The avant-garde has historically played the role of art’s conscience, and has, accordingly, been little heeded. Art is, after all, a mode of production, an industry, a market, a fact that only gradually came into being and only fairly recently became transparent and all consuming. Art itself was long “the realm of freedom,” the voice of what all men valued, or professed to value, but which a corrupt and ossified social reality denied us. The avant-garde arose as the fact became inescapable that art, with its promise of a better world, was merely the shill, or at best the dupe, of the real order, the circus if not the bread. But the real order is resourceful, and has learned to turn even that which resists, or even loathes it, to its ends. When an avant-garde is sufficiently at odds with reality, it is simply ignored; it remains a voice in the wilderness, at least until such time as the wilderness can be developed. As with Dada, or Fluxus, or more recently, performance art, that might require decades. It is only now that the art world is beginning to assess the many strains of serious, critical, and humane art that dwelt in the shadow of the sanctioned movements of the "fifties, sixties, and seventies, now, that is, that what Arthur Danto and others have described as the end of art has rendered the very notion of an avant-garde pointless. Avant-garde implies a concept of progress, or at least direction, and art in our time is, for good or ill, devoid of either. The word itself descends from a military usage, and it has since at least Saint-Simon, also borne a radical political connotation. Its real practitioners have always been political malcontents and militants, warriors against a foul order. Boris Lurie was the avant-garde incarnate. NO!art, the movement he founded with Sam Goodman and Stanley Fisher in 1959, was a reaction against what they viewed as the debased avant-garde of Abstract Expressionism and its social and political disengagement, a resistance that would become all the more strident with the rise of Pop Art. NO!art insisted that art again address the real world; it called for an art dealing with difficult truths, such as imperialism, racism, sexism, and nuclear proliferation, and leading to social action. Lurie’s highly controversial work, sometimes combining imagery deriving from the Holocaust with samplings from popular culture, advertising, and girlie magazines, alienated critics and curators and was ignored by the art establishment. Lurie deplored what he called the “investment art market,” and he resisted its blandishments at every turn, rarely showing his art after the seventies and almost never offering it for sale.