Tuesday, March 30, 2010

On the Concept of Beautiful

Henri Matisse, The Dessert Harmony in Red, 1908

Diego Rivera, Detroit Industry (south wall), 1932-33

Barnett Newman, Onement VI, 1953

Aesthetics without content is mushy.
Art is formal, but to reduce it to formal beauty is denying beauty it's purpose.
Art requires tension, between whole and parts. This tension cannot be used as a means to create, because it will expose itself as being formulaic.
Beauty cannot go back to what it was, but it should not be discarded.

Adorno: "For the sake of the sake of the beautiful, ther cannot be a beautiful any more: because it has stopped being beautiful."
Adorno is calling for a new kind of beauty, because beauty had been contaminated by political agendas. Recalling Scarry's arguments for beauty:
- the beholder will, in response to seeing beauty, try to bring beauty into the world
- the beholders themselves become beautiful in their interior lives.
- the beautiful object animates the viewer- or raises the awareness and aliveness.
Given Adorno's argument, is it irresponsible to create beauty like Matisse did?

The Sans of the Pure Cut

Why the Wild Tulip?

The tulip is a perennial flower, meaning it comes back year after year.

While the tulip doesn't last forever, it creates buds and seeds that make similar bulbs.

Historical reference- tulip instigated a craze in Holland in 1600s- tulipmania.

sans pure cut= without end

Knowledge ruins free beauty.

Utility ruins free beauty.

??? Free beauty = sublime ???

??? adherent beauty = beauty ???

Living in the information age, is it possible to experience free beauty, when non-knowledge is now known as ignorance?

Andy Warhol, Flowers FSII.66, 1964

Woman as Sign: Psychoanalytic Readings

The Renegotiation of Woman & Beauty

Titian, Venus of Urbino, 1538

Rossetti, Lady Lilth, 1868

Shifts in portraiture:

lack of eye contact

cropping of image

devoid of narrative

drift from direct representation

Signifier & Signified
Signfier: the form which the sign takes

Signified: the concept it represents

Scarlett Johansson for Dolce & Gabbana

According to Derrida, would the image of the woman have free beauty?
Can woman, in the flesh, have free beauty like the tulip?
Are jewelers, creators of adornment primarily for women, contributing to the objectification of woman as beauty object-to-be-looked-at?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Beauty and the Staus of Contemporary Criticism

Beauty and The Status of Contemporary Criticism- Suzanne Hudson, 2003

Appearance vs. Content
-are they mutually exclusive?

Beauty as a democratic instrument or not.
Democratic/populist art.

on Felix Gonzalez-Torres, "Meaning or content is implicit in most pieces, remaining latent without becoming peripheral, while beauty is neither the means for redemption (be it aesthetic or personal), nor contestation per se. It is instead a strategy of aesthetic production capable of veiling and communicating claims for art and its function within a community."

The Trojan Horse Comparison-
"capable of smuggling disruptive ideas and concerns into otherwise disinterested institutional spaces"

the museum/gallery as a space for contemplation vs. public art

The Eternal Problem of Beauty’s Return – Saul Ostrow
The thought of eternal return:
Provides "a perspective from which things appear other than as we know them," a perspective, a way of looking at things, not a truth, not (necessarily) the way things are. Milan Kundera

Present relationship with Beauty:
- Where the dissonant, the stuttering, the frenetic and the flawed are not held as qualities against which beauty wilts but rather included in its reawakened, even strengthened, form.
- Aesthetic judgement linked to truth, purity, art, and the political, NOT separate and self contained.

Arthur C. Danto – The Aesthetics of Brillo Boxes
The Disappearance of Beauty
Andy Warhol’s Brillo Boxes: Designed by James Harvey

Danto concluded that “aesthetics could not explain why one was a work of fine art and the other not, since for all practical purposes they were aesthetically indiscernible: if one was beautiful, the other had to be beautiful, since they looked just alike” (61).

Another Look at Beauty
-1990s - The pursuit of the ‘idea’ of Beauty
- Dissonance to Beauty - Regarding Beauty: Perspectives on Art since 1950 & Distemper: Dissonant Themes on the Art of the 1990s.
- Danto – “found profoundly stimulating the idea that two things might look quite alike but have different meanings and identities (64).

Born of the Spirit and Born Again
Duchamp’s Urinal/Fountain
Beauty was external to Fountain.
Aesthetics external to Brillo Box.
Neither were part of their meaning.

The End of Art
Greenberg: Art about Art, Pop= Kitsch
Danto: Pop Art was the last step. You can no longer tell whether something is art by looking at it. Rather anything can be art, and anyone can be an artist. That is because art is about physically embodied meaning. All that is necessary for something to be a work of art is that it should be about something, and that it should embody its meaning.

Top of the Pops
Bertrand Rouge: He argues that Warhol’s boxes are not ready-mades, they only look like ready-mades. Warhol wasn’t taking an everyday object and placing it in the gallery. He was fabricating the boxes of wood and silkscreened, James Harvey’s boxes are constructed of cardboard and offset printed, Trompe-l’oeil.

Not an end, “just one more move in the game”.

Art Seminar

Exploring the relation between art and everyday life

What is art or not art if you have an aesthetic experience with both the curators view of an art work and with the everyday.

Felix Gonzalez-TorresUntitled (A Corner of Baci), 1990

Road side memorial

911 shrine

Strong sense of aesthetics vs Weak sense of art

Donald Judd vs Robert Morris

How do you look at work? What seems most compelling?

What is a strong sense of aesthetic and a weak sense of art?

Robert Morris

Donald Judd, Untitled 1963, 1965, brass, April 24, 2009

The Lack of Criticality in Using Beauty

Pablo Picasso, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon

Amedeo Modigliani. Portrait of Jeanne Hébuterne (1898 -1920), Common-Law Wife of Amedeo Modigliani. 1918. Oil on canvas. 92 x 60 cm. Private

Asethetic issue of disgust

Bossy Burger 1991, McCarthy outfitted himself in a chef's costume and Alfred E. Newman mask and performed a cooking-show parody on a homey set once used for the TV series The Hogan Family. Ketchup and raw hamburger are transformed into a scene from a bloody massacre, captured on video for presentation on a monitor outside the production set, which is now an installation work.

Grunewald, Isenheim Alterpiece

Albero, Beauty Knows No Pain

”today’s proponents of beauty remove these positions from their historical dynamic only to hypostatize the beautiful as the sole, undisputed and universal bearer of a better society.” (66)

Attempts to validate the beautiful experience are driven by:

1.Nastaligic impulses:

“…recent attempts to revalidate the experience of the beautiful are, first, driven by nostalgic impulses; they promote ahistoric views of the past in the hope of returning us to a state unclouded by the insight and advances made in a wide range of theoretical and discursive practices…”(67)

2. Anti political:

“…today’s writing on beauty is deeply anti political. It is mostly unwilling to contemplate the legitimacy of artistic practices that take a stand and bring together aesthetic, the cognitive and the critical, preferring instead to value artworks that operate independently of any practical interest.” (67)

3. Anti-modernist view points hypocritical:

“Interestingly enough, in privileging the transcendent experience of beauty over the reality of the worlds disenchantment, the position of many of today’s champions of beauty comes to look remarkably like the one they censure…the modernist sublime”(67)

Desire for beauty is symptomatic of deeper structural issues:

1. Restrain/rejection of political dimension of postmodernism

2. Loss of sensual and transcendent dimensions of the artwork in the wake of the critical art practices of the 1960s and 70s

3. Use of technology to create a perfect image/object and to reproduce, as in a copy

a. loss of chance, error, and the uncontrollable

b. raises questions of copy and original.

4. “… the difference between art and culture has also become highly nebulous.” (69)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Venus in Exile

Beauty as a type of communication and not a thing or quality. Instead it represents a form of recognition between two beings. The perceived: artwork, object, female, takes a passive position while the viewer is active and male.

“Modernists vilified aesthetic pleasure, defining the sublime aspirations of art as unrelated or antipathetic to the pleasures of feminine allure, charm, comfort... Their violent break from an aesthetic of passive allure now frees us (women), paradoxically, to contemplate new possibilities in beauty and its female symbolism.” pg 45-46

“We must stop treating beauty as a thing or quality, and see it instead as a kind of communication...It is the name of a particular interaction between two beings, a 'self' and an 'Other." pg 46

"Even when we use the term in a purely artistic context, a beautiful object is something we value, and we value it because it touches our dearest concerns. In our gratitude towards what moves us so, we attribute to it the property of beauty, but what we are actually experiencing is a special relation between it and ourselves." pg 48

"Sympathy is the product of the interaction that we call beauty, an interaction in which both parties become aligned in value and, in the process, become in some sense equal."

"Value is thus always central to the meaning of beauty."

An aesthetics of mutuality, embracing both the male and female subject of art.

For Kant "enjoyment" is the result when pleasure arises from sensation, but judging something to be "beautiful" has a third requirement: sensation must give rise to pleasure by engaging our capacities of reflective contemplation. Judgments of beauty are sensory, emotional and intellectual all at once.

Viewer interpretations of beauty possess two concepts of value: aesthetics and taste. Aesthetics is the philosophical notion of beauty. Taste is a result of education and awareness of elite cultural values; therefore taste can be learned. Taste varies according to class, cultural background, and education. According to Kant, beauty is objective and universal; thus certain things are beautiful to everyone. The contemporary view of beauty is not based on innate qualities, but rather on cultural specifics and individual interpretations.

In his Critique of Judgment (1790)[11] , Kant investigates the sublime, stating "We call that sublime which is absolutely great"(§ 25). He distinguishes between the "remarkable differences" of the Beautiful and the Sublime, noting that beauty "is connected with the form of the object", having "boundaries", while the sublime "is to be found in a formless object", represented by a "boundlessness" (§ 23). Kant then further divides the sublime into the mathematical and the dynamical, where in the mathematical "aesthetical comprehension" is not a consciousness of a mere greater unit, but the notion of absolute greatness not inhibited with ideas of limitations (§ 27). The dynamically sublime is "nature considered in an aesthetic judgment as might that has no dominion over us", and an object can create a fearfulness "without being afraid of it" (§ 28). He considers both the beautiful and the sublime as "indefinite" concepts, but where beauty relates to the "Understanding", sublime is a concept belonging to "Reason", and "shows a faculty of the mind surpassing every standard of Sense" (§ 25). For Kant, one's inability to grasp the enormity of a sublime event such as an earthquake demonstrates inadequacy of one's sensibility and imagination. Simultaneously, one's ability to subsequently identify such an event as singular and whole indicates the superiority of one's cognitive, supersensible powers. Ultimately, it is this "supersensible substrate," underlying both nature and thought, on which true sublimity is located.[12]

On Beauty and Being Just

Presenting the viewer with an opportunity to witness fairness, beauty assists us in our attention to justice. A beautiful object renders fairness, an abstract concept, concrete by making it directly available to our senses. Beauty has been accused of two things in political critique. First: beauty is a distraction and preoccupation from the intended social argument in an artwork, possibly leaving the viewer indifferent. Second: the gaze of the viewer is destructive to the object.

-The Political Arguments Against Beauty are Incoherent-

“The sublime (an aesthetic of power) rejects beauty on the grounds that it is diminutive, dismissible, not powerful enough. The political rejects beauty on the grounds that it is too powerful, a power expressed…” pg. 40

"Staring, as we earlier saw, is a version of the wish to create; it is directly connected to acts of drawing, describing, composing, lovemaking. It is odd that contemporary accounts of 'staring' or 'gaze' place exclusive emphasis on the risks suffered by the person being looked at, for the vulnerability of the perceiver seems equal to, or greater than, the vulnerability of the person being perceived..." pg 37

Binaries between beauty and the sublime:





-Beauty Assists Us In Our Attention To Justice-

For those who actively seek beauty, what precisely does the perceiver expect to experience within themselves when pursuing beauty? “Could one pursue truth if one had no interest in becoming knowledgeable? Is there a way to approach goodness while keeping oneself free of becoming good?” pg 41

-Fairness As ‘A Symmetry Of Everyone’s Relation To One Another-

Scarry's cave of beauty is similar Plato's Allegory of the Cave.

A Response To Danto

Robert Motherwell, Elegy to the Spanish Republic, 1958

What is the role of art in an age of 'moral indignation'?

Define activist art.

Is political art always activist?

Does beauty have a place in activist art?

Danto suggests both art and beauty have limitations as moral provocateurs. "The problem, as he sees it, is that when art designed to inspire moral response fails as art, it also 'fails morally, extenuated only by the good intentions of the artist'". pg 31

Pablo Picasso, Guernica, 1937

Eddie Adams' photograph of Nguyễn Ngọc Loan executing Nguyễn Văn Lém on February 1, 1968

Catherine Opie, Self Portrait/Nursing, 2004

Guerrilla Girls

Lacey Jane Roberts

Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Untitled (Perfect Lovers), 1987-90


Saturday, February 6, 2010

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Commodity of Beauty

Andy Wahol
Beauty is Shoe, Shoe Beauty

Does the commodification of beauty make its presence in contemporary art intellectually cheap?

Mapplethorpe and Bourgeois

"To seduce is a harmonious merger of , and it is the greatest art of all. Sculpture, which is my raison d'etre, is motivated by my obsessive, unsuccessful attempt to seduce...Art comes from the inability to seduce...Seduction is a form of convincing. I am the indefatiguable seducer. Beauty is the pursuit of 'the Other'. " - Louise Bourgeois, 1997

Lou, NYC (Finger Fuck), 1978

Self Portrait, 1980

Thomas, 1987

Braque, Bourgeois and Modern Beauty

"I couldn't portray a woman in all her natural loveliness. I haven't the skill. No one has. I must, therefore, create a new sort of beauty, the beauty that appears to me in terms of volume, of line, of mass, of weight, and through that beauty interpret my subjective impression... I want to expose the Absolute, and not merely the factitious woman." - Georges Braque, 1910

"To put it another way, experiences are sorts of pleasures that involve verbs. The fallacy occurs in taking the experience "I like X" and referring to "X" as beauty. The process is similar to what T.S. Elliot said of Wordsworth, "Wordsworth found in stones the sermons he had planted there." In fact, beauty is only a mystified expression of our emotion." - Louise Bourgeois, 1997

Apollinaire and Modernism

"Wishing to attain the proportions of the ideal, to be no longer limited to the human, the young painters offer us works which are more cerebral than sensual. They discard more and more the old art of optical illusion and local proportion, in order to express the grandeur of metaphysical forms."
- Guillaume Apollinaire

Williem de Kooning
Woman V

Beauty Was

-linked to kindness and justice
-tied to the idealized female form
-art's principle aim

Beauty Is

-local and partial
-part of commodity exchange
-necessary condition for life as we would want to live it - Arthur Danto
-complicit with political power
-denial of the value of ugliness
-subjective condition
-inevitably socially inscribed
-purity of form

A Família Real de Carlos IV