In 'Space, Time, and Architecture' Sigfried Giedion explores the ephemeral nature of artistic trends by showing the importance that emotions have in defining beauty. With this concept in mind, he explores the invention of modern art movements such as cubism to a dissatisfaction to a corrupted use of perspective and notes that to understand the architecture of that period one must understand the art of that period.
Firstly, Giedion mentions the emotional component of art, in which the objects that are considered beautiful are not dictated by any innate qualities in them but by an artist's decision to present it as art. The example for this is in how Ruskin's work turned mountains, previously a symbol of confusion, into a picture of majestic beauty; a vista contrasting with the smog of industrial life. Similarly, Giedion notes that the seemingly mundane objects used by Picasso and Juan Gris, such as pipes and combs, were part of the constant transformation of material to symbol. Within this also lies artists such as Marcel Duchamp, with his toilet, that stress the fickle relationship between a material and its connotations that generates art.
With this in mind, the artist takes an auxiliary role in the creation process. His true role is only reactionary, to create new symbols as other ones die. Giedion mentions how cubism arose as a return to pure forms after the excess perspective of financially driven salon art destroyed its credibility. That is, Picasso's art is in the creation of a new visual grammar as an older form collapsed into irrelevance. Yet, cubism is not an invention of Picasso, but an expression of an unconscious will in that generated an automatic response to Trompe l'oeil.
Thus, it becomes clear that the overall complexity with which modern art is viewed by many owes itself to our inability to fully understand the myriad paths it took in jumping from one set of symbols to another.
Equally, Giedion mentions that...