Avant Garde vs. New Art Hustle: Painter Monica Kim Garza

‘i smoke when i drank’, 2017 | © Monica Kim Garza

Avant Garde vs Post Modern Artists

There will always be truth or the search for it in art. This desire will cause artists to be heard and seen in their art making and museums to make the decisions to be inclusive or experience the antagonistic nature of artists deciding to forge their own paths and bring art to the masses. 

According to Tate Modern the term Avant Garde applies, “to all art that pushes the boundaries of ideas and creativity” and is more or less synonymous with modern.[i] In that sense, there will always be a truth reflected in modern art whether it is soulful, spiritual or tangible. Outside of the shocking the displays that took place during the Brooklyn Museum’s opening of “Sensation: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection, contemporary art has seemed to come in alignment with the current social issues, but in a more subdued form. 

As a culture, the Biennales in the past have always been filled with political references and feminist statements, yet in 2005, MOMA’s art director Glenn D. Lowry noted that the quieter Biennale made you “look you look at art in a new way.”[ii] Many collectors felt that all of it was something they had seen before.  What new is being done? What more can we see?

This is dissent between collectors, institutions and artists alike can be attributed expected with the onslaught of voices that currently fill the world. As contemporary art shifts more and more from an elite culture to a more democratized and accessible platform, artists the pendulum in art bound to swing both ways. In his book Visual Shock: A History of Art Controversies in American Culture, Scholar Michael Kammen states the willingness of museum directors to incorporate provocative art because of the crowds that they draw.[iii] In essence, art still shocks, but maybe not so much in the way that it needed to.

Most art patrons have seen the nude form. The current social issues of the day allow call for gender equity, racial justice, sexual freedoms and these are reflected in today’s art scene. Yet with all of these things coming forth in society it still is not fully represented in elite art circles. 

As a result, artists are drawing crowds to their Instagram and social media platforms to be heard. 

For example, Korean and Mexican painter Monica Kim Garz uses her medium to showcase  nude body positive women of color experiencing everyday life. 

If Lisa Yuskavage’s work is rife with nude prepubescent girls in positions that call forth an American Apparel ad, Garza’s images are decidedly opposite. They are curvy, cute, smoking and eating Chipotle. 

There is a whimsical and chill vibe to her work. For many people, seeing nude women cooking and talking in the kitchen may seem crass. However, in Garza’s paintings, it looks like an everyday occurrence. As more images like the paintings Garza creates travels the globe art will continue to become more inclusive and less shocking.  Perhaps what has been seen as extraordinary will become more ordinary as more of society and the personal reflections and representations of different communities become more evident.

Garza’s work can be seen at the New Image Art Gallery Online. 


[1] Vogel, Carol, “Subdued Biennale Forgoes Shock Factor.” The New York Times. 13 June 2005. Accessed 16 May 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/13/arts/design/subdued-biennale-forgoes-shock-factor.html

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