as remedies or antidotes to modernism. Such movements see modernism as reductionist, and therefore subject to an inability to see systemic and emergent effects. Many modernists came to this viewpoint, for example Paul Hindemith in his late turn towards mysticism. Writers such as Paul H. Ray and Sherry Ruth Anderson, in The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the World (2000), Fredrick Turner in A Culture of Hope and Lester Brown in Plan B, have articulated a critique of the basic idea of modernism itself — that individual creative expression should conform to the realities of technology. Instead, they argue, individual creativity should make everyday life more emotionally acceptable.
In some fields the effects of modernism have remained stronger and more persistent than in others. Visual art has made the most complete break with its past. Most major capital cities have museums devoted to 'Modern Art' as distinct from post-Renaissance art (circa 1400 to circa 1900). Examples include the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Tate Modern in London, and the Centre Pompidou in Paris. These galleries make no distinction between modernist and postmodernist phases, seeing both as developments within 'Modern Art'.
The visual arts are art forms that create works which are primarily visual in nature, such as ceramics, drawing, painting, sculpture, architecture, printmaking, modern visual arts (photography, video, and filmmaking), design and crafts. These definitions should not be taken too strictly as many artistic disciplines (performing arts, conceptual art, textile arts) involve aspects of the visual arts as well as arts of other types. Also included within the visual arts are the applied arts such as industrial design, graphic design, fashion design, interior design and decorative art.