Modern art treads a thin line between what is "art" and what is pretentious junk. There is no standard to judge it by and no formula to compare it to. Therefore the interpretation of what is art and what is not is left completely up to the individual viewer and there is no right or wrong to it. Art has become totally subjective, an "act of the mind" as Steven says. The only question now is what Stevens thinks of this trend. The purpose of this paper is to argue that Wallace Stevens does not like the almost completely subjective nature of modern art, particularly modern poetry, and expresses his concerns in his poem Of Modern Poetry (pg 239-240).
Stevens opens the poem with the assertion that modern poetry is "in the act of finding what will suffice." (ln 1-2) This line itself suggests that there is something missing, something that needs to be fulfilled, and modern poetry has become a task that has been taken up to fulfill it. What is missing is not mentioned specifically, although Stevens does allude to a war in lines 9 and 10 when he says, "It has to think about war/ And it has to find what will suffice." (ln 9-10) Perhaps he is talking about the World Wars, which greatly changed the way that people looked at the world. From these new viewpoints also came the basis of many new ideas that now compose "modern art." .
Next, Stevens draws a parallel from the world of poetry to the world of theater by comparing poetry to an actor. An actor who, "speak words that in the ear repeat, exactly, that which it wants to hear, at the sound of which, an invisible audience listens, not to the play, but to itself- (ln 13-17) The most interesting part of that quote is the last part, where Stevens states that the audience, of both the play and of poetry, are no longer listening to what the actor or the poet has to say. Instead the modern audience is just listening to the workings of their own mind.