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Historical reference- tulip instigated a craze in Holland in 1600s- tulipmania.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 H├ębuterne (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)