I have read some of Varieties of Modernism, edited by Paul Wood. This is one of a series of four books primarily used at universities in teaching modern art history. Varieties of Modernism covers 20th century modernity in art and purports to be a book of art history.
If one wonders why students these days become so twisted and radical in their thinking, then reading this book certainly provides strong evidence to the pathetic, if not, disgusting presentation of far left ideals. The only redeeming qualities of the various, ridiculous essays is that they are written in such academic mish-mosh that it is quite possible that students might dismiss a lot of what is dished out as superfluous details.
In this book we hear all the nonsense of the socialists, such as how fascism is the opposite of communism, the international movement of workers and right thinking intellectuals, the fight against colonialism, social justice and social realism and so forth and so on, hardly recognizing the vast multitude of people crushed, tortured and killed by such pandering to whom Lenin called, “the willing idiots.”
It is true that many, especially European artists, embraced the fantasy of socialism and communism. Yet their influence is greatly over exaggerated by these political art historians. They do not realise that modernist art was not accepted by the majority of people, and still may not have reached the majority, with people clinging to traditional forms of art as well as folk varieties. Even many who had an interest in modernist art could care less about the foolish, revolutionary zeal of its’ major figures. Doubtlessly, many admirers of the works of Diego Rivera, for instance, either don’t know his sickening, communist leanings or don’t care.
Ironically, abstraction was rejected by the similar totalitarian philosophies of fascism and communism. (Communism is simply fascism with different excuses for oppression.) In both political philosophies art is subsumed into the state’s rationale for control. Art outside the state’s purview is unnecessary and dangerous, in so much as to promote free exercise of thought and action.
Varieties of Modernism is not a book on art history. It is the diatribe of left wing academics. Large parts of this book are political expressions, and as such, can be entirely ignored. Nauseating repetition of tired left wing political ideology is substituted for objective examination of the subject of modernism. Imagine for a moment a work on art history through the lens of National Socialism. The similarities would be startling. Unfortunately, students are reading this sort of work, possibly without the realization that terms such as proletariat and bourgeoisie are phony definitions created by people like Karl Marx for the purpose of drawing all sorts of conclusions outside the perimeter of reality. Indeed, communism was developed as one might develop a children’s game, with out real context, and therefore, requires all sorts of made-up terminology to give it an air of legitimacy. Communists superficially adopted all sorts of 20th century grievances only to advance their cause. They claimed that communism frees people of racial discrimination, even though in many communist states, anti-semitism was rampant. They claim to free the worker from the oppression of the exploitation of labor, even though communist states engage in virtual slave labor in many instances and the workers are subject to the whims of an oligarchy. Communists claim all sorts of things even though the communist state usually resembles a dictatorial, hereditary monarchy or the Caesars of Imperial Rome and do not consider or benefit the workers, supposedly the backbone of these societies.
Varieties of Modernism is a book not worth reading–entirely a waste of time. Find a work that presents the facts about the art and the artists in the true context of the times, rather than a work obsessed with the conflict between capitalism and communism, as if this was the constant focus of the majority of people. To those forced to study this work at a university, just take it with a grain of salt. This is pure indoctrination and is not worth focusing on after the class is over.
As a side-note: This work, as is the work of most contemporary, political art historians, is also obsessed with gender and delves into the most ludicrous forms of psychological speculation, as if art critics and historians have the skill or intellect for such discussions.