The Laws of Nature

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Kant's Legacy

Holy Works
Andres Serrano
Book Review

Art Theory: A Very Short Introduction by Cynthia Freeland
Chapter 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?


hw (hallie) farber said...

Merriam-Webster wouldn't supply the definition of "phychical distance" unless I signed up for a free trial, so I'm lost but following this discussion.

I've always felt that art can't really be defined--it's a bit like pinning down air.

Unknown said...

Hi Hallie, I suppose Bullough might have meant that you can't see art in a literal or meaningful way (content) but rather experience it through the emotions. But, I'm not certain that's it. Love your sense of humor, as always!