The Democratization of Art

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While this may be no big revelation to trained art historians, as an untrained neophyte researcher, when I first began to look into Art Deco (beyond merely knowing I liked it) I had no idea it would lead me into such a vast array directions deep into the psycho-sociological history of humans, psychology of art, and factual history of 19th, 20th, and 21st Century politics, religion, science, industry, environment, aesthetics, war, peace, color theory, and more. It seems that the more I learn about Art Deco, the more I learn and understand about society itself and how we got to this point in time. Unlike any other art movement before it, the influences which form the genre exemplify diversity at its’ best as no single social class, religion, gender, political ideology, economy, geographical location, or culture seems to have been left out. All have contributed to it and all have been equally recognized by it. But also unlike any other art movement before it, Art Deco does not honor its’ influences in the manner of reverential exaltation but through whimsical parody, making and having fun with all we hold dear. It is perhaps because of this aspect that art snobs proclaimed Art Deco to be nothing more than a trivial fad that will quickly run its’ course, or in the words of Paul Greenhalgh, former-head of research for the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England,“Art Deco is a terribly easy movement to insult. It has maintained that most damning of all qualities — fun.” He further noted that, “The avant-garde has never really forgiven it for being successful.”

“Tropical Art Deco” is perhaps the most fun of all with its’ happy ice-cream colors, rounded “melting” edges, and playful, oversized forms. While certainly it has been heavily influenced by prominent, homosexual artists and associated in general with the Gay community, the glorification of the South Beach, Miami historic architectural district exemplified by the 1980’s television show “Miami Vice” and its’ overtly heterosexual star, Don Johnson’s fashionable, often pastel, wardrobe by designers Versace and Armani, Art Deco has transcended boundaries to be enjoyed by all.

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Versatility of Man-Made Materials in Art Deco

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A big part of what drove Art Deco was the plethora of new Industrial materials such as aluminum, bakelite and plastics, which found themselves in favor for such non-industrial applications as dishes, hair brushes, clocks, and even ladies’ evening purses. These new materials were extremely durable, easy to work with and form into exotic shapes and lead to new discoveries for working with pigments as the plastics in particular could take on strong, vibrant colors that did not easily fade.

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Art Deco’s Celebration of Life

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While art from the Renaissance period seemed to languish in dreamy repose and Victorian Art sat straight up to regal pomp and propriety, Art Deco exuded the energy, rebelliousness and daring of the first generation of the 20th Century as they passed out of childhood as if shot from a cannon. Some, in fact had emerged from their innocent cocoons in the trial by fire that was the First World War.

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