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AUDIENCE AND THE AVANT-GARDE

[It is] a risky business [to send a picture] out into the world. How often it must be impaired by the eyes of the unfeeling and the cruelty of the impotent who would extend their affliction universally!

Mark Rothko1

THE HISTORY OF ADVANCED ART is full of remarks similar to the above. In fact, they seem necessary to its self-consciousness—crucial to its sense of being “advanced.” In the same vein of alienation, but even more aggressively, we have Adolph Gottlieb’s generalization that artists are “at war with society,” which is why they suffer from “social neglect” and “the inability to make a living.” This goes hand in hand with Gottlieb’s assertion that “abstraction enrages [the average man] because it makes him feel inferior. And he is inferior.” Even more angrily, Gottlieb remarks: “I’d like more status than I have now, but not at the cost of closing the gap between artist and public.

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