In 1984, Suzi Gablik’s Has Modernism Failed? was one of the first books to confront the social situation of contemporary art. In describing a world whose central aesthetic paradigm of modernism had lost its vitality, with an “avant-garde” that reflected the culture of consumerism, her book struck a chord in an audience that had once responded to the heroic idealism of modernism. Reprinted many times, Has Modernism Failed? became one of the most popular and influential works of contemporary art criticism. Now Gablik has revised and expanded her work to encompass developments over the last two decades. A new prologue looks at changes in the cultural context of art, especially at the radical split between artists who still proclaim the self-sufficiency of art, “in defiance of the social good,” and artists who want art to have some worthy agenda outside of itself. In a new chapter, “Globalization,” she looks at the ruthless cultural homogenization of a universal consumer society and how a number of artists and curators are challenging it. And in a passionate new chapter called “Transdisciplinarity” she offers a way forward for individuals to break free of the limiting ideologies of modernism and consumerism and shows how some artists are reflecting both spiritual and social concerns in their art.
Suzi Gablik is the author of Has Modernism Failed?, Magritte, Progress in Art, and The Reenchantment of Art. She lectures widely and has taught at the University of California at Santa Barbara, Virginia, and the University of the South. She lives in Blacksburg, Virginia.