I've finally received my copy of "Art Reconstructed: A New Theory of
Aesthetics" by Theodore L. Shaw (published 1937)
And here, for those who are interested in such a topic -- is the
EACH TIME that we see some great dogma of Art- some supposedly universal law
or principle crash to oblivion, we say to ourselves, "there goes the last one;
we've learned our lesson this time; there must never be another; henceforth
Art shall be forever free"
And yet hardly has the dust settled before our good resolutions are forgotten,
and we find Dogma again in authority, again dictating the laws and principles
within which the artist supposedly must create, if that which he creates is to
be acknowledged as Art.
The cause of this extremely unintelligent and apparently endless procedure is
that we are cherishing in our bosoms-without realizing it - a Parent- or
Super-Dogma, which automatically breeds these sub-dogmas within us, and will
continue to do so to Eternity unless we harden our hearts and cast it from
This Parent-Dogma is the Dogma that Art is an Elevation, that Art is the
expression of the finer part of ourselves, that Art is the path by which
mankind isleaving behind its man-ness and is ascending towards divinity.
I know no centre of thought where the authority of this remarkable Dogma is
now in the slightest degree questioned, where the barest suspicion of its
validity has been even whispered.
Art still is everywhere regarded as a sort of crusade; "Genius," so called, is
still everywhere conceived as an approach to godlikeness-as a kindling of the
divine fire. In a world where geologic concepts of time are now universally
accepted, that which we call "a masterpiece of Art" is still everywhere ,
proclaimed as eternal, timeless, imperishable. In a world which has existed
hundreds of millions of years and will exist more hundreds of millions of
the favorites of a few paltry centuries- Homer, Phidias, Dante, Shakespeare,
Beethoven- are still everywhere hailed as "immortal"; a few words, a few
sounds, a few bits of clay flung together in the year one hundred or one
thousand are still everywhere confidently expected to delight and thrill men
of the millionth and the ten millionth century as fully as they delight and
thrill men of today.
The purpose of this book is to initiate revolt against this ancient, this
powerful, this nevertheless rather ridiculous Dogma-to eject from our minds
all the preposterous blarney and false glamour that have gathered about Art,
and to reveal Art as that which it actually is, not a crusade, not an
ennoblement, not a deification, but simply a phenomenon of life, in the same
way that Gravity or Space or Time are phenomena of life.
And as a first step towards this purpose I propose to turn my back on the
past, abandon romance, sentiment, vaporous moonings, face directly the more
animal, earthy realities. and define Art in one short, simple, homely word
which nobody can fail to understand.
So .. what do you think ?
It reminds me of Derek -- in that the author proposes to set aside the
Philosophy of Art as we now know it -- and strike out into new territory.
His attack on "Art as Elevation to the finer part of ourselves" seems to be
stridently non-traditional - but he also does not share the " model based on a
Hegelian (and later positivist) vision of stylistic development" and
"modernism's vision of progress."
Like Mando (and everyone else - except me) he wants Art to be "forever free"
Like William, he also has a scientific bent -- i.e. he is interested in the
world as the sciences - like geology (and possibly neuroscience - have
been describing it.
He wants a concept of "art" that is "a phenomenon of life" -- like "Gravity,
Space, or Time" (which sounds like an ambition that Boris would appreciate)
Stay tuned for "CHAPTER II : ART DEFINED IN ONE WORD"
I'll bet nobody can guess what that word will be !
Alexandrianism, an academicism in which the really important issues are left
Is this category currently important anywhere outside the visual arts?
There's 758,000 hits on Google for "outsider art" -- but only 68,000 for
"outsider music" -- and 1,700 for "outsider poetry".
There's also absolutely nothing listed as an "anthology of outsider poetry"
--- or an "anthology of outsider music" -- while there are many galleries
exhibits that claim they are presenting outsider art.
Any speculations on why this is the case ?
It's especially relevant to Chicago -- because the most famous Chicago
painter of the last 50 years, Henry Darger, is considered the quintessential
outsider artist. He currently gets more hits on Google than all the other
Chicago artist names combined. But he also wrote a 15,145 page fantasy novel,
and I'm really doubting anyone has ever read every page -- it certainly has
yet to be published - and without his bizarre illustrations - it would
rest in a Chicago landfill with all his other humble possessions.
There used to be a small publisher called the "Outsider Press" -- and they
printed the work of some now famous writers like Keroac and Bukowski --but
that seems to have remained a phenomenon of the 1960's.
Perhaps the importance of outsiderness in the visual arts is connected to the
enduring ideology of the perpetual avant garde - the need to be
"constantly redefining what art is, and that each redefinition requires new
criteria, new ways of seeing"
It appears that the worlds of high-brow literature and music have already
abandoned that severe requirement -- or when it is attempted - it's only
recognized as such when only done by highly trained insiders. (there's no more
Moondogs in classical music)
superior consciousness of history -- more precisely, the appearance of a new
kind of criticism of society, an historical criticism
soberly examined in the terms of history and of cause and effect the
antecedents, justifications and functions of the forms that lie at the heart
The Goldlman Collection, more than 30 years old, is rich in works by Raphael
and his school, Roman and Florentine Mannerists, the Carracci, Pietro da