The "Avant-Garde" was originally a term used to describe art movements that were "cutting edge", were groundbreaking, trying to push the boundaries of art and focus on "truth" as an ideal in art. In other words, literally the "advance guard". The name has stuck to movements now long dead, such as Dadaism for example, which achieved their avant-garde status and retained it, even where, in the context of todays art they can no longer be regarded as avant-garde. What was avant-garde then, can obviously longer be considered to be so when out of context. The principals that Avant-Garde artists aspired to then and now however, are, at heart, the same. Now I applaud the effort to push the boundaries of art, delight in the principal of "art for art's sake", and I can even (begrudgingly) nod in the generally accepted circular argument that a piece / artist / movement "can be defined as Avant-Garde if it is avant-garde". I believe that these things are admirable, and are intrinsically linked to human nature. Who wouldn't support a quest for truth?
Where Avant-garde is referred to as "true art" and anything created for the purposes of beauty or aesthetics rather than the ideal of "truth"; this is where I step off the avant-garde bus. If you are going to argue over whether the purpose of art is truth and that any 'art' produced solely for the purpose of beauty, aesthetics, sentimentality, pathos, melodrama or human feelings is not true art, I will always disagree. I don't believe the two are mutually exclusive. Art is expression, be it shallow and self indulgent or be it in pursuit of truth. Just because a work is beautiful for beauty sake doesn't automatically prevent it being art.
I hope I don't sound pretentious or like I'm trying to be intellectual, heaven knows I'm anything but intellectual, but this IS what I think. I think art has been too elitist in it's dealings with the world, either financially, through limiting access to art to those with money,status and power, or intellectually, excluding anyone without the academic qualifications from having a legitimate opinion.
If you ask me, Avant-Garde has become more kitsch than Kitsch. Trying too hard to be original and being too clever means you can forget about art simply for the joy of creating.
Just for fun here is a work in progress shot of a commission I am working on at the moment. LOTs of work still to do! I'll post a pic when it's finished.