Sunday, May 09, 2010

Art Errors Avoided

1.  Louis Menand is unimpressed by Steven Pinker's evolutionary aesthetics:
One suspects that enjoying Wagner, singing Wagner, anything to do with Wagner, is in gross excess of the requirements of natural selection. To say that music is the product of a gene for "art-making," naturally selected to impress potential mates—which is one of the things Pinker believes—is to say absolutely nothing about what makes any particular piece of music significant to human beings. No doubt Wagner wished to impress potential mates; who does not? It is a long way from there to "Parsifal" [hat tip, Begbie].
2.  Art critic Jed Perl has some words for excessively self-referential art historians:
I would not want to belittle the sophistication of Fried's thought. But if you can wade through the bewildering intricacy of his approach, with its tortuous expositions of passages from Hegel, Wittgenstein, and Heidegger, the argument turns out to be rather mundane....  I do not see the need for some "key” to the pictorial arts of the past two and a half centuries. And I do not see the need for an interpretation of recent photography that links it tightly to earlier developments in painting. It is a mistake to imagine that the finest thought is the most elaborate or labyrinthine thought...  I have heard people who know a great deal about painting and who know that Fried’s theories are suspect speak almost apologetically about their inability to get with his program. They worry that they are not smart enough to grapple with his ideas, when the truth may be that they are too smart to get tripped up by all his fancy footwork. 
3. and 4.  Bruce Herman, in this IAM interview, counters the idea that tradition can be advanced without having first been mastered, and that abstract painting is necessarily a subjective escape from objective reality.

5.  And, in a review of an art show at the Rubin concerning death across cultures, the The New York Times completely avoids caricaturing Christian theology:
Western works are morbidly preoccupied with the perishability of the body; Eastern works take a holistic, Buddhist view of death as a passage between states of being in nearly endless cycles of reincarnation...    A harsh dualism prevails on the Western side....  Such either-or starkness is foreign to the Eastern side.
Okay, but four out of five errors avoided is not bad.