Thomas Crow's critically acclaimed essay collection Modern Art in the Common Culture, published in 1998, analyzes the intersection of modern culture and modern art, particularly the avant-garde. Crow's premise is that modern art and modern culture have a symbiotic relationship, despite the common assumption that the two clash. For many decades, art critics and historians believed that mass culture brushed off postmodern art as elitist, while modern artists believed that modern culture was a wasteland only to be criticized rather than integrated into art.
Crow, in various essays that explore art movements and specific artists, argues that modern art and modern mass culture have contributed to each other. For instance, famed postmodern painter Jackson Pollock influenced the modern fashion industry with his aesthetics. On the other hand, sculptor Gordon Matta-Clark literally used the modern cityscape by utilizing elements from abandoned buildings to create his sculptures.
The most prominent poster child for the modern art and modern mass culture symbiosis is Andy Warhol, whose body of work was highly influenced by the modern culture of 1960s and 1970s America and Great Britain. In return, like a feedback loop, Warhol's art became part of modern pop culture. This example sums up Crow's recurring theses in his essays: modern culture has invented itself by digesting modern art, and modern art cannot exist without the culture of the masses.