Monthly Archives: October 2013

A Theory of Form and Ideas Small Scale Sculptures

I want to write a little bit about the A Theory of Form and Ideas Small Scale Sculptures that I have been working on for the past few months. I had a lot of time to think while making these since the act of making them became purely logistical and simple problem solving once I got through the first few sculptures. A few ideas came up rather quickly.

 The first was that I continue to use models as a form of art making. I have always used models, at least for the past 13 years. I recently pulled out the first Associated Artists for Propaganda Research corporate building that I made for the first AAPR show in 1999 and had to laugh at how similar it was to these new sculptures; I’m either very uncreative and haven’t made much progress over all of this time or I’m trying to achieve something with these little black sculptures. What’s nice about small scale models is that it allows the viewer to project themselves onto the object. The viewers reaction is not physical like seeing and experiencing a Richard Serra but rather a mental experience; it’s not an object asserting itself in space through a type of visual intimidation but rather an object that invites, hopefully, inquiry and contemplation.

I also thought about how I wanted to make objects that are anti-Pop, not large, not perfect like an advertisement or a shiny new object but rather something that was small and devoid of any obvious cultural signifiers. I’m not interested in fashion and design as formal concerns and I genuinely think that, more often than not, the illusion of trendy aesthetics and popular tastes becomes a replacement for critical thinking and relevant dialogue. Art culture, which includes universities, galleries, museums and the art market at large, seems to teach that artists should make a type of palatable art that falls within the boundaries of what is aesthetically understandable as “contemporary” art. The artist is taught that in order to be successful, they need to create an easily commodified aesthetic style that is consistent with a sellable personal narrative. More often than not we associate success with selling and the marketplace but the ever growing emphasis on a market-based consumption of cultural capital dilutes the role of the artist from that of a provocateur to that of a salesman/saleswoman.

While making these I also thought about the idea of perfection and its relationship to imperfection. These sculptures appear to be perfect from a certain distance but up close they are far from perfection. I kept thinking that I wanted them to exist as real objects in real time, a type of preciousness and fragility that would probably be doomed to destruction over time; I wanted their realness to be experienced through their destruction, not as a forced or predetermined effect, but as a result of circumstance and serendipity. I also wanted them to have the same presence as old De Stijl works where the physicality of the objects can be seen through their cracking paint and the yellowing of their surfaces. We tend to think of this work as being perfect when we see them as reproductions in books but when you actually see them in person and up close they’re not perfect at all. I can only assume that my sculptures will begin to crack over time and get dirty and maybe discolor. Their history will be a history of destruction like most objects. This is the mortality of objects that museums and archivists are constantly fighting against. I can’t say that I don’t share or want the same attitude towards the preservation of my own work but that their decay is almost inevitable and that their existence as hand-made objects guarantees imperfection. As I tried to achieve a certain level of perfection I kept think of something I learned a long time ago about how Persian rugs would always be made with one imperfection in them as a philosophical position on the merits of imperfection. There can be beauty in imperfection. I really only wanted to attempt perfection to see if I could do it.

At some point I even looked into 3-D printing as a way of producing them but thought that the process would be both time consuming and costly. I like the idea of making them with new technology but part of me also likes the hand-crafted quality that you get from making it yourself. I think that I would like to make them on a 3-D printer if I hade the means to do it but I’m not sure that I’ll ever have the opportunity and I’m probably not going to spend the time learning how to render them in 3-D on a computer.

Lastly I was thinking about making a new “organization” that would include these sculptures and A Non-Representative Model for Incomplete Ideas (Intricate Structures) Small Scale Models that I finished in the summer. These small scale sculptures don’t fit in with any of the other categories that I’ve already developed and it would be nice to have them contextualized together since I’ve made quite a few of them now and I don’t know what to do with them. I had loosely come up with the title “Minimalism Elite” many years ago for a sound box that I thought of making that was made out of raw plywood and very minimal looking. The title was meant to be a little funny so I’m hesitant to use it now since I’m not trying to make funny sculptures. There is also a logistical problem since I’ll need to make a whole new website and make room for the category on my own website. 1:4:9 never really fit in anywhere either and I ended up sticking it in the AAPR but it doesn’t really fit there.

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Arthur C. Danto: Hegel’s End-of Art Theses

Here’s another good piece of writing on the end of art written by Arthur C. Danto. This one is mostly about Hegel‘s end of art theses that appears at the beginning of the published version of his Lectures on Aesthetics and cover’s Danto’s historical explanation of the shift in the relationship between philosophy and art.


Arthur C. Danto

“Art, considered in its highest vocation, is and remains for us a thing of the past. Thereby it has lost for us genuine truth and life, and has rather been transferred into our ideas instead of maintaining its earlier necessity in reality and occupying its higher place.” 1 This is the most forceful of Hegel’s many formulations of what we may designate his End-of-Art Thesis, and it appears very near the beginning of the published version of his Lectures on Aesthetics – his Vorlesungen uber die Aesthetic – delivered for the fourth and final time in the Winter Semester of 1828, at the University of Berlin. The thesis is so intricately woven into the texture of Hegel’s text, however, that it must be regarded as a central and indeed a structural feature of his philosophy of art, rather than a critical obiter dictum regarding the art of his time. And it as much addresses what other philosophers have said about art, as art itself.

Of course art will go on being made. There will be art after the end of art. “Art can be used as a fleeting play, affording recreation and entertainment, decorating our surroundings, giving pleasantness to the externals of our life, and making other objects stand out by artistic adornment. ” 2 So understood, art will play any number of roles in what Hegel terms the objective spirit of a society – the system of meanings and practices that constitute the form of life its members live. But Hegel was not speaking of art in terms of objective spirit when he advanced the End-of-Art Thesis. “The universal need for art…is man’s rational need to lift the inner and outer world into his spiritual consciousness as an object in which he recognizes again his own self.” 3 That is art’s “highest vocation,” to which alone the End-of-Art Thesis has application. So the truth of

1the thesis was consistent with art, and even great art, continuing to be made. In the Epilogue to his lecture, Origins of the Work of Art (1935-36), Martin Heidegger wrote:

The judgment that Hegel passes in these statements cannot be evaded by pointing out that since Hegel’s lectures…we have seen many new art works and art movements arise. Hegel did not mean to deny this possibility. The question, however, remains: is art still an essential and necessary way in which truth that is decisive for our historical existence happens, or is art no longer of this character? 4

Heidegger implied, wrongly, that despite a century of artistic revolution, it was still too early to say whether the End-of-Art Thesis were true. It is wrong because the Thesis makes no prediction as to the future of art. It is not primarily a thesis about art so much as a thesis regarding our relationship to it. It is a thesis about human beings, whose progress in self-understanding means that we can never again relate to art as our predecessors did when it “afforded that satisfaction of spiritual needs which earlier ages and nations sought in it.” 5 For us, art is merely an object of intellectual consideration – “and that not for the purpose of creating art again, but for knowing philosophically what art is.”6

Indeed, aesthetic preoccupation with taste, as in Hume or in Kant, testifies precisely to the fact that the older relation to art has been superceded. “Taste is directed only to the external surface on which feelings play,” he wrote. “So-called ‘good taste’ takes fright at all the deeper effects of art and is silent when externalities and incidentals vanish.”7 Art is now an object for study and philosophical analysis, but it no longer satisfies, by itself alone, the deepest needs of the spirit. We have outgrown art, so to speak.

If, then, there were going again to be a moment when art regained its earlier purpose, that would not be because of the kind of art that came about, but because we ourselves had reverted to an earlier condition. If that were to happen, we would not be able to say of the art in question that it was “an essential and necessary way in which truth that is decisive for our historical existence happens.” It is the end of art precisely when that question can be entertained. The moment it is entertained, the answer is clear. When art really does express the kind of truth in question, no one, in the spirit of cultural or artistic criticism, can wonder whether it does. We cannot undo the history of mind, which has brought us to our present situation.

I use the word Mind where Hegel employed the word Spirit, or Geist. “Spirit” is not a word to which the spirit of the English language is especially hospitable, corrupted as the word has been by occult preoccupations and New Age metaphysics. Broadly speaking, the defining activity of Spirit is thinking. In this, Hegel was very close to Descartes, who attempted to prove that he was, essentially and necessarily, a thinking being – an ens cogitans. Where Hegel differed from his predecessors lay in the fact that he saw thinking as having a history. The various historical phases of art are phases of thought expressed as art. Art is “born of the spirit and born again”8 he wrote: Aus dem Geiste geborene und wiedergeborene. Hence art is through and through a product of thought, though limited by the fact that it must express its thoughts by sensuous means. The End-of-Art Thesis proclaims our liberation from having to find sensuous equivalents for the content of thought. Thinking has risen above and beyond what art is capable of. Art belongs to a less evolved mode of thinking than what the mind, not only ideally but actually, is capable of – and we find this higher capability only in philosophy.

Hegel distinguishes three modes of thought, which he terms subjective, objective, and absolute spirit. Subjective spirit corresponds to Descartes’s cogito – to cognitive operations of the mind. Objective Spirit, by contrast, is thought objectified, as it is, for example in works of art, or in our political institutions, moral codes, or forms of family life. It is from the perspective of objective spirit that any institutional theory of art is credible. The subjective mind of the artist is constrained by the objective structures of the art world. Art becomes a matter of Absolute Spirit when, whatever other roles it may play, it offers, like religion and philosophy, “one way of bringing to our minds and expressing the Divine, the deepest interests of mankind and the most comprehensive truths of the spirit.” 9 It is as a superceded moment of Absolute Spirit that art has come to an end. Art will no doubt “intersperse with its pleasing forms everything from the war- paint of savages to the splendor of temples with all their riches of adornment.” 10 But trammeled by its dependence upon sensuous means, art is incapable of showing spirit to itself as spirit. Religion clearly failed to register this limitation, since it recruited art as a way of giving its ideas vivid and graphic images:

The advent of art, in a religion still in the bonds of sensuous externality, shows that such religion is on the decline. At the very time it seems to give religion the supreme glorification, expression, and brilliancy, it has lifted religion over its limitation…Beautiful art, from its side, has thus performed the same service as philosophy: it has purified the spirit from its thralldom.” 11

But philosophy has lifted thought over art’s ineradicable limitation. “Art no longer affords that satisfaction of spiritual needs which earlier ages and nations sought in it, and found in it alone, a satisfaction that, at least on the part of religion, was most intimately linked with art.” 12 Alas, “The beautiful days of Greek art, like the golden age of the later Middle Ages, are gone.” 13

The spirit of our world today, or more particularly, of our religion and the development of our reason, appears as beyond the stage at which art is the supreme mode of our knowledge of the Absolute. The peculiar nature of artistic production and of works of art no longer fills our highest need. We have got beyond venerating works of art as divine and worshiping them, The impression they make is of a more reflective kind, and what they arouse in us needs a higher touchstone and a different test. Thought and reflection have spread their wings above fine arts. 14

It must be clear from this barest of outlines that the End-of-Art-Thesis is systematically connected with the whole of Hegel’s thought, and far more loosely connected with the actual history of art than may have been evident to his critics. He saw Art as, so to speak, a staging area in the epic of self-knowledge. Having served that transitional but momentous service, art may now lapse back into the entertainment and ornamentation so important in the enhancement of human life. The End-of-Art thesis is the defining idea of Hegel’s philosophy of art, and his philosophy of art is the heart of his entire philosophical system. He could not have based his philosophy of art on an empirical study of artistic practices, as an art historian or a psychologist of art. For these empirical studies yield no clue to art as a phase of Absolute Spirit. There are the deepest differences, then, between the End-of-Art Thesis in Hegel, and in its various formulations in the late twentieth century 15, where it really does serve as a summary judgment on the present condition of art. It is not, in general, today enunciated as corollary to a great philosophical system like Hegel’s, which brings the whole of spirit into a tremendous whole. Philosophy in the late twentieth century would hardly be regarded as affording “that satisfaction of needs which earlier nations sought in it.” Its role in human thought is a question mark, and its recent history an agony of self-critique. More than this, the intellectual context in which the end of art is currently addressed is very different from that against which Hegel’s thesis must be viewed.

As may have been sensed from Hegel’s constant exaltation of philosophy over art, his system of aesthetics had a polemical edge To get a clearer sense of this, let us turn to the last section of Part One of Lectures on Aesthetics – “The End of the Romantic Form of Art” where the term Romantic takes on a double meaning. It refers to one of the great stages through which art has passed, culminating perhaps in the Renaissance. This is “romantic” in the sense of one of the synonyms for certain narratives – “romances.” But it also refers to a set of philosophical attitudes that defined German romantic poetry and inflamed German poets. Romanticism held that art is superior to philosophy. The End-of- art Thesis translates into the end of Romanticism in this sense. It does so because Romanticism’s claim to superiority rested on the fact that, unlike mere philosophy, art presents its ideas in sensuous form. This was the defining position of German Romanticism, which exalted art and artists in the larger scheme of life. “It was proposed to hold that in art the real religion, the truth, and the Absolute was to be found and that art towered above philosophy because it was not abstract but contained the Idea in the real world as well and presented it there to concrete contemplation and feeling.” 16 Any of Hegel’s auditors in 1828 would have heard, through these words, a characteristic thought of Friedrich Schelling, in which he makes an invidious comparison between philosophy and art.

Philosophy as philosophy can never be universally valid. Absolute objectivity is given to art alone. If art is deprived of objectivity, one may say, it ceases to be what it is and becomes philosophy; give objectivity to philosophy and it becomes art. Philosophy to be sure reaches the highest level, but it brings only, as it were, a fragment of man to this point. Art brings the whole man, as he is, to that point, namely to a knowledge of the highest of all, and n this rests the eternal difference and the miracle of art.17

Something of this sort, Hegel wants to say, may very well have been true at certain stages in the history of Spirit. Indeed what Schelling may have been describing would be precisely art “in its highest vocation.” But in the present moment of art – Hegel’s moment – the relationship between philosophy and art is precisely opposite to Schelling’s view.

Each of Hegel’s three stages of art – symbolic, classical, and romantic – involve different kinds of relationship between the vehicle of art and its meaning. It is symbolic when there is, between the two, only an “affinity.” It is classical when there is instead an identity. It is Romantic when some reference to spiritual states is the best explanation of why the art appears as it does. The end of art means the liberation of the artist from any such set of constraints “Bondage to a particular subject matter and a mode of portrayal… are for artists today something past, and art has therefore has become a free instrument which the artist can wield…in relationship to any material whatever.”18

It is astonishing that Hegel should see the end of art in what is in effect a total pluralism, though he could not have foreseen the kind of pluralism that defines the artworld today. “Today,” he writes, “there is no material that stands in and for itself above this relativity.” Any material, shaped in any way, can be art “only if it does not contradict the formal law of being simply beautiful and capable of artistic treatment.” 19 It would astonish Hegel that beauty is no longer regarded as a “formal law of art.” But otherwise the deep pluralism of art was already something he understood. “Every form and every material is now at the service and command of the artist whose talent and genius is explicitly freed from the earlier limitation to one particular art-form.” 20 The artist, to paraphrase a stunning thought of Marx and Engels, can do symbolic art in the morning, classical art at noon, romantic art in the afternoon – and the philosophy of art in the evening. The whole internal logic of the history of art culminates in an absolute artistic freedom.

But artists are no longer, in Hegel’s philosophy, the great cultural heroes through reference to whom Romanticism defined itself. Their era in that capacity is irrevocably over. So the End-of-Art must be understood in terms of two opposed systems of German thought in the early nineteenth century, each of which deals in different ways with art and intellect, and with the role of each in terms of human understanding. Hegel is announcing a new age of reason, in which thought is the substance of spirit.

The sole thought which philosophy brings to the treatment of history is the simple concept of Reason: that Reason is the law of the world and that therefore, in world history, things have come about rationally. 21 Historically, however, the Romanticist conception of art and of the artistic genius proved irresistible, long after Hegel’s philosophy of art withered into a dusty topic for historians of philosophy. The Romanticist vision of art flourished in Wagner and in Nietzsche, in the Futurists and the Abstract Expressionists. It continued to exert a powerful attraction on Adorno and the Frankfort School. Only late in the twentieth century, through the realization in artistic practice of the freedom Hegel foresaw, is his philosophy of art once again at the center of aesthetic discussion.

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A Theory of Progress Table in Progress

So I finished building the A Theory of Progress Table last Sunday. I ran out of lattice and after searching at several lumber stores came to the conclusion that I could not buy the same size or kind of lattice again so I made the choice to started cutting down some of the longer pieces that I had already cut. The sculpture turns out to be 10″ high which isn’t so bad. The next step is to sand down the sides with either a belt sander or a palm sander to get the sides smooth. After that I’ll need to prime and paint it.


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Arthur C. Danto: 1924-2013

Arthur C. Danto died last weekend at the age of 89. He was an art critic and philosopher who wrote over 30 books including Beyond the Brillo Box, and After the End of Art.
Here’s an excerpt from the New York Times article about him and after that is the introductory essay from After the End of Art where he talks about the differences between modern art and contemporary art. I’m particularly interested in the concept of pluralism as an approach to art making. Prior to making work under the auspices of the AAPR I had come to the conclusion that the idea of individual style as it was classily understood within an art historical narrative was no longer relevant. This is something that I still believe and something that I think some of Arthur C. Danto’s criticisms supports. I own Beyond the Brillo Box and The Transfiguration of the Commonplace and wonder if, at the time, he had some bearing on the way I think about art.
Mr. Danto also came to believe that in the contemporary world, no single style could dominate, as Abstract Expressionist painting had done in the 1950s. Pluralism would be the new order.
This led him to proclaim the end of art history. By this he meant not that people would stop making art, but that the idea of art progressing and evolving over time along one clear path, as it seemed to have done from the Renaissance through the late 19th century and into the first post-World War II decade, could no longer be supported by art of the late 20th century. After the ’60s, art had splintered and gone off in a multitude of directions, from Photorealist painting to the most abstruse forms of Conceptualism.
But if so many different kinds of things could be viewed as art, what if anything did they have in common? The common denominator, Mr. Danto concluded, was meaning, and that led him to propose that the art of our time was mainly animated by philosophy. Artworks in the Postmodern era could be viewed as thought experiments about such problems as the relationship between representation and reality; knowledge and belief; photography and truth; and the definition of art itself.
Introduction: Modern, Postmodern, and Contemporary
At roughly the same moment, but quite in ignorance of one another’s thought, the German art historian Hans Belting and I both published texts on the end of art.(1) Each of us had arrived at a vivid sense that some momentous historical shift had taken place in the productive conditions of the visual arts, even if, outwardly speaking, the institutional complexes of the art world–the galleries, the art schools, the periodicals, the museums, the critical establishment, the curatorial–seemed relatively stable. Belting has since published an amazing book, tracing the history of devotional images in the Christian West from late Roman times until about A.D. 1400, to which he gave the striking subtitle The Image before the Era of Art. It was not that those images were not art in some large sense, but their being art did not figure in their production, since the concept of art had not as yet really emerged in general consciousness, and such images–icons, really–played quite different role in the lives of people than works of art came to play when the concept at last emerged and something like aesthetic considerations began to govern our relationships to them. They were not even thought of as art in the elementary sense of having been produced by artists–human beings putting marks on surfaces–but were regarded as having a miraculous provenance, like the imprinting of Jesus’s image on Veronica’s veil.(2) There would then have been a profound discontinuity between artistic practices before and after the era of art had begun, since the concept of the artist did not enter into the explanation of devotional images,(3) but of course the concept of the artist became central in the Renaissance, to the point that Giorgio Vasari was to write a great book on the lives of the artists. Before then there would at best have been the lives of the dabbling saints.
If this is at all thinkable, then there might be another discontinuity, no less profound, between the art produced during the era of art and art produced after that era ended. The era of art did not begin abruptly in 1400, nor did it end sharply either, sometime before the mid-1980s when Belting’s and my texts appeared respectively in German and in English. Neither of us, perhaps, had as clear an idea as we now might have, ten years later, of what we were trying to say, but, now that Belting has come forward with the idea of art before the beginning of art, we might think about art after the end of art, as if we were emerging from the era of art into something else the exact shape and structure of which remains to be understood.
Neither of us intended our observations as a critical judgment regarding the art of our time. In the eighties, certain radical theorists had taken up the theme of the death of painting and had based their judgment on the claim that advanced painting seemed to show all the signs of internal exhaustion, or at least marked limits beyond which it was not possible to press. They were thinking of Robert Ryman’s more or less all-white paintings, or perhaps the aggressive monotonous stripe paintings of the French artist Daniel Buren; and it would be difficult not to consider their account as in some way a critical judgment, both on those artists and on the practice of painting in general. But it was quite consistent with the end of the era of art, as Belting and I understood it, that art should be extremely vigorous and show no sign whatever of internal exhaustion. Ours was a claim about how one complex of practices had given way to another, even if the shape of the new complex was still unclear–is still unclear. Neither of us was talking about the death of art, though my own text happens to have appeared as the target article in a volume under the title The Death of Art. That title was not mine, for I was writing about a certain narrative that had, I thought, been objectively realized in the history of art, and it was that narrative, it seemed to me, that had come to an end. A story was over. It was not my view that there would be no more art, which “death” certainly implies, but that whatever art there was to be would be made without benefit of a reassuring sort of narrative in which it was seen as the appropriate next stage in the story. What had come to an end was that narrative but not the subject of the narrative. I hasten to clarify.
In a certain sense, life really begins when the story comes to an end, as in the story every couple relishes of how they found one another and “lived happily ever after.”(4) In the German genre of the Bildungsroman–the novel of formation and self-discovery–the story is told of the stages through which the hero or heroine progresses on the way to self-awareness. The genre has almost become a matrix of the feminist novel in which the heroine arrives at a consciousness of who she is and what being a woman means. And that awareness, though the end of the story, is really “the first day of the rest of her life,” to use the somewhat corny phrase of New Age philosophy. Hegel’s early masterpiece, The Phenomenology of Spirit, has the form of a Bildungsroman, in the sense that its hero, Geist, goes through a sequence of stages in order to achieve knowledge not merely of what it itself is, but that without the history of mishaps and misplaced enthusiasms, its knowledge would be empty.(5) Belting’s thesis too was about narratives. “Contemporary art,” he wrote, “manifests an awareness of a history of art but no longer carries it forward.”(6) And he speaks as well of “the relatively recent loss of faith in a great and compelling narrative, in the way things must be seen.”(7) It is in part the sense of no longer belonging to a great narrative, registering itself on our consciousness somewhere between uneasiness and exhilaration, that marks the historical sensibility of the present, and which, if Belting and I are at all on the right path, helps define the acute difference, of which I think that awareness only began to emerge in the mid-1970s, between modern and contemporary art. It is characteristic of contemporaneity–but not of modernity–that it should have begun insidiously, without slogan or logo, without anyone being greatly aware that it had happened. The Armory show of 1913 used the pine-tree flag of the American Revolution as its logo to celebrate a repudiation of the art of the past. The Berlin dada movement proclaimed the death of art, but on the same poster by Raoul Hausmann wished long life to “The Machine Art of Tatlin.” Contemporary art, by contrast, has no brief against the art of the past, no sense that the past is something from which liberation must be won, no sense even that it is at all different as art from modern art generally. It is part of what defines contemporary art that the art of the past is available for such use as artists care to give it. What is not available to them is the spirit in which the art was made. The paradigm of the contemporary is that of the collage as defined by Max Ernst, with one difference. Ernst said that collage is “the meeting of two distant realities on a plane foreign to them both.”(8) The difference is that there is no longer a plane foreign to distinct artistic realities, nor are those realities all that distant from one another. That is because the basic perception of the contemporary spirit was formed on the principle of a museum in which all art has a rightful place, where there is no a priori criterion as to what that art must look like, and where there is no narrative into which the museum’s contents must all fit. Artists today treat museums as filled not with dead art, but with living artistic options. The museum is a field available for constant rearrangement, and indeed there is an art form emerging which uses the museum as a repository of materials for a collage of objects arranged to suggest or support a thesis; we see it in Fred Wilson’s installation at the Maryland Historical Museum and again in Joseph Kosuth’s remarkable installation “The Play of the Unmentionable” at the Brooklyn Museum.(9) But the genre is almost commonplace today: the artist is given free run of the museum and organizes out of its resources exhibitions of objects that have no historical or formal connection to one another other than what the artist provides. In some way the museum is cause, effect, and embodiment of the attitudes and practices that define the post-historical moment of art, but I do not want to press the matter for the moment. Rather, I want to return to the distinction between the modern and the contemporary and discuss its emergence into consciousness. In fact, it was the dawning of a certain kind of self-consciousness that I had in mind when I began to write about the end of art.
In my own field, philosophy, the historical divisions went roughly as follows: ancient, medieval, and modern. “Modern” philosophy was generally thought to begin with Rene Descartes, and what distinguished it was the particular inward turn Descartes took–his famous reversion to the “I think”–where the question would be less how things really are than how someone whose mind is structured in a certain way is obliged to think they are. Whether things really are the way the structure of our mind requires us to think they are is not something we can say. But neither does it greatly matter, since we have no alternative way of thinking about them. So working from the inside outward, so to speak, Descartes, and modern philosophy generally, drew a philosophical map of the universe whose matrix was the structure of human thought. What Descartes did was begin to bring the structures of thought to consciousness, where we could examine them critically and come to understand at one and the same time what we are and how the world is, for since the world is defined by thought, the world and we are literally made in one another’s image. The ancients simply went ahead endeavoring to describe the world, paying no attention to those subjective features modern philosophy made central. We could paraphrase Hans Belting’s marvelous title by talking about the self before the era of the self to mark the difference between ancient and modern philosophy. It is not that there were no selves before Descartes, but that the concept of the self did not define the entire activity of philosophy, as it came to do after he had revolutionized it and until reversion to language came to replace reversion to the self. And while “the linguistic turn”(10) certainly replaced questions of what we are with how we talk, there is an undoubted continuity between the two stages of philosophical thought, as is underscored by Noam Chomsky’s description of his own revolution in the philosophy of language as “Cartesian linguistics,”(11) replacing or augmenting Descartes’s theory of innate thought with the postulation of innate linguistic structures.
There is an analogy to the history of art. Modernism in art marks a point before which painters set about representing the world the way it presented itself, painting people and landscapes and historical events just as they would present themselves to the eye. With modernism, the conditions of representation themselves become central, so that art in a way becomes its own subject. This was almost precisely the way in which Clement Greenberg defined the matter in his famous 1960 essay “Modernist Painting.” “The essence of Modernism,” he wrote, “lies, as I see it, in the use of the characteristic methods of a discipline to criticize the discipline itself, not in order to subvert it but in order to entrench it more firmly in its area of competence.”(12) Interestingly, Greenberg took as his model of modernist thought the philosopher Immanuel Kant: “Because he was the first to criticize the means itself of criticism, I conceive of Kant as the first real Modernist.” Kant did not see philosophy as adding to our knowledge so much as answering the question of how knowledge was possible. And I suppose the corresponding view of painting would have been not to represent the appearances of things so much as answering the question of how painting was possible. The question then would be: who was the first modernist painter–who deflected the art of painting from its representational agenda to a new agenda in which the means of representation became the object of representation?
For Greenberg, Manet became the Kant of modernist painting: “Manes’s became the first Modernist pictures by virtue of the frankness with which they declared the flat surfaces on which they were painted.” And the history of modernism moved from there through the impressionists, “who abjured underpainting and glazes, to leave the eye under no doubt as to the fact that the colors they used were made of paint that came from tubes or pots,” to Cezanne, who “sacrificed verisimilitude, or correctness, in order to fit his drawing and design more explicitly to the rectangular shape of the canvas.” And step by step Greenberg constructed a narrative of modernism to replace the narrative of the traditional representational painting defined by Vasari. Flatness, the consciousness of paint and brushstroke, the rectangular shape–all of them what Meyer Schapiro speaks of as “nonmimetic features” of what may still have been residually mimetic paintings–displaced perspective, foreshortening, chiaroscuro as the progress points of a developmental sequence. The shift from “premodernist” to modernist art, if we follow Greenberg, was the shift from mimetic to nonmimetic features of painting. It was not, Greenberg asserts, that painting had to become itself nonobjective or abstract. It was just that its representational features were secondary in modernism where they had been primary in premodernist art. Much of my book, concerned as it is with narratives of the history of art, must perforce deal with Greenberg as the great narrativist of modernism.
It is important that the concept of modernism, if Greenberg is right, is not merely the name of a stylistic period which begins in the latter third of the nineteenth century, the way in which Mannerism is the name of a stylistic period which begins in the first third of the sixteenth century: Mannerist follows Renaissance painting and is followed by the baroque, which is followed by rococo, which is followed by neoclassicism, which is followed by the romantic. These were deep changes in the way painting represents the world, changes, one might say, in coloration and mood, and they develop out of and to some degree in reaction against their predecessors, as well as in response to all sorts of extra-artistic forces in history and in life. My sense is that modernism does not follow romanticism in this way, or not merely: it is marked by an ascent to a new level of consciousness, which is reflected in painting as a kind of discontinuity, almost as if to emphasize that mimetic representation had become less important than some kind of reflection on the means and methods of representation. Painting begins to look awkward, or forced (in my own chronology it is Van Gogh and Gauguin who are the first modernist painters). In effect, modernism sets itself at a distance from the previous history of art, I suppose in the way in which adults, in the words of Saint Paul, “put aside childish things.” The point is that “modern” does not merely mean “the most recent.”
It means, rather, in philosophy as well as in art, a notion of strategy and style and agenda. If it were just a temporal notion, all the philosophy contemporary with Descartes or Kant and all the painting contemporary with Manet and Cezanne would be modernist, but in fact a fair amount of philosophizing went on which was, in Kant’s terms, “dogmatic,” having nothing to do with the issues which defined the critical program he advanced. Most of the philosophers contemporary with Kant but otherwise “precritical” have dropped out of sight of all save scholars of the history of philosophy. And while there remains a place in the museum for painting contemporary with modernist art which is not itself modernist–for example, French academic painting, which acted as if Cezanne had never happened, or later, surrealism, which Greenberg did what he could to suppress or, to use the psychoanalytical language which has come naturally to Greenberg’s critics, like Rosalind Krauss or Hal Foster,(13) “to repress”–there is no room for it in the great narrative of modernism which swept on past it, into what came to be known as “abstract expressionism” (a label Greenberg disliked), and then color-field abstraction, where, though the narrative did not necessarily end, Greenberg himself stopped. Surrealism, like academic painting, lay, according to Greenberg, “outside the pale of history,” to use an expression I found in Hegel. It happened, but it was not, significantly, part of the progress. If you were snide, as critics schooled in Greenbergian invective were, it was not really art, and that declaration showed the degree to which the identity of art was internally connected with being part of the official narrative. Hal Foster writes: “A space for surrealism has opened up: an impense within the old narrative, it has become a privileged point for the contemporary critique of this narrative.”(14) Part of what the “end of art” means is the enfranchisement of what had lain beyond the pale, where the very idea of a pale–a wall–is exclusionary, the way the Great Wall of China was, built to keep the Mongol hordes outside, or as the Berlin Wall was built, to keep the innocent socialist population protected from the toxins of capitalism. (The great Irish-American painter Sean Scully delights in the fact that “the pale,” in English, refers to the Irish Pale, an enclave in Ireland, making the Irish outsiders in their own land.) In the modernist narrative, art beyond the pale either is no part of the sweep of history, or it is a reversion to some earlier form of art. Kant once spoke of his own era, the Age of Enlightenment, as “mankind’s coming of age.” Greenberg might have thought of art in those terms as well, and seen in surrealism a kind of aesthetic regression, a reassertion of values from the childhood of art, filled with monsters and scary threats. For him, maturity meant purity, in a sense of the term that connects exactly to what Kant meant by the term in the title of his Critique of Pure Reason. This was reason applied to itself, and having no other subject. Pure art was correspondingly art applied to art. And surrealism was almost the embodiment of impurity, concerned as it was with dreams, the unconscious, eroticism, and, in Foster’s vision of it, “the uncanny.” But so, by Greenbergian criteria, is contemporary art impure, which is what I want to talk about now. Just as “modern” is not simply a temporal concept, meaning, say, “most recent,” neither is “contemporary” merely a temporal term, meaning whatever is taking place at the present moment. And just as the shift from “premodern” to modern was as insidious as the shift, in Hans Belting’s terms, from the image before the era of art to the image in the era of art, so that artists were making modern art without realizing they were doing anything different in kind until it began to be retrospectively clear that a momentous change had taken place, so, similarly, did it happen with the shift from modern to contemporary art. For a long time, I think, “contemporary art” would have been just the modern art that is being made now. Modern, after all, implies a difference between now and “back then”: there would be no use for the expression if things remained steady and largely the same. It implies an historical structure and is stronger in this sense than a term like “most recent.” “Contemporary” in its most obvious sense means simply what is happening now: contemporary art would be the art produced by our contemporaries. It would not, clearly, have passed the test of time. But it would have a certain meaning for us which even modern art which had passed that test would not have: it would be “our art” in some particularly intimate way. But as the history of art has internally evolved, contemporary has come to mean an art produced within a certain structure of production never, I think, seen before in the entire history of art. So just as “modern” has come to denote a style and even a period, and not just recent art, “contemporary” has come to designate something more than simply the art of the present moment. In my view, moreover, it designates less a period than what happens after there are no more periods in some master narrative of art, and less a style of making art than a style of using styles. Of course, there is contemporary art in styles of a kind never before seen, but I do not want to press the matter at this stage of my discussion. I merely wish to alert the reader to my effort to draw a very strong distinction between “modern” and”contemporary.”(15)
I don’t especially think that the distinction was sharply drawn when I first moved to New York at the end of the forties, when “our art” was modern art, and the Museum of Modern Art belonged to us in that intimate way. To be sure, a lot of art was being made which did not as yet make an appearance in that museum, but it did not seem to us then, to the degree that the matter was thought about at all, that the latter was contemporary in a way that distinguished it from modern. It seemed a wholly natural arrangement that some of this art would sooner or later find its way into “The Modern,” and that this arrangement would continue indefinitely, modern art being here to stay, but not in any way forming a closed canon. It was not closed, certainly, in 1949, when Life magazine suggested that Jackson Pollock might just be the greatest American painter alive. That it is closed today, in the minds of many, myself included, means that somewhere between then and now a distinction emerged between the contemporary and the modern. The contemporary was no longer modern save in the sense of “most recent,” and the modern seemed more and more to have been a style that flourished from about 1880 until sometime in the 1960s. It could even be said, I suppose, that some modern art continued to be produced after that–art which remained under the stylistic imperatives of modernism–but that art would not really be contemporary, except again in the strictly temporal sense of the term. For when the stylistic profile of modern art revealed itself, it did so because contemporary art itself revealed a profile very different from modern art. This tended to put the Museum of Modern Art in a kind of bind no one had anticipated when it was the home of “our art.” The bind was due to the fact that “modern” had a stylistic meaning and a temporal meaning. It would not have occurred to anyone that these would conflict, that contemporary art would stop being modern art. But today, as we near the end of the century, the Museum of Modern Art has to decide whether it is going to acquire contemporary art that is not modern and thus become a museum of modern art in the strictly temporal sense or whether it will continue to collect only stylistically modern art, the production of which has thinned down to perhaps a trickle, but which is no longer representative of the contemporary world.
In any case, the distinction between the modern and the contemporary did not become clear until well into the seventies and eighties. Contemporary art would for a long time continue to be “the modern art produced by our contemporaries.” At some point this clearly stopped being a satisfactory way of thinking, as evidenced by the need to invent the term “postmodern.” That term by itself showed the relative weakness of the term “contemporary” as conveying a style. It seemed too much a mere temporal term. But perhaps “postmodern” was too strong a term, too closely identified with a certain sector of contemporary art. In truth, the term “postmodern” really does seem to me to designate a certain style we can learn to recognize, the way we learn to recognize instances of the baroque or the rococo. It is a term something like “camp,” which Susan Sontag transferred from gay idiolect into common discourse in a famous essay.(16) One can, after reading her essay, become reasonably adept at picking out camp objects, in just the same way it seems to me that one can pick out postmodern objects, with maybe some difficulties at the borderlines. But that is how it is with most concepts, stylistic or otherwise, and with recognitional capacities in human beings and in animals. There is a valuable formula in Robert Venturi’s 1966 book Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture: “elements which are hybrid rather than `pure,’ compromising rather than `clean,’ `ambiguous’ rather than `articulated,’ perverse as well as `interesting.'”(17) One could sort works of art out using this formula, and almost certainly you would have one pile which consisted pretty homogeneously of postmodern works. It would have the works of Robert Rauschenberg, the paintings of Julian Schnabel and David Salle, and I guess the architecture of Frank Gehry. But much contemporary art would be left out–say the works of Jenny Holzer or the paintings of Robert Mangold. It has been suggested that perhaps we should simply speak of postmodernisms. But once we do this, we lose the recognitional ability, the capacity to sort out, and the sense that postmodernism marks a specific style. We could capitalize the word “contemporary” to cover whatever the disjunction of postmodernisms was intended to cover, but there again we would be left with the sense that we have no identifiable style, that there is nothing that does not fit. But that in fact is the mark of the visual arts since the end of modernism, that as a period it is defined by the lack of a stylistic unity, or at least the kind of stylistic unity which can be elevated into a criterion and used as a basis for developing a recognitional capacity, and there is in consequence no possibility of a narrative direction. That is why I prefer to call it simply posthistorical art. Anything ever done could be done today and be an example of post-historical art. For example, an appropriationist artist like Mike Bidlo could have a show of Piero della Francescas in which the entirety of Piero’s corpus was appropriated. Piero is certainly not a post-historical artist, but Bidlo is, and a skilled enough appropriationist as well, so that his Pieros and Piero’s paintings could look as much alike as he cared to make them look–as much like Piero as his Morandis look like Morandis, his Picassos like Picassos, his Warhols like Warhols. Yet in an important sense, not easily believed accessible to the eye, Bidlo’s Pieros would have more in common with the work of Jenny Holzer, Barbara Kruger, Cindy Sherman, and Sherrie Levine than with Piero’s proper stylistic peers. So the contemporary is, from one perspective, a period of information disorder, a condition of perfect aesthetic entropy. But it is equally a period of quite perfect freedom. Today there is no longer any pale of history. Everything is permitted. But that makes the historical transition from modernism to post-historical art all the more urgent to try to understand. And that means that it is urgent to try to understand the decade of the 1970s, a period in its own way as dark as the tenth century.
The seventies was a decade in which it must have seemed that history had lost its way. It had lost its way because nothing at all like a discernible direction seemed to be emerging. If we think of 1962 as marking the end of abstract expressionism, then you had a number of styles succeeding one another at a dizzying rate: color-field painting, hard-edged abstraction, French neorealism, pop, op, minimalism, arte povera, and then what got to be called the New Sculpture, which included Richard Serra, Linda Benglis, Richard Tuttle, Eva Hesse, Barry Le Va, and then conceptual art. Then what seemed to be ten years of nothing much. There were sporadic movements like Pattern and Decoration, but nobody supposed they were going to generate the kind of structural stylistic energy of the immense upheavals of the sixties. Then all at once neo-expressionism arose, in the early eighties, and gave people the sense that a new direction had been found. And then again the sense of nothing much so far at least as historical directions were concerned. And then the dawning sense that the absence of direction was the defining trait of the new period, that neoexpressionism was less a direction than the illusion of one. Recently people have begun to feel that the last twenty-five years, a period of tremendous experimental productiveness in the visual arts with no single narrative direction on the basis of which others could be excluded, have stabilized as the norm.
The sixties was a paroxysm of styles, in the course of whose contention, it seems to me–and this was the basis of my speaking of the “end of art” in the first place–it gradually became clear, first through the nouveaux realistes and pop, that there was no special way works of art had to look in contrast to what I have designated “mere real things.” To use my favorite example, nothing need mark the difference, outwardly, between Andy Warhol’s Brillo Box and the Brillo boxes in the supermarket. And conceptual art demonstrated that there need not even be a palpable visual object for something to be a work of visual art. That meant that you could no longer teach the meaning of art by example. It meant that as far as appearances were concerned, anything could be a work of art, and it meant that if you were going to find out what art was, you had to turn from sense experience to thought. You had, in brief, to turn to philosophy.
In an interview in 1969, conceptual artist Joseph Kosuth claimed that the only role for an artist at the time “was to investigate the nature of art itself.”(18) This sounds strikingly like the line in Hegel that gave support to my own views about the end of art: “Art invites us to intellectual consideration, and that not for the purpose of creating art again, but for knowing philosophically what art is.”(19) Joseph Kosuth is a philosophically literate artist to an exceptional degree, and he was one of the few artists working in the sixties and seventies who had the resources to undertake a philosophical analysis of the general nature of art. As it happened, relatively few philosophers of the time were ready to do this, just because so few of them could have imagined the possibility of art like that being produced in such dizzying disjunctiveness. The philosophical question of the nature of art, rather, was something that arose within art when artists pressed against boundary after boundary, and found that the boundaries all gave way. All typical sixties artists had that vivid sense of boundaries, each drawn by some tacit philosophical definition of art, and their erasure has left us the situation we find ourselves in today. Such a world is not, by the way, the easiest kind of world to live in, which explains why the political reality of the present seems to consist in drawing and defining boundaries wherever possible. Nevertheless, it was only in the 1960s that a serious philosophy of art became a possibility, one which did not base itself on purely local facts–for example, that art was essentially painting and sculpture. Only when it became clear that anything could be a work of art could one think, philosophically, about art. Only then did the possibility arise of a true general philosophy of art. But what of art itself? What of “Art after Philosophy”–to use the title of Kosuth’s essay–which, to make the point, may indeed itself be a work of art? What of art after the end of art, where, by “after the end of art,” I mean “after the ascent to philosophical self-reflection?” Where an artwork can consist of any object whatsoever that is enfranchised as art, raising the question “Why am I a work of art?”
With that question the history of modernism was over. It was over because modernism was too local and too materialist, concerned as it was with shape, surface, pigment, and the like as defining painting in its purity. Modernist painting, as Greenberg defined it, could only ask the question “What is it that I have and that no other kind of art can have?” And sculpture asked itself the same kind of question. But what this gives us is no general picture of what art is, only what some of the arts, perhaps historically the most important arts, essentially were. What question does Warhol’s Brillo Box ask, or one of Beuys’s multiples of a square of chocolate stuck to a piece of paper? What Greenberg had done was to identify a certain local style of abstraction with the philosophical truth of art, when the philosophical truth, once found, would have to be consistent with art appearing every possible way.
What I know is that the paroxysms subsided in the seventies, as if it had been the internal intention of the history of art to arrive at a philosophical conception of itself, and that the last stages of that history were somehow the hardest to work through, as art sought to break through the toughest outer membranes, and so itself became, in the process, paroxysmal. But now that the integument was broken, now that at least the glimpse of self-consciousness had been attained, that history was finished. It had delivered itself of a burden it could now hand over to the philosophers to carry. And artists, liberated from the burden of history, were free to make art in whatever way they wished, for any purposes they wished, or for no purposes at all. That is the mark of contemporary art, and small wonder, in contrast with modernism, there is no such thing as a contemporary style.
I think the ending of modernism did not happen a moment too soon. For the art world of the seventies was filled with artists bent on agendas having nothing much to do with pressing the limits of art or extending the history of art, but with putting art at the service of this or that personal or political goal. And artists had the whole inheritance of art history to work with, including the history of the avant-garde, which placed at the disposition of the artist all those marvelous possibilities the avant-garde had worked out and which modernism did its utmost to repress. In my own view, the major artistic contribution of the decade was the emergence of the appropriated image–the taking over of images with established meaning and identity and giving them a fresh meaning and identity. Since any image could be appropriated, it immediately follows that there could be no perceptual stylistic uniformity among appropriated images. One of my favorite examples is Kevin Roche’s 1992 addition to the Jewish Museum in New York. The old Jewish Museum was just the Warburg mansion on Fifth Avenue, with its baronial associations and connotations of the Gilded Age. Kevin Roche brilliantly decided to duplicate the old Jewish Museum, and the eye is unable to tell a single difference. But the building belongs to the postmodern age perfectly: a postmodern architect can design a building which looks like a Mannerist chateau. It was an architectural solution that had to have pleased the most conservative and nostalgic trustee, as well as the most avant-garde and contemporary one, but of course for quite different reasons.
These artistic possibilities are but realizations and applications of the immense philosophical contribution of the 1960s to art’s self-understanding: that artworks can be imagined, or in fact produced, which look exactly like mere real things which have no claim to the status of art at all, for the latter entails that you can’t define artworks in terms of some particular visual properties they may have. There is no a priori constraint on how works of art must look–they can look like anything at all. This alone finished the modernist agenda, but it had to wreak havoc with the central institution of the art world, namely the museum of fine arts. The first generation of great American museums took it for granted that its contents would be treasures of great visual beauty and that visitors would enter the tresorium to be in the presence of spiritual truth of which the visually beautiful was the metaphor. The second generation, of which the Museum of Modern Art is the great exemplar, assumed that the work of art is to be defined in formalist terms and appreciated under the perspective of a narrative not remarkably different from the one Greenberg advanced: a linear progressive history the visitor would work through, learning to appreciate the work of art together with learning the historical sequences. Nothing was to distract from the formal visual interest of the works themselves. Even picture frames were eliminated as distractions, or perhaps as concessions to an illusionistic agenda modernism had outgrown: paintings were no longer windows onto imagined scenes, but objects in their own right, even if they had been conceived as windows. It is, incidentally, easy to understand why surrealism has to be repressed in the light of such an experience: it would be too distracting, not to mention irrelevantly illusionistic. Works had plenty of space to themselves in galleries emptied of everything but those works.
In any case, with the philosophical coming of age of art, visuality drops away, as little relevant to the essence of art as beauty proved to have been. For art to exist there does not even have to be an object to look at, and if there are objects in a gallery, they can look like anything at all. Three attacks on established museums are worth noting in this respect. When Kirk Varnedoe and Adam Gopnick admitted pop into the galleries of the Museum of Modern Art in the “High and Low” show of 1990, there was a critical conflagration. When Thomas Krens deaccessioned a Kandinsky and a Chagall to acquire part of the Panza collection, a good bit of it conceptual and much of which did not exist as objects, there was a critical conflagration. And when, in 1993, the Whitney compiled a Biennial consisting of works that really typified the way the art world had gone after the end of art, the outpouring of critical hostility–in which I am afraid I shared–was by an inestimable factor unprecedented in the history of Biennial polemics. Whatever art is, it is no longer something primarily to be looked at. Stared at, perhaps, but not primarily looked at. What, in view of this, is a post-historical museum to do, or to be?
It must be plain that there are three models at least, depending upon the kind of art we are dealing with, and depending upon whether it is beauty, form, or what I shall term engagement that defines our relationship to it. Contemporary art is too pluralistic in intention and realization to allow itself to be captured along a single dimension, and indeed an argument can be made that enough of it is incompatible with the constraints of the museum that an entirely different breed of curator is required, one who bypasses museum structures altogether in the interests of engaging the art directly with the lives of persons who have seen no reason to use the museum either as tresorium of beauty or sanctum of spiritual form. For a museum to engage this kind of art, it has to surrender much of the structure and theory that define the museum in its other two modes.
But the museum itself is only part of the infrastructure of art that will sooner or later have to deal with the end of art and with art after the end of art. The artist, the gallery, the practices of art history, and the discipline of philosophical aesthetics must all, in one or another way, give way and become different, and perhaps vastly different, from what they have so far been. I can only hope to tell part of the philosophical story in the chapters that follow. The institutional story must wait upon history itself.

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Ross Bleckner: Examined Life Writings 1972-2007

I recently finished a small book of Ross Bleckner‘s writings called Examined Life: Writings 1972-2007. I have always like Ross Bleckner’s paintings and was curious to know what he had to say about his process and his general philosophy behind his painting practice. I get a sense from what he writes and talks about that he’s in a search for personal spirituality that is free from irony or humor and that his investigations into the materiality and alchemy of painting is both self-fulfilling and social. His work also explores memory, loss and change and he often uses symbology and abstraction to create intensely haunting and dark, moody paintings that are visually elusive yet strangely alluring.

Here are some good quotes from the book:

“I’m trying to introduce a certain kind of sentiment into my paintings without necessarily being sentimental. I would like to make paintings that are moving and touching, but I’m very suspicious of the ways they could be manipulating, or be cliches.”

“I’ve always thought that what is hidden (repressed) is as interesting, if not more so, than what is expressed; in as much as artists have a dialogue with an audience, they also have a dialogue with themselves.”

“Symbolist imagery is double-edged. It’s trick imagery. There’s a sense of theatricality that almost undermines any seriousness.”

“Pop Art is no longer the Pop Art of the sixties and seventies, which glorified and fetishizes product; Pop Art today, and the artists who are able to address in some way or another the cultural paradigm that shifted toward that sense of imminent loss and mortality during the eighties with the onset of the AIDS pandemic. Mortality became the new Pop Art.”

“Sometimes I hate this process that seems to make me feel I should be without friends, so that I can retreat and look around at my paintings and say,: “at least I will always have this.”

“I like somber paintings because through them we can feel the need for change.”


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A Theory of Forms and Ideas Small Scale Sculptures

I finished with the series A Theory of Forms and Ideas Small Scale Sculptures last week but it took me until today to get around to photographing them. I discovered a problem with #23 so I’m thinking about making it again. I made it too tall. I did this because I doubled the dimensions from the second set of drawings that I was using but these drawings had already been doubled to make them the right size. I also didn’t make #17 or #19 because they were going to be too difficult to make. Here’s 12 of them.


A Theory of Forms and Ideas Small Scale Model #1 A Theory of Forms and Ideas Small Scale Model #10 A Theory of Forms and Ideas Small Scale Model #9 A Theory of Forms and Ideas Small Scale Model #8 A Theory of Forms and Ideas Small Scale Model #4 A Theory of Forms and Ideas Small Scale Model #3 A Theory of Forms and Ideas Small Scale Model #24 A Theory of Forms and Ideas Small Scale Model #21 A Theory of Forms and Ideas Small Scale Model #18 A Theory of Forms and Ideas Small Scale Model #14 A Theory of Forms and Ideas Small Scale Model #12


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A Theory of Progress Table in progress

I started working on the A Theory of Progress Table again. I’m trying to finish it before it gets too cold out. I plan on belt sanding it when I’m done with it to make the sides flat. I also decided to only paint the sides of the slats and not the parts where they have been cut which will save me a lot of time but will also make sense theoretically to how it’s built. I’m going to have to make a sketch to see how it looks before I make my final decision. Here’s a photo of it in my studio. Unfortunately I ran out of lattice so I’m going to have to buy more in order to finish it. I think it’s only about half way done right now.

A Theory of Form Table in Progress

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The Pruitt-Igoe Myth

I watched the Pruitt-Igoe Myth the other day. It’s a documentary about a housing complex built in the early 1950’s for low income African American families in St. Louis, Missouri. It was designed by architect Minoru Yamasaki who would later design the World Trade Center. The complex consisted of 33 buildings, each 11 stories high on 57 acres of land .  Due to years of neglect, improper funding and eventually crime, it was knocked down in the early 1970’s and the land has remained empty ever since. The project has become an icon of urban renewal and public-policy planning failure.

One of the interesting things that I learned was that they were originally going to build two segregated areas, one for African Americans  and one for whites. Another interesting thing was that, at least during the early years, young African American men were not allowed to live in the complex so the community was made up of mostly woman and children. They also weren’t allowed to have television during the early years.

Here are some photos.

2 Future Living Projects 5678551604_c361b7a2c5 3 Future Living Projects 5349085649_952588954c 4 Future Living Projects pruitt_igoe_99_podcast 5 Future Living Projects Aerial-View-of-St.-Louis--007 6 Future Living Projects PI-Opening-Day 7 but-segregation-was-outlawed-in-1954-following-brown-v-board-of-education-and-the-complex-was-integrated-white-flight-set-in-and-pruitt-igoe-was-soon-an-all-black-project.jpg 7 Freidrichs_PruittIgoeMythFamily7 Future Living Projectspruitt_igoe_broken_windows8 Future Living Projects Pruitt-igoe_collapse-series

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A Theory of Forms and Ideas Isometric Projection Drawings

Here are some isometric projection drawings that I’ve been working on over the past week. These are all part of the A Theory of Forms and Ideas series. I did some experiments to figure out what combinations of colors I wanted to use and settled on using blue Gelly Roll pens by Sakura on generic gray paper from Michaels. I started by first making the drawings in pencil and then inking in the lines. After I finished, I erased all of the pencil lines and then scanned the images into the computer. I used Photoshop to erase the backgrounds and then lightened the images as far as I could to make the pen lines appear to be light gray. At this point I decided that it would be easier to cheat by putting my gray paper in the printer and printing out the images directly onto it;I could have traced the images on there again but there really is no point and I already made the drawings once. Once they were printed on the gray paper, I traced over them with a blue pen. The first pen that I used, which lasted for only about 7 drawings, made thick painterly lines which I really liked. A lot of mistakes were made because of how wet the ink was but I accepted it as part of the process and also thought that it would keep them from being too graphic. After the first blue pen gave out I got new ones but they turned out to be unreliable and often clogged up, making it difficult to get accurate and solid lines. These were more like drawing with ball point pens that were drying out as you used them;I was happy when I finished because those pens were beginning to frustrate me. I left out #8 and #10 because I thought it would be too difficult to make the curves with my pen.

According to Wikipedia isometric projection is:

 A method for visually representing three-dimensional objects in two dimensions in technical and engineering drawings. It is an axonometric projection in which the three coordinate axes appear equally foreshortened and the angles between any two of them are 120 degrees.

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A Theory of Forms and Ideas Small Scale Sculptures #4, #9, #21 and #23 in Progress

Here’s a photo of #4, #9, #21 and #23 in progress. #9 is almost done. This one took a while since it needed to be made in stages. In this photo the inside has been painted black already which is necessary because it can’t be painted later. The next step is to tape over the inside again and then prime everything else. After it’s primed and sanded again I can remove the tape and finish spraying the outside surface black. #23 is also almost done. It only needs some final sanding on the edges and then it can be primed and painted. #4’s top is being clamped together while the glue dries. I’ll sand it tomorrow and then wood fill it a couple of times before I paint the underside and glue on the bottom piece. #21 is still in pieces but I’ll probably start gluing it together tomorrow.In progress

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Filed under Sculpture, Small Scale Model