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February 18, 2008

Comments

Tim

You may already be familiar with this, but the Art Renewal Center is a very cool bunch devoted to honoring and reinvigorating traditional, representational art. Their site showed me a whole world of art that somehow managed to get left out of my public education.

http://www.artrenewal.org/index.asp

Benedict

What is that Motherwell piece called? It reminds me of cows with a red barn in the background.

Tim J.

It's called "Elegy to the Spanish Republic #34".

You see the problem? It's like a Rorschach test.

Memphis Aggie

I thought it looked like a pair of black fish to me, but maybe I'm hungry. This is not art, this fails to communicate anything. If the message is trapped in the painters head then it's a failure. This is a demonstration of the self destructive nature of the art community and their contempt for their audience, history, tradition and standards. It's moral relativism in oil.

Ed Peters

Since you asked, is it art, I'll answer, No, it's stupid crud.

The Sojourner

This reminds me of the day that my Great Books class was discussing Aristotle's Poetics and we spent a good hour arguing back and forth over whether abstract art was really art, which segued into a discussion about whether people could really communicate ideas from one person to the other.

I don't think we ever resolved the question. But then again, we never agreed on whether or not Achilles was a jerk either.

Sixtus past ten

Jimmy,
I can imagine abstracts that I would like but that should never cost more than materials plus living costs of the artist....and he should not live in the Hamptons..because the nature of this field is internally non competitive. Andrew Wyeth can paint a girl in a field with fir trees in the background way better than virtually all other painters and do it while giving a modern sense of space at the same time. There is no abstract painting that is better than the next one once one is dealing with normal aesthetic painters that is demonstrably better than an abstract done by John Doe.
John Stoessel on TV had a 4 year old do an abstract painting and then he put it in an adult exhibition and attacked it verbally and questioned educated people at the exhibit who defended the piece and went into long descriptions of how the spatial sense was sensitively articulated etc etc ala Art News magazine text. I was on the floor laughing. Then he told them that a 4 year old did it and each one simply stated that it must have been a very perceptive 4 year old etc etc. I believe abstract art can have some kind of aesthetic effect on people but there should be a law that it cannot be priced above the material cost plus time plus living expenses for the artist....and that should be enforced by the UN...which itself is another abstract piece of art. For one abstract artist to get 10 million dollars for such visual objects and another abstract artist to get $250 plus tax....is absurd....since the nature of what they are doing is non competitive internally. If one took Rorschach tests and blew them up digitally and printed them onto a canvas...then got a Manhattan 57th street gallery to hype the artist for three months in the art magazines...then had the climatic exhibition, rich people would buy the whole series for big money and then have their personal assistants sell them 10 years later and beat the Dow for the same time period.
There was a book in the 1970's that described the process and the connectedness of the art galleries with the magazines with the artists...it was all coordinated and involved Manhattan and the Hamptons and people who all knew each other.

quasimodo

Monkeys and elephants have also painted highly praised "art."

But, I like some abstract art. It pleases the eye somehow.

However, I've seen some highly praised art (abstract and representational) that made my eye gag ... strange feeling, when your eye wants to gag

deusdonat

By definition, it is indeed art. A child putting a sticky finger painted hand on a paper to form a mock-turkey is also art. It doesn't make it necessarily "good" or "high" art, but it is art just the same.

Harkening back to the "i-lectionary" discussion we had sometime back, I believe that western civilization has artistically devolved to such a degree that the definition of "high" or "fine" art has become unfortunatly subjective. And that goes doubly for those who have deemed it necessary to desecrate our churches with burlap banners and abstract fiascos.

Martin

On the campus of the University of Tennessee is a large sculpture, essentially one large rock piled on top of the other one with a metal band between. Yet, every time I see it I see the band inexorably crushing the huge rock in half. I can step out of the picture and see that it's just two rocks and a metal band but when I look back I see the crushing movement of it all.

Sometimes, just sometimes, abstract art works.

SDG

By definition, it is indeed art. A child putting a sticky finger painted hand on a paper to form a mock-turkey is also art. It doesn't make it necessarily "good" or "high" art, but it is art just the same.

Bingo. I'm not sure Tim J. will agree, but in my glossary "art" is a purely descriptive term in no way conferring or acknowledging merit or value.

Abigail

Oh, I love abstract art! AND I love Carvaggio! Has my conversion to Catholicism has changed the way I relate to art? Certainly. Yet, I still LOVE the prayerful feeling I get from gazing at art, old & modern. In fact, I'm currently doing a 40 day art+ prayer fast on my blog inspired by my beloved Sister Wendy.

Thank you for your insightful post!

deusdonat

Right. Since the concept of art has existed, there has always been the distinguishment made between what we refer to in English as "Folk" Art (ars popularis) or "ars gratia artis" which is like saying art for the sake of art, and "High" art. A cake-decorator often excersises ars gratia artis, since adding color doesn't make the cake more flavorful, but it looks nice.

Ed Peters

DD, and SDG, look at what DD actually said. His definition includes the intention to portrary and objectively and commonly recognizeable object (here, turkey). BY THEIR OWN WORDS, scads of abstact artists DENY they are trying to do that.

Even if they were, WE can't say, in effect, that anything intentionally done by a human is art, not if we intend the word "art" to be something besides "human act".

Finally, as for art on college campuses, it must be some kind of law that requires at least one sample of the WORST crud to placed prominently on American campuses. it is everyhwere. liek some kind of context, who can posture the most pointless pile of rubble?

Ed Peters

And don't give me that folk art line. of course folk art is art. when my wife makes a quilt with a nice design, it's art. maybe not 'great' art, but art. fine. i'm not saying "if it ain't rembrant, it ain't art". but, crud is crud.

what's is pitable is that we have so destroyed a sense of beauty, we have to hide our disgust with "modern art" by saying well, it's not gooda rt, but it's still art. baloney.

deusdonat

Wow, Ed. Did you wake up on the wrong side of the bed or are you just missing your daily dose of geratol? Tone it down. No one is attacking you here. As SDG rightly points out, I wasn't making any value statements. I simply said that by definition, it was art (and you can get out a dictionary if you don't believe me).

I personally don't like 99.9% of modern art and think it is more often than not pretentious and self-indulgent. But that doesn't mean it is not art.

deusdonat

Just to add to my last sentence, Picasso (who I also can't stand) was infamous towards the latter days of his life for never paying a check or bill, but instead merely autographing or scribbling a design on a napkin and handing it to whomever. Never once did he hear "No, Monsieur, you must pay zee bill." because they knew that someone would pay handsomely for this piece of "art".

Aristotle

"That could have been a great novel, if not for all those characters, locations and plot developments getting in the way..."

Enter James Joyce.

Though, personally, I enjoyed Finnegans Wake, I enjoyed it only for the structure, and not for the story behind it, for that was almost nonexistent. I am waiting to read Tim J's next article, when he talks about the value of nonrepresentational art. Such also exists for music and for the written word. I think there is value to it beyond decoration. I am unsure as to what.

SDG

Ed: On the one hand, you seem to argue that "intention to portray an objectively and commonly recognizeable object" is crucial to valid art.

On the other hand, you acknowledge that "when my wife makes a quilt with a nice design, it's art" -- and presumably you would acknowledge that a sonata or a fugue can be art too -- even great art -- despite the lack of "intention to portray an objectively and commonly recognizeable object."

So, well. Ball in your court.

FWIW, I'm not a fan of abstract visual art. I'm sympathetic to the argument that Tim J. is making that such art is best understood as decorative and does not lend itself to greatness. (Like Tim J, I sat through the same sorts of art classes, and I harbor the same basic skepticism.)

But I'm certainly not going to define it as non-art, nor am I not quite ready definitively to exclude the possibility of truly great abstract art.

Ryan Herr

Tim, you keep teasing us with the promise that you'll say something nice about abstract art, next time! :)

Tim J

It's coming, Ryan... honest!

I have developed an honest appreciation for abstract art in the right context.

Without giving everything away, I will say that well conceived and executed decorative art has a magic of its own. It's only when we try and squeeze out of it (or into it) things that aren't there that I think we get into difficulties.

A.Williams

OK! Let's try to put this all together.

The Title is: "Elegy to the Spanish Republic #34".

and, Wikipedia dict. says:

"Elegy was originally used for a type of poetic metre (Elegiac metre), but is also used for a poem of mourning, from the Greek elegos, a reflection on the death of someone or on a sorrow generally." ...

Now, considering that Tim J. notes that "It's like a Rorschach test"...

And as a Rorschach-- an'Ink blot'-- it looks particularly like a siloette of and upsidedown phalic symbol...

Well, I'd put it all together and conclude that this particular artist was EXTREMELY pessimistic about the prospects of his current Spanish political leadership!

...and thats putting it nicely!! ; )

deusdonat

I definitely agree with SDG statement, as well as Tim's above. When you look at a lot of "Op Art" or "Dada" art, you can tell it is actually very well executed and took some amount of talent to think up. But I think in many cases, the true "talent" comes from within the art admirer who can attribute a vast range of emotions or concepts to a small black dot on a white canvas.

Ed Peters

deusdonat, why do so many people assume that a vigourous response must come from someone who feels personally threatened? beleive me, i don't feel threatened by you.

SDG, yes i see your point, and if i were discursing here, i would have phrased mine more narrowly to anticipate yours. we address in blogs, as in laws, the majority of cases. the great majority of stuff called "modern art" is so incomprehensible that, as the joke goes, it is often hung upside down for years before anybody notices. that, L&G, is crud.

give me four tubes of squeezie paint, a bed sheet tacked to a cardbord box, and i'll smear it up. If the museum won't display my Rasberries on a Winter Day, they're a bunch of reactionary morons with no sense of the divine in my work. etc etc etc.

bottom line: if I can do it, it ain't art.

J.R. Stoodley

A. Williams,

Ugh. Lovely interpretation... I thought it looked like a dead bird, or else simply holes blasted in a wall.

Randolph Carter

Of course any skill learned and applied by a human being is rightly called art, which is why we can speak of "the art of war" or the "art of bridge building", in addition to the fine arts, which most people refer to when they say the word "art".

Great art is, therefore, a high level of skill that is particularly difficult to attain, and a great work of art embodies such a level of skill. Now, as every application of human skill is geared toward achieving some end, we must then judge the quality of a man's art by how well it succeeds at achieving its stated ends, measured against just how hard those ends are to attain.

Seeing how "Elegy to the Spanish Republic #34" is a painting (I think), and is counted as art by virtue of being the work of human skill (unless this particular piece happened to have been created by a freak explosion of a paint cannister, or some kind of involuntary bodily function, which I actually find quite likely), we must ask: if the end of the application of the art of war is victory, and the end of the art of bridge building is building a bridge, then what is the intended end that the art of painting is meant to serve? To have a canvas with lots of coloured gunk smeared all over it? To create a record of an actual thing or event. To create an object that is beautiful to behold and pleasing to the eye? What end was the artist trying to achieve when he created this "Symphony to the Frankish Commonwealth XXXIV" (or whatever it's called)?

Of course, when dealing with the fine arts (such as painting) the general rule is that the intended end of the application of the art is to create a work of beauty. How, exactly, one displays such beauty varies -- there are many ways in which a painting can be beautiful, including the choice of colours, the use of symmetry and proportions and geometry, and (for representational paintings) the portrayal of the subject matter that the painting chooses to represent.

So, if we are judging this "Oilslick to the Divine God-Emperor of the Sun 三十四" by this rubric, then I would not be a great work of art, because it does not achieve the stated end of being beautiful, nor is what beauty it does exude particularly difficult to achieve -- certainly not beyond the skill of your average child. So "Abominable Ding-Dong Fruit to the High Crown of Wales Episode 34: The Reckoning" would not be a great work of art, unless there is some other criterion by which a painting is to be evaluated other than the one of whether it is beautiful or not.

A.Williams

JRStoodley,

My interpretation might be indeed be "lovely" but I'll try to make one essential point with it: If Christians are too naive, they can allow those who consciously promote evil to "pull the wool over their eyes", wherein they might possibly allow, or even support, acts of evil or vanity. In this sense, a lack of wisdom and discernment can allow evil to flourish, and we might even consider some aspects of the priestly sex abuse crisis to be an example of this.

Many bishops did nothing to prevent perverts from continuing in their crimes because these Bishops 'didn't want to see', or recognise these crimes and sins for what they really were. Rather, for what ever reason, they preferred to look the other way and give a positive interpretation to the perpertrators, even if all the evidence proved otherwise.

And in this sense the evil was definitely advanced, with the same child molesting priests often assigned to Catholic schools or other places with access to more 'prey'. Believe me, a false interpretation..especially in this case...supports evil!

Now to the painting. If people are so pure in mind that they can't critique a work of art with an objective mind, to find out any possible virtue or vanity in it, these same people would make rather terrible art critics and could even permit such scandals, as above, to happen.

To miss the obvious "phallic" silloette of the above work would be a grave mistake, should this painting be intended for a rectory, elementary school, rape counselling office, county jail, etc.. where others who are innocent might see what some 'others' do not. It might have an impact in these circumstances that indeed promote or support evil in one way or another.

And this indeed might be the intention of the artist in the first place, to make the work just sufficiently subliminal to 'pass through the radar' and be placed in such a place wherein it might work its evil intened effects!

So, what to do? People, especially Catholics, should be 'open-eyed' and realize that evil actually does exist, and even in modern art pieces. And after viewing the piece objectively, if there is anything that indeed MIGHT BE SUGGESTIVE of something evil or sinful, at least the work could be displayed in a suitable place, away from any it might offend or cause damage. This is the only responsible thing to do.

So, Catholics shouldn't be afraid to "call a spade, a spade". If, as the Gospel says, we are "as wise as serpents but gentle as doves", then we serve the Kingdom of God as the Lord really wants us to. But, on the other hand, if we are naive, or afraid of confronting truth, then we become like the Bishops who did nothing but shuffle the 'predator' sex-molesting priests around, and actually do considerable damage to 'the kingdom of God'...through our own faulty intuition.

Rather, it's best to be careful in all things....even with abstract pieces of art! : )

Tim J

"Of course, when dealing with the fine arts (such as painting) the general rule is that the intended end of the application of the art is to create a work of beauty."

There could be some dispute about that, but in any case, deciding whether or not the artist has achieved his/her desired aim is one thing. Deciding whether their desired aim is worth achieving is another, and this is the area into which we art students were taught we must NEVER go.

Memphis Aggie

Nice point Tim and far more interesting - if the artist intends to insult or slander or anesthetize the public to evil (I'm thinking of film and TV here) then it even if it does render something with a great deal of skill and the product is beautiful to the eye (unlike your example) then it's not high, low or folk art it bad art in the moral sense.

Say "the silence of the lambs" is an example where the film is artfully rendered and the acting skillful but the ugliness of the theme swamps it's value. I can't think of a painting example except those Nazi era paintings of Hitler in shining armor. There was clear skill in the rendering but the subject poisons the art.


Also I don't give a flip about the painters intent - it should be self evident - I shouldn't have to psychoanalyze a painter to enjoy his work.

deusdonat

ED PETERS deusdonat, why do so many people assume that a vigourous response must come from someone who feels personally threatened?

I guess what you deem as "vigourous" others find crabby and uncharitable. I guess art isn't the only thing that is subjective around here. : )

Randolph Carter Of course, when dealing with the fine arts (such as painting) the general rule is that the intended end of the application of the art is to create a work of beauty. Excellent post. Very well said. But I think that one comment begs clarification. If you look at Goya's "Saturn devouring his son" or "Der Schrei" by Munch, there is really nothing beautiful in these works per se. They convey horror and revulsion. But if you want to expand on this, I guess there is indeed beauty in the way they are "right on the money" for what they were intending.

Ed Peters

deusdonat, fine, but it seems to me, all you can really say is, you found it crabby and uncharitable. so, okay. lest i become either here, i'll move on.

a thought for others re technical skills: there is difference between making a pot with a handle that stands up to high temperatures, and making a pot with a handle that stands up to high tempertaures and has an engraving a Zeus throwign lightnign bolts on it. there former is a tool. the latter, a work of art. art, per se, is not utiltarian. so, if it aint beautiful, it's just crud.

deusdonat

so, if it aint beautiful, it's just crud.

See? I don't think you realize how entirely subjective your comments are. I don't find beauty in anything you say to date, ergo by your definition it is "crud". And while you might find beauty in a tassled lamp with a plastic hawaiian girl doing the hula simply because it is accurate representationally, others might find it "crud".

Maybe you should acknowledge that some people find beauty in what others find "crud". And there is really no basis for one person to claim authority or superiority over another's opinion on what is or isn't "crud" due to the subjective nature fo the topic. Obviously this is the case, since someone is giving you gainful employment dispite the tone, grammar and orthography of your posts. N'est pas?

Zeno

Say "the silence of the lambs" is an example where the film is artfully rendered and the acting skillful but the ugliness of the theme swamps it's value. I can't think of a painting example except those Nazi era paintings of Hitler in shining armor. There was clear skill in the rendering but the subject poisons the art.

There are those within the Liberal Arts community who actually deem Mein Kempf as a literary masterpiece.

When people start to voice their profound disgreement (not to mention, disgust) against such a rendering; they often tend to fall on the argument that such individuals are incapable of separating the 'art' from the 'artist'.


Also I don't give a flip about the painters intent - it should be self evident - I shouldn't have to psychoanalyze a painter to enjoy his work.

There are those instances when people tend to read too much into certian works of art; creating an aspect about the piece that was never intended by the artist to begin with.

Tim J

While there is clearly a subjective element to the *appreciation* of beauty, it would be a mistake to say that all beauty is subjective.

There *is* such a thing as objective beauty. There are things that are beautiful in and of themselves, opinion not withstanding. Not that everyone can see it.

"Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us, or we find it not." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sally P.

>>"There is a kind of art that functions something like visual music, though... decorative art ..."

We'll have to wait and see where you're going with this, of course. But the implication that "music" is, figuratively speaking, merely decorative would be a pretty narrow view.

deusdonat

TIM There *is* such a thing as objective beauty. There are things that are beautiful in and of themselves, opinion not withstanding. Not that everyone can see it.

I agree to that on a theological level, in that there is beauty in all of God's creation. But I personally don't find foot-binding, lip-plating or body scarification beautiful, while other societies absolutely do.

Tim J

Well, as I say, there certainly is a subjective element involved.

Ed Peters

Okay, show of hands. Who thinks the sample of modern art above is "crud"? (be flexible in your definition, as long it means you have very low opinion of it.) Who thinks it is art? (Again, you can be flexible, you don't have swear it's on par with Van Gogh). Who can't answer the question with numerous qualifications?

I ask because, as Latinists know, De gustibus non disputandum est, so there's no point in discussing "art" that we can't see (or maybe hear, etc.) since vocabualy is so inadequate here.

Now, if you think the sample Tim offered is "crud" then I have nothing to say, becuase we already basically agree. If you think it qualifies as "art", then I have nothing to say because our understandings and presuppositions are so different, and we would just talk past each other. If you can't answer without a score of ifs-ands-buts, then I have nothing to say in comboxes because they do not lend themselves to extended conversations (as opposed to running on and on) about complex topics.

I do think people should be clear though on the notion of the transcendentals. Everything that is, is GOOD, insofar as it is [in existence]; but that is NOT to say that everything that is, is BEAUTIFUL, insofar as it is [in existence], for many things exist that are not ordered (in beauty or otherwise). To confuse the GOOD and the BEAUTIFUL delays understanding here.

Or so it seems to me.

David B.

THERE IS NOOOOOOOO ART! YOU BUFFONS BELIEVE IN THIS STUFF? LOL.

referencing a post in "Another Apologist Going On Alaska Cruise"

deusdonat

ED Okay...Who thinks the sample of modern art above is "crud"? Who thinks it is art?

I think most people, save yourself, have already said that by definition, it is art. Period. End of discussion. You seem to be under the impression that for something to be art, that it must be "good" or in your own verbage, "not crud". Since time immemorial, there have always been art critics who think a particular piece of art is "crud", regardless of the qualifications of the artist or the mastery of the piece itself. Michelangelo's Pieta' was considered "crud" because the BVM was portrayed as a young woman, when in reality she would have been at least in her early 40's at the time of the crucifixion.

So, to underscore this point; art can be "crud" (i.e. "bad"), but it is still art.

I ask because, as Latinists know, De gustibus non disputandum est .

Yes, I agree. There is no accounting for taste.

Everything that is, is GOOD, insofar as it is [in existence]; but that is NOT to say that everything that is, is BEAUTIFUL, insofar as it is [in existence], for many things exist that are not ordered (in beauty or otherwise). To confuse the GOOD and the BEAUTIFUL delays understanding here.

You lost me. You seem to be the one confusing "art" and "good". There is good art, bad art, high art, folk art, sacred art, profane art etc. But it's all art. Or it isn't. That's the question. Is it good? then it must be art. Or is it crud, in which case it isn't.

deusdonat

The last paragraph of the above comment should have read "That's YOUR quesstion."

Zeno

deusdonat,

You seemed to have missed Mr. Ed Peter's point entirely.

Kindly bow out of your persistent showing of unchristian behaviour towards the gentleman (who more than once charitably allowed you to go unscathed in spite of your own antagonism towards him) and allow more productive discussions on this thread to take fruit.

deusdonat

Stultior stultus, taceat ante multis.

Zeno

Suum ipse interdum ignorant nomen.

SDG

See, Ed, for me "art" and "crud" aren't in the least mutually exclusive terms. I'm perfectly content to call it cruddy art. :‑)

Caliz

Deusdonat,

Nê tibi hercle haud longê est ôs ab înfortûnâtiô, ita dentifrangibula haec meîs manibus gestiunt.

Mark Scott Abeln

In my opinion, here is an excellent example of abstract art: http://www.flickr.com/photos/msabeln/343668276/in/set-72157603176587437/

Ryan Herr

In response to Ed's questions, I think the piece above is art, but I don't really care for it. So I guess you could say I think it's both art and crud. I'm with SDG, they aren't mutually exclusive terms.

The paintings on artrenewal.org are beautiful, but I'd steer clear of the essays, which are the flip side of the coin of exclusivity that Tim was right to reject from his art school experience.

... Ed is reminding me of something Tom K. said on his blog Disputations:

I'd guess most of the current Catholic aesthetic theories I've run into include as a theorem (if not an axiom), "Everything since 1900 is crap." Some of the people expounding these theories actually worked through them, others were just saying, "I know what I like."

J.R. Stoodley

A. Williams,

Wow. I definitely wasn't expecting that. My guess is it's still an ink blot that you can see anything it, but now that you have so insisted on it I'll probably be seeing it your way from now on. Maybe the artist intended it, maybe not. If this is truely nonrepresentational art then I'd say it was not the artists intention, but who knows? Also don't forget that most people are not circumcised, if that's relevant.

Anyway, I'll grant this at least, that given this possible interpretation it would probably be a bad idea to hang it in a school (though I doubt that would risk more than it becoming a joke to the kids) or a rape center or something like that.

I will say though that I think you've blown the issue way out of proportion. I'm like the bishops who covered up sex abuse by priests because I'm skeptical that an artist intended a blotch of black ink in an abstract painting about the Spanish Civil War to look like male genitalia?

J.R. Stoodley

I meant most people in Spain in the last sentence of the first paragraph.

J.R. Stoodley

Ok, I was wrongly thinking the artist was Spanish himself. Still, look it up online and compare to the several other paintings of this artist, with the same name but different numbers, and then see if you still think it was deliberate.

J.R. Stoodley

http://www.guggenheimcollection.org/site/artist_work_md_116_1.html

For example.

A.Williams

J.R.Stoodley,

Really I was giving a 'shot in the dark' first impression sort-of analysis with this. Hey, isn't that what an 'ink blot' is all about anyway?

However, what really got me worked up about this painting is that Gerald on "Cafeteria is Closed" put up a picture of a modern tabernacle which had very similar symbolism to this picture. I'm sorry to say it, but these things do happen! So this is the point I was trying to make: Whatever the art work, just try to make sure the placement is correct for the particular subject. Then examine all possible suggestive or subliminal undertones, so that nothing serious gets 'flown under the radar'.

Paul

To answer Ed's questions. I don't have a high opinion of it. And it is art. It you use skills to make something, its art. There may not have been much skill involved in making this, but at least gross motor skills were needed to slop paint from the buckets onto the canvas.

Ed, really what else could it be besides art? It certainly isn't science. So between the arts and science, I'd say art. What other categories could there be?

Its like Computer Science. It isn't really science, it's art, but Computer Art wouldn't really draw in the students. Plus, the ComSci folks like to hang with the phycisists more than they do the classic lit majors.

deusdonat

SDG and Paul, excellent posts.

Zeno

SDG and Paul, excellent posts.

All due to Ed Peters' excellent inquiry into the matter.

deusdonat

Some people take the word "toadie" to a new level.

Vesa/Zeno/Harpie/Troll, maybe you should take your own advice and allow people who actually add to the discussion to take over now.

Zeno

Some people take the word "toadie" to a new level.

Posts from Ed Peters & deusdonat profoundly and respectively show the difference between those who are Christian from those who merely claim to be.

Ed Peters

Thanks for your kind words, Zeno. We do what we can under the circumstances.

Paul, I think my answer can be deduced from what I said, but your definition of art is too broad, for yours basically reduces to, any human artifice (npi). I think "art" is distinguishable from "technology", say. EG: I fashion a tool called a bell to alert others to something (fire, Mass, time, whwatever). But I fashion a symphony to make something beautiful. I might fail, but I want to "make" beauty, and my failure to succeed is objectively determinable by fair-minded people. (ps: if i engrave the bell, i used it as the occasion for art, but in itself it essentially remains a tool).

Folks agree with this more than they realize, for in calling the cruddy "object" above art, many of them say, "Well, what else COULD it be?". They know it is not a tool, a sign, a piano, an advertisement for fine paint, etc, so, since it appears on canvas and was made with paint and isn't anything else, it must be, well, art. Bad art maybe, but art. I say no.

We don't define a thing by it's NOT being anything else. Or, we haven't since Aristotle. We call something what it IS.

imho.

Zeno

Mr. Ed Peters,

Thanks for your kind words, Zeno. We do what we can under the circumstances.

It wasn't without just cause.

What elicited the so-called excellent posts from Mrs. SDG & Paul (as one toady had put it, "SDG and Paul, excellent posts.") was your post; not to diminish the substance of their respective comments but, in my opinion, the question is just as significant as the answer(s) and, actually, in some instances, even more significant.

deusdonat

ED I say no.

You are of course entitled to your opinions here. But they really aren't based on anything other than your own personal feelings and emotions. But you can't say, "Folks agree with this more than they realize" when nearly everyone here has taken the opposite position (i.e. that we don't agree).

I think everyone here save yourelf holds the "cruddy art" opinion.

Zeno

Ed Peters has already made it clear in his subject post, "De gustibus non disputandum est".

That is, we are not discussing matters here that have an objective right or wrong, but rather tread in the realm of the arbitrary.

For somebody to continue his uncharitable attacks on Mr. Peters do not make Mr. Peters the fool he would like others to regard him as, but rather is merely demonstrating not only their own idiocy but also their appalling unchristian behaviour.

deusdonat

Vesa/Zeno/Toadie/Harpy/Troll,

Do you think Ed Peters is so incoherent that he needs you to explain his posts? Or are you just fond of butting in where no one cares to hear your opinion? You would do well to let others say what they mean and let the rest of us respond to them, not you, as you really haven't said anything particularly meaningful or intelligent since you began posting under this new monicker.

SDG

Zeno: De gustibus doesn't necessarily locate something in the realm of the "arbitrary." If someone doesn't like the Sistine Chapel ceiling or Bach's Mass in D Minor, but does like Baby Geniuses or Roseanne Barr's singing, well, de gustibus and all that, but it doesn't mean my opinions on the relative merits are "arbitrary."

Ed: Without attempting a rigorous definition of art, perhaps it might not be entirely useless to say say that the painting above is art because its raison d'etre is to be experienced in an aesthetic way? Technology is not per se art because it has a different raison d'etre defined by functionality and utility (although aesthetics and thus art can come into the design of a technological work, e.g., a sleek and sexy iMac).

deusdonat

SDG, Zeno quite obviously doesn't understand Latin, as witnessed by her incoherrent babblefish attempt at English to Latin translations, as well as her misunderstanding of the phrase de gustibus non est disputandum. So, you might not want to throw around other foreign phrases like "raison d'etre", as their meanings will no doubt be lsot as well when she runs them through the online translator.

But back to your point, at the risk of sounding like yet another cloying psychophant here, I agree with you 100% there. Many consumer products have a design department which seeks to enhance the appeal of an object through art, color, utility and/or other aesthetics. Watches are perfect examples of this. Regardless of their "artistic design" or "sleek appearance", they are watches. If they stopped telling time, then they would be jewelry.

Meanwhile, a painting may have a utilitarian aspect of covering up a stain on a wall, but its main purpose or "raison d'etre" as you put it is in fact artistic. And whether that painting is the Ravishment of Psyche or Elvis on Velvet, it is still art.

Zeno

SDG:

Zeno: De gustibus doesn't necessarily locate something in the realm of the "arbitrary." If someone doesn't like the Sistine Chapel ceiling or Bach's Mass in D Minor, but does like Baby Geniuses or Roseanne Barr's singing, well, de gustibus and all that, but it doesn't mean my opinions on the relative merits are "arbitrary."


You seemed to have completely misunderstood what I meant by my usage of the word "arbitrary" within the context of my post.

To illustrate my meaning -- say, for example, I were to ask my sweetheart that she and I take a walk together outside.

If she were to respond to me, "No, it's raining" and I were to say in response, "Well, according to studies conducted at Harvard, walking in the rain is particularly good for you since it actually boost one's immune system because blah, blah, blah."

In other words, by presenting superior facts over her initial rejection, I can try to win the argument.

Yet, if she were to respond to me, "I don't like to walk when it rains."

She has, in effect, removed the whole argument from the realm of objective fact to one of personal preference.

Personally, she doesn't like to walk in the rain and it's a familiar principle (at least, to some of us) that, as Mr. Peters had mentioned, De Gustibus non est disputandum -- there's no arguing over taste!

(Nota bene: "arguing" as opposed to someone's previous inferior translation)

But, alas, this seems to have escaped a certain intellectually-challanged "somebody" here who appears undoggedly persistent in trying to show to everyone just how magnificent he is in comparison to Mr. Peters due to some risible showing of consensus on a matter that, all in all, as previously said, revolves around a person's taste!

SDG

Zeno: Somewhere along the way you seem to have forgotten that you were meant to be explaining your usage of "arbitrary."

Try telling your sweetheart that her preference for not walking in the rain is "arbitrary." I suspect she'll "completely misunderstand" you too... a phenomenon I might hazard a guess you may be somewhat familiar with.

Deus: Thanks. FWIW, my Latin was aimed at Ed, who has forgotten more Latin than I'll ever learn. :-)

Zeno

SDG:

Perhaps Merriam Webster made an egregious mistake by offering in one of its definitions for "arbitrary":

3 a: based on or determined by individual preference


But what do they know?

deusdonat

SDG LOL!!!!

and yes, gotta love lawyers. If it weren't for them Latin would have died out years ago.


Oh..yeah...and the church too : P

Zeno

If it weren't for them Latin would have died out years ago.

Considering today's "Catholics", this is certainly the case.


Oh..yeah...and the church too : P

And just which Protestant church would that be?

Elijah

Crud.

Elijah

No wait. I know how to make my assessment irrefutable. 'Udcray'. See how smart and superior I am?

deusdonat

Yeah! Education sux!

Zeno

Elijah,

Crud.

Your statement here alone makes it irrefutable.

As I've already elaborated -- there's no arguing over taste.

I hope my above explanation to SDG here made that abundantly clear.

deusdonat

Maybe he wasn't talking about the post, but rather the author...

SDG

Zeno: You seem to have lost track of the fact that you weren't explaining de gustibus, which I acknowledged all along. At best you were explaining your usage of "arbitrary."

However, the whole argument here is that aesthetics is not wholly rooted in matters of individual taste. For instance, the aesthetic difference between four-part harmony and singing out of tune is not arbitrary; if someone can't tell the difference, he is tone-deaf, not differently tasted (so to speak).

Incidentally, I just noticed your "Mrs. SDG" "gaffe." Ah, brutha. Handle subterfuge aside, I've long known that you had a passive-aggressive streak, but as often as we've butted heads in the past, I still thought better of you, frankly. I still think of you not without affection, though.

SDG

Arbitrary rule/etiquette enforcement notice: Criticism of behavior is one thing, but let's please have a moratorium on hostile personal attacks. This is not directed at any one person; there is no one single culprit.

Zeno

SDG,

You seem to have lost track of the fact that you weren't explaining de gustibus

How was my explanation to you above here not an explanation of de gustibus?

How much more plainly can I make it, the fact that nobody wins in terms of matters that revolve around taste?

For example, there are those who laud the beauty of polyphony while condemning monophony while proponents of monophony hail it as paramount in comparison to the excess of polyphony.

Are either of these two factions correct?

NO! They are both correct as this matter involves not an argument that can be won with superior facts (as you would when dealing with objective issues) but rather one of personal preference.

That is why I had said that "it's a familiar principle (at least, to some of us) that, as Mr. Peters had mentioned, De Gustibus non est disputandum -- there's no arguing over taste!"

Smoky Mountain

Someone, after criticizing a fellow commenter because she

quite obviously doesn't understand Latin, as witnessed by her incoherrent [sp] babblefish attempt at English to Latin translations

Apparently doesn't know English very well him(her?)self:

at the risk of sounding like yet another cloying psychophant here

I had no idea we condemned sycophants to mental institutions.

The attacked individual then responded with:

But, alas, this seems to have escaped a certain intellectually-challanged "somebody" here who appears undoggedly persistent in trying to show to everyone just how magnificent he is in comparison to Mr. Peters due to some risible showing of consensus

Folks -- before commenting on each other's intelligence, how about using spell check lest we doubt yours?

Cheers,
Matt

SDG

How was my explanation to you above here not an explanation of de gustibus?

Yes. That's why I say you lost track. You wound up "explaining" something that hadn't been questioned in the first place. What I questioned was your use of "arbitrary," not de gustibus.

Your counter-example, polyphony vs. monophany, may or may not establish another point that was not under dispute, that some (many, probably most) aesthetic judgments are matters of individual preference. (I suspect your example doesn't establish the point, but let that pass -- I agree on the point, and there are examples that do establish it, and I'll give one in a moment.)

Your example does not negate my example, harmony vs. singing off-key, which I think indicates that not all aesthetic judgments can be reduced to matters of random or capricious individual preference. Perhaps we can say that there are principles in aesthetic matters that are discovered, not invented, randomly posited or subject to individual whim.

Another example: Two oenophiles may legitimately differ on the relative merits of a noble Bordeaux vs. a noble Chianti. On the other hand, a casual drinker may find a perfectly ordinary Merlot easier to drink, and thus more enjoyable to him, than those noble wines with their more daunting tannins. (Most of my extended family like white Zin, and one prefers sweet Manischewitz.)

Fine: De gustibus. The casual drinker isn't "wrong" for preferring the Merlot, white Zin or Manischewitz. But that noble wines are superior to ordinary wines is not merely a matter of individual taste in the way that the question of the Bordeaux vs. the Chianti might be.

I could get into what little wine science I know to try to explain why, but here's an intuitive insight that may help. Many oenophiles start out casually enjoying easier-to-drink wines, and gradually work their way up to deeply appreciating and preferring noble wines. But no one starts out casually enjoying noble wines and gradually works their way to deeply appreciating and preferring easier-to-drink wines -- and this is not just because of cost or access or anything of the sort.

The subtleties of aesthetic enjoyment and appreciation that oenophiles find in noble wines are richer, more varied and more complex than any aesthetic experiences offered by ordinary wines to any kind of drinker. The oenophile doesn't simply appreciate different wine than the casual drinker, he appreciates wine in different ways that the casual drinker can't yet approach -- and for precisely that reason he recognizes the limitations of ordinary wine to which the casual drinker is as yet insensible.

The same point could be made of literature or movies. Back in my college days, I would sometimes watch movies with my kid brother and his young friends. Often enough, I might find fault with some forgettable movie that they felt was perfectly enjoyable, and they would razz me about being too critical and spoiling my own fun.

But then came a day when we sat down to a movie that was actually exceptionally good, and my brother got what was special about it -- but he noticed that although his friends enjoyed the movie too, it didn't stand out to them the way it did to him and me. To them it was just another movie, no better or worse than the last forgettable feature they had watched.

I think that was a kind of aesthetic waking-up experience for my brother. He understood with new clarity that there was more to be appreciated in movies than his friends had yet realized, and the more aware of this "more" you were, the more aware of the limitations of other movies you were likely to be. By watching movies critically, one isn't "spoiling one's own fun" -- one is opening oneself to new pleasures not available at less critical levels of viewing.

This doesn't mean being a snob and being unable to appreciate or enjoy more modest fare for what it is (and even modest fare can be a great example of what it is). It does mean recognizing that aesthetic judgments are not wholly random or capricious -- that beauty, in a word, is not entirely in the eye of the beholder.

So, getting back to the crappy art at the top of this post...

...the above considerations may help explain why, while I don't mind making aesthetic judgments like "That painting is crap," I tend to want to be cautious and to offer my opinion in a qualified and non-definitive way, subject to revision.

I don't want to be too quick -- I don't say I never would -- to rule out the possibility that maybe I simply don't "get" it yet, as my brother's friends didn't "get" the exceptional film or as the casual drinker doesn't "get" the exceptional wine.

We shouldn't forget that sometimes the emperor actually is clothed, and the crowd really doesn't see what is actually there.

Other times, nope, he's naked. There are plenty of examples of both, and one is easily confused for the other.

(Well, that was a whole heck of a lot more than I meant to write.)

Zeno

SDG,

It does not negate my example, harmony vs. singing off-key


Unlike mine, your example removes the argument from one of preference to one of objective facts.

Here, allow me to illustrate to you how your example fails --

Take, for instance, a 1-year slamming the keys on a piano vs. a concerto pianist.

Which would be the better performance?

The latter, of course; and this would be the CORRECT answer -- the only correct answer.

I hope I have demonstrated to you that the situation you presented (i.e., harmony vs. a person singing off-key) is not anything at all like my example (wherein both answers from opposing parties, the pro-polyphony v. the pro-monophony, would be correct) since it is far removed from the realm of preference to one of objective fact.

Smoky Mountain

We shouldn't forget that sometimes the emperor actually is clothed, and the crowd really doesn't see what is actually there.

Spectacular.

SDG

Thanks Smoky!

P.S. Thanks for the additional cold water above, appreciated as always. Sheesh. The even-tempered agnostic playing peacemaker to the hot-headed Catholics. If it weren't for the Resurrection, Jesus would be spinning in his grave.

SDG

I hope I have demonstrated to you that the situation you presented (i.e., harmony vs. a person singing off-key) is not anything at all like my example (wherein both answers from opposing parties, the pro-polyphony v. the pro-monophony, would be correct) since it is far removed from the realm of preference to one of objective fact.

Yes. Once again, you have succeeded in demonstrating something that I wasn't disputing, and which in fact happened to be the actual point I was making.

Here, allow me to illustrate to you how your example fails --
Take, for instance, a 1-year slamming the keys on a piano vs. a concerto pianist.
Which would be the better performance?
The latter, of course; and this would be the CORRECT answer -- the only correct answer.

Right. That sure refutes what I was saying about how not all aesthetic judgments are arbitrary. I see it now. Thanks and peace.

Zeno

SDG,

That sure refutes what I was saying about how not all aesthetic judgments are arbitrary.

Your example is not one of "aesthetic judgment" since you are not treating aesthetics here but, in all actuality, the mathematical aspect of music itself wherein there is, in fact, a "right" answer.

Tim J

SDG -

Some very good points, well-made in your longer post above, and the wine comparison is apt (BTW, beer works that way, too... *nobody* starts off with Anchor Steam beer and then moves to Bud Light out of preference).

There are those who are just not interested in anything strange and different to their tastes, and who will never move on to a more mature aesthetic, and on the reverse, there are those who will buy fine wine (and art) motivated by little more than snob appeal - trying to impress people they probably don't even like.

It is a mistake to think that beauty can be quantified according to some kind of "formula", and it is equally a mistake to think it can't be objectively discerned at all - that it's all a matter of taste. There are subjective and objective elements to the experience of beauty.

SDG

Zeno: Mathematics can describe harmony. I don't think -- I'm no expert, but I don't think -- that mathematics abstracted from aesthetics can tell us why harmony sounds better than off-key singing (at least, why it does to non-tone-deaf people who are aesthetically qualified to render a judgment).

The deeper issue is that mathematics and aesthetics are deeply intertwined in the first place, not at all exclusive. Mathematics can be elegantly appealing and beautiful, and aesthetic judgments inevitably involve concepts and relationships that can be mathematically described.

Chess is very mathematical, but well-played chess is also elegant and beautiful precisely in its mathematical precision. And just try to separate aesthetics from mathematics while thinking seriously about Bach.

Tim J: Thanks, I think we definitely have strongly converging views.

Memphis Aggie

So to clarify it a bit please: the objective elements of art things like complexity, depth and composition? So fine art is layered and complex, building upon past work but innovating in ways that add meaning or expand the audience?

SDG

So to clarify it a bit please: the objective elements of art things like complexity, depth and composition? So fine art is layered and complex, building upon past work but innovating in ways that add meaning or expand the audience?

Hm. Well, complexity and depth can certainly be elements in aesthetic achievement, yes. But so can simplicity and clarity.

In fact, I think (I'm not sure, but I think) that the aesthetic effect of we call elegance in art often entails both complexity and simplicity at the same time -- the avoidance, perhaps, of superfluous complexity through which less elegant efforts would muddle.

An artist (or mathematician, chess player, etc.) who achieves something very complex with an exceptional economy of effort -- whose solution you would never have thought of yourself, but once you see it throws the whole issue in a new light and strikes you as the one dazzlingly right solution, a solution more discovered rather than created -- that is an aesthetically elegant achievement. Not just to do the impossible, but to make it look easy and even inevitable.

Smoky Mountain

An artist (or mathematician, chess player, etc.)

Or programmer. There's nothing better than elegant algorithms.

Memphis Aggie

Sounds like an argument for impressionism over baroque.

I've seen this argued for music over at mere comments. The idea is that great music can't exist if the need to innovate is so strong that fundamentals are excluded. Further the argument is that each new great composition builds on a tradition, a structure and an agreed language that defines quality. Without a defined standard you get "crud" or "cruddy art"

So here's the challenge: how is a standard defined and hasn't the standard evolved through time? It's not too clear to me how to sharply define quality in art objectively.

Elegance is wonderful but an insufficient description I think.

SDG

Or programmer. There's nothing better than elegant algorithms.

Yes. I don't do programming exactly, but I code in javascript as well as html and css, and I work hard to code as elegantly as possible. I'm starting to get somewhat proficient at elegant css, and it's painful to look at the work I was doing six months ago.

SDG

Sounds like an argument for impressionism over baroque.

I hope not. Impressionism may elegantly achieve what impressionism can achieve, but baroque achieves something different.

I've seen this argued for music over at mere comments. The idea is that great music can't exist if the need to innovate is so strong that fundamentals are excluded.

I agree. A church music director I know was just commenting that while Mozart, composing in a very different time and place from Bach, wrote less cerebrally and more intuitively than Bach, rigorous early training from Mozart's father certainly fostered his astounding gifts.

Further the argument is that each new great composition builds on a tradition, a structure and an agreed language that defines quality. Without a defined standard you get "crud" or "cruddy art"

Yes to tradition, structure and agreed-upon language. Not sure about "defined standard." In my Western Catholic ears that sounds a little more prescriptive than I think such a thing probably is.

Artist and viewer must share some sort of intersubjective socially shared common ground, but it's the artist's prerogative to push the structures as much as he thinks he can get away with. Of course it's then the viewer's prerogative to decide whether or not the effort was successful (though no one viewer can render a definitive judgment in that regard).

So here's the challenge: how is a standard defined and hasn't the standard evolved through time? It's not too clear to me how to sharply define quality in art objectively.

That ambitious question far outstrips my modest goals in this line of thought, I'm afraid!

Elegance is wonderful but an insufficient description I think.

Yes, I only meant to give a partial description of one element in aesthetic enjoyment, not a unified theory of art! :‑)

Smoky Mountain

Something that has occurred to me as I thought about the art-ness of this particular Motherwell painting is the following:

Would it matter if I modified it a little bit? Changed the curvature of the black blob a little, or placed an additional black dot somewhere? Would anyone actually notice?

If, as I suspect, the answer is that it wouldn't matter -- that no one would really notice -- then I have a hard time classifying the piece as good art, at the very least. Good things--art or otherwise--ought to have nothing missing and nothing superfluous. Good art ought to be complete and each of its parts completely necessary.

Eileen R

Smoky, you generally caught typos, but 'risible' is a perfectly good word.

Decorative Art Painting

Abstract art has its own audience. We can see art in almost everything. I enjoyed reading the blog. It was thought provoking. I like Abstract art. It's appealing and different from the usual.

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