Unreal Nature

January 2, 2016

A Prerequisite of Love

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:27 am

… vulnerability is a prerequisite of love … and do not all aesthetic judgments boil down in the end to statements of what you love?

This is from the essay ‘What the Sixties Meant for Me’ found in Nature and Art Are Physical: Writings on Art, 1967-2008 by Rackstraw Downes (2014):

… Hegel thought that by examining the past you could detect trends or movements on the basis of which you could scientifically predict the future. Marx, who as a young man was very interested in Hegel’s idea, thought that you could and should implement your prediction. This led to a new kind of intellectual who not only wrote about tendencies in the past or present, but felt he could predict and direct the future. In the guise of an art critic his message to the artist was: since I know where art is going you’ll be all washed up if you don’t go that way too.

… In contrast to the official styles these works [the ‘unofficial’ works of the ’60s] looked to me like spontaneous facts of art, not calculated entries in the annals of history.

… Most of the artists of whom I speak had started out as abstract artists. Neither was it a “school” in the usual sense of that term, for the artists often disapproved of each other’s work. In this sense they were moderns; that is to say, artists who do not share or observe an inherited body of knowledge, skills, or critical precepts, or specified aims. (It was Picasso who, I believe rightly, identified working in solitude and so sharing no goals, as the common denominator of the Post-Impressionists, the founders of modern art.) I think that the figurative element in this work was not an attempt to oppose abstract painting, but to enlarge and increase the resources of painting.

… This desire for a more complete and inclusive art also led these painters to take a fresh look at the past masters; they were not, in the words of Coleridge, artists who wished “to destroy the wisdom of ages in order to substitute the fancies of a day.” The issue was that they needed the past to help adapt and expand the means that abstract art had bequeathed them. From the Marxist point of view I suppose these artists looked like so many lily-livered Christopher Columbuses turning back in mid-Atlantic. However it was not timidity but ambition, the hunger for a more complete language and more complicated undertakings, that led them to reinspect the past.

… Compared with the great workshop and atelier traditions of the past and with the specialized aims of abstract artists the work of these painters would sometimes look ingenuous, but I found this vulnerability was part of their appeal, for vulnerability is a prerequisite of love (is this why Christians have to be exhorted to love God so often?); and do not all aesthetic judgments boil down in the end to statements of what you love?

-Julie

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