One of the few academically rigorous studies of the popular phenomenon of art deco, Mainstreaming Modernism: The Diffusion of Deco complicates the cultural field of modernism by focusing on this critically maligned but popularly acclaimed category. While most art historical studies of modernist visual culture focus on well-known artists and their work, this book is different in that it foregrounds questions of stylistic dissemination and patterns of consumption - uncovering the kinds of cultural values and memories that have accrued to art deco's simple, streamlined forms. Starting with Le Corbusier's diatribe against the 1925 Paris Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Modernes, the book explores some of the rhetorical strategies for disparaging art deco as an unsophisticated style, and a tepid form of modernist expression. Bridget Elliott argues that art deco - with traits including mass appeal, historical revivalism, and defiantly feminine and queer qualities - engaged with modernity by appealing to constituencies beyond the early twentieth-century art world.
Case studies are drawn from France, England, Canada, and the United States, and intersect with the worlds of film, fashion, art, and architecture.
Bridget Elliott is Professor in the Department of Visual Arts at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.