Art Theory: A Very Short Introduction by Cynthia FreelandChapter 1, Section 4: Kant’s Legacy
Moving along, Freeland leads us into a discussion of Kant’s influence upon aesthetics and art theory, especially those offered by future art writers like Clive Bell, Edward Bullough, and Clement Greenberg. The viewpoints of all three overlapped with Kant’s ideas about aesthetics, but with a “twist.”
For instance, Bell felt that “Significant Form,” which is created through a particular combination of lines and colors, evokes our aesthetic emotions. He shunned the notion that art should address life or politics.
Bullough felt that you couldn’t experience art without “psychical distance.” He argued that sexual or political subjects tend to block aesthetic consciousness. I guess thinking isn’t allowed.
Greenberg (who advocated for Pollock) celebrated form as the quality through which a painting or sculpture refers to its medium and to its own conditions of creation. In other words, don’t bother looking for content.
So, what is Kant’s legacy? The continued notion that art must be concerned with quality, morality, beauty and form. Of course, we know that isn’t the case. Look at the works of Serrano, Mapplethorpe, and others who express what repulses us. Their work is “art.”
Next time, Freeland writes in defense of Serrano.
What are your thoughts?