The Crisis of Ugliness: From Cubism to Pop-Art


Mikhail Lifshitz is a major forgotten figure in the tradition of Marxist philosophy and art history. A significant influence on Lukács, and the dedicatee of his The Young Hegel, as well as an unsurpassed scholar of Marx and Engels’s writings on art and a lifelong controversialist, Lifshitz’s work dealt with topics as various as the philosophy of Marx and the pop aesthetics of Andy Warhol. The Crisis of Ugliness (originally published in Russian by Iskusstvo, 1968), published here in English for the first time, and with a detailed introduction by its translator David Riff, is a compact broadside against modernism in the visual arts that nevertheless resists the dogmatic complacencies of Stalinist aesthetics. Its reentry into English debates on the history of Soviet aesthetics promises to re-orient our sense of the basic coordinates of a Marxist art theory.
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Biographical Note

Mikhail Lifshitz (1905-1983) was an employee of the Marx-Engels Institute in Moscow, and from the 1930s developed, on Marxist grounds, a distinctively critical approach to literary modernism. His The Philosophy of Art of Karl Marx (1933) remains a major contribution to the reconstruction of Marx's own thinking on aesthetics. David Riff (1975) is a writer, artist and curator. He was a member of the work group Chto delat and co-editor of the newspaper of the same name from 2003 to 2008. Riff has curated international exhibitions and event programs and has published extensively on contemporary art. He currently lives in Berlin and works as a freelance curator.

Table of contents

List of Illustrations Introduction. Mikhail Lifshitz: A Communist ContemporaryDavid Riff Foreword 1 Myth and Reality: The Legend of Cubism‘Scandal in Art’Two Appraisals of CubismG.V. Plekhanov and CubismThe Terms ‘Reactionary’ and ‘Bourgeois’The Revolt against ThingsFusion with Objects as an IdealThe Evolution of CubismPainting in the Other World 2 The Phenomenology of the Soup Can: The Quirks of TasteThe Economy of PaintingReflection’s MalaiseConclusion 3 Why am I Not a Modernist? References Index Illustration Section


Art historians, critical theorists, students of Soviet aesthetics, modernism and Marxist cultural theory.