Pop sculpture featured plaster casts of real people surrounded by actual pieces of furniture in a three-dimensional comic strip of devitalized, defeated humanity. At the other extreme, sculpture in the grand manner experienced a rebirth, in good measure due to the work of two British artists.
Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975) made classically fashioned standing abstract forms of great beauty. Henry Moore (1898-1986) came to be widely considered the ranking sculptor of the century. His powerful renditions of monumental human figures, simplified and reduced to essentials, created an effect like that of a cubist or expressionist painting.
In sculpture as in painting, the variety and vitality of innovations were remarkable—from the highly polished rhythmic abstractions of the Romanian Constantin Brancusi (1876-1957), to the disturbing, emaciated figures of the Swiss Alberto Giacornetti (1901-1966), to the abstract or whimsical mobiles of the American Alexander Calder (1898-1976) and his larger, sometimes menacing, stabiles.
In architecture the twentieth century produced the first truly original style since the end of the eighteenth century. This functional style was no revival of the past, no living museum of eclecticism like many nineteenth-century buildings. It prided itself on honest use of modern materials and on adaptation to the site and to the demands of twentieth-century living, combined with avoidance of waste space and needless display.
One of its pioneers was the American Frank Lloyd Wright (1869— 1959), who spent his apprenticeship with the designers of early Chicago skyscrapers and then developed the “prairie” style of house, emphasizing the planes and the uncluttered simplicity that Wright admired in Japanese houses.
Toward the end of his life Wright made a radical experiment in the designing of the Solomon Guggenheim Museum in New York, which consisted mainly of one vast, open space through which visitors descend along a ramp that permits them to see the works displayed both close at hand and at several different removes of distance.
Modern music, like modern art, moved away from what the general public could comprehend into atonal and experimental music, often based on electronics. Popular music became a vast branch of the entertainment industry, represented by country and Western, modern jazz, and various forms of rock and roll.
All had their innovators who sought to develop fresh ideas and sounds, and jazz in particular was often both intellectually and emotionally creative in ways that broke with the essentially derivative modes of much popular romantic music. Music for the millions reached them through radio and television and by traveling groups such as the Beatles.
The words and sounds of popular music came to dominate the sensory world of young western Europeans, Americans, and Japanese, representing an internationalization of tastes as pervasive as the Sony Walkman on which the music was played. All art distorts perspective in order to heighten concentration, and music, in distorting sounds, commanded intense attention.
Distortion in art and music and hyperbole in literature, cinema, and consumer advertising were a response to the competition for public attention in a world of ever-increasing stimuli, with decibels, vulgarity, and “flash” adding adornments of a kind to the very real talent that popular culture displayed.