Modernism and the crisis in art : the structure of fine art practice : a sociological account
The fine arts can be described as in a state of crisis, manifest in the tendency for style to fragment and pluralism in art criticism - the view that the work of art is a document and that there are no privileged criteria of artistic value. Following the example of the anti-art avant-garde, recent art critical and sociological theory has rejected the notion of artistic 'specialness', and undermined the category of aesthetic experience. In this context, it has been suggested that art is finished, that a new era of Post-modernity has begun. This thesis confronts these claims by raising the question of the nature of art. This thesis argues that:;- Theorisation about the nature of art can be located within a structural framework, itself a response to the existential reality of the socially mediated categories of art and aesthetic experience.;- The fine art tradition was historically constituted as a social category, with the theorisation of the special relationship between artist, art object and aesthetic object.;-Theorisation took two forms within the Classical tradition, each developing into distinct aesthetics in the Modernist period, the form of the aesthetic being related to the art style and its social conditions of production and consumption.;- The form of the aesthetic can be shown to be structurally related to the consciousness of freedom/oppression in society, providing an important component in the dynamics of style.;- Contemporary art remains Modernist. Claims concerning the end of art and Postmodernism have wrongly delimited Modernism, often narrowly confined to avant-gardism.;Nonetheless, since 1945, artists have pushed art to the limits of the structural framework that defines it as a special social practice, all but abandoning art's aesthetic core, but not erasing its public's expectation of 'meaning'. In this context, a more evaluative response to art is called for from a critical sociological discourse.