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Kitsch Hideously Sincere

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1 Kitsch Hideously Sincere
In connection with Gilbert Highet’s “Kitsch”

2 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 wireless

3 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.

4 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

5 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.

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7 Kitsch often results from the unholy marriage between the Artist and the Utilitarian

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10 Kitsch is always sincere:
Kitsch will often bring together two elements which do not belong and seriously try to fuse them

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12 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 sound?

13 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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