Aesthetic autonomy and the crisis of theory: Greenberg, Adorno, and the problem of postmodernism in the visual arts (New Formations 9, Winter 1989)

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Peter Osborne

Osborne looks at modernism and postmodernism in aesthetic theory, drawing on works by Jencks, Greenberg, Burgin and Adorno. He considers the role of art as commodity versus art as aesthetic and the crucial question of the ‘autonomy’ of art. He also questions the relationship between modernism and tradition Рshould we view modernism as a ‘break with the past’, or is there a ‘continuation’ from one moment to the other? Looking at surrealism and avant-garde art, Osborne concludes that while modernism derives from the ‘failure’ of the avant-garde, postmodernism does not necessarily imply the failure of modernism, which itself may not be over and done with.

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