What Art Is

So I just finished reading this book by Arthur C. Danto.


The painter Paul DeLaroche decreed that “Painting is dead!”  And it well should be in the advent of photography.  Since art, as Plato and Aristotle determined, was only meant to mimic nature nothing comes closer to depicting visual reality as photography.

Since art only mimics nature it is never truly as powerful as the reality itself.   But that is good.  Art helps us to make a distinction. Art definitely should not be reality right?  Because once art becomes reality it no longer becomes art and we thereby no longer are able to distinguish the two, thus it loses itself in its redundancy.   Now you are probably going to refer to Andy Warhols Brillo boxes. Andy’s Brillo boxes are pretty much identical to any Brillo boxes you find in a department store.  So what makes Andy’s Brillo boxes art?  Instead of answering this question with epistemology we would have to ask ontological questions.  What is the meaning of Andy’s boxes?  So now that we deal into the realm of conceptual art has art all but lost its dance with the aesthetics? As Danto Says, The point of the work is to subtract the perceptual differences between art and reality.  The only things which conceptually change then are not the visible similarities but the invisible differences. We infer meaning, or grasp meaning but meaning is not at all material.  

I’m afraid so and so does Arthur C. Danto.  Art is this sort of open concept it is subject to so many forces like:
 Market: Capitalist economy plays a role in what art becomes popular.

Museum/Academic:  An ouvre meets a certain set of standards therefore it can be considered art.

This is known as Institutional art theory. Something becomes are simply because we say it is art.

In this book Danto questions the aesthetics which, for so long, hounded the arts.  Aesthetics was a direct outgrowth of ethics which was an outgrowth of logic.  However in the early 20th century art began to separate from aesthetics with Duchamps Urinal.  Duchamp showed us that something can be art and not beautiful.

Fountain 1917, replica 1964 Marcel Duchamp 1887-1968 Purchased with assistance from the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1999 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T07573

Fountain 1917, replica 1964 Marcel Duchamp 1887-1968 Purchased with assistance from the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1999 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T07573

It’s a good read for anyone interested in conceptual art and the futile attempts to discovery what makes art “art.”

My notes on this book:

Realist artists would be insignificant nowadays with the advent of the camera:
  representation discoveries: Perspective, Chiaroscuro (the study of light and shadow), physiogmy (The study of achieving naturalistic representations)
Ontology- the study of what it means to be something
Suprematist- art focused on geometric shapes
Hans Hoffman says to pollock : abstraction comes from nature pollock replies “I am nature”
Robert Motherwell coined the term doodling under Freudians psychic automatism for painting
Warhol- the transfiguration of the commonplace
Wittgenstein- having a definition does not make us wiser.
Paul delaroche- “painting is dead.”
“Abstract and Representational” -clement Greenberg
Hegel two kinds of spirit objective and absolute

Inventing Mythology: Constructing Cultural Identity with a Comic Book


For the past two months I have been putting out a comic book in my home city of San Diego.  It has libidinal elements which fetishize it into commodity.  This disguises it among the myriad of market products.  It appears specialized, almost as if it comes from a cultural institution like a church or a political group.  It has specific lettering which mimics tribal and meso-american art and it mixes the symbols of the sacred with the profane.At first glance it would appear that this small leaflet is a reference to some sort of academic text; perhaps a legend, mythology or a manifesto.

A person might not immediately realize that these books don’t refer to any preexisting established narrative.  Despite being entirely fiction it gains it’s own authenticity simply through codifying itself within a framework of existing settings and symbols.  e.g.,  regions, traditions and historical peoples. In this way my comic book uses a narrative to distort the preexisting cultural elements as an attempt to generate its own ethos with the illusion of historicity.  It thus places the context of meaning within the these symbols it borrows. This would be ethnogenic as upon reading and referring the tale to the socially established codes which it refers  it would promulgate a cultural identity that had not previously existed.  This is coming from the premise that cultural identity temporalizes itself through historical narrative.

This implied historicity makes my comic a hyper real simulation of cultural identity.  Cultural identity is the result of interdependent forces that define roles, reward status, govern behavior and order power relations of its members.  Since the post modern person today adjusts ones social being to different contexts it is possible to introduce a new model which presents itself as  a pseudo identity without interfering with the normal social order.

I hope to write more on this later:

The History of San Diego: Part 2

Our ancient civilization has endured over the millennium.  These great lands and noble people have shaped the landscape of our histories. We have a distinctly San Diegan ethos which we must cultivate and let blossom.Here in its second installment is part 2 of the epic tale of the lands under the sacred sun.  These books honor the foundation of our culture and solidify our personal identity as San Diegans, setting us apart in solidarity as a people.  Here is the tale of Lord Ranchero Santa Fe and how he thought he could sit on high and thus be entitled as a “true” San Diegan.These stories instill us with a sense of our noble morality.  Forever shall the classics endure in the minds and hearts of our children as we pass them on to future San Diegans for generations to come.







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The Best Artists Ask: What is Art? -Art for Arts Sake


Fountain 1917, replica 1964 by Marcel Duchamp 1887-1968

It is very difficult to properly determine exactly what this thing is which we humans call art. Some would say  art is that which makes us feel emotional or swept away by something created by someone else while others believe that art is that which causes us to critically view human reality and reevaluate society, politics, economy, culture etc.  Since there are so many different meanings and definitions it should be said that the greatest art is that which has no other purpose than to facilitate the understanding of art itself-“Art for the sake of art.”

Art is Interesting

The Philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer argued that art was just a representation of the natural world.  The best art, in his mind, was that which could create an illusion of reality or summon a sense of reality in the viewer.  He literally used the example of a wax figure as the perfect art form because upon approaching a wax figure, believing it to be a real person, one does not realize it is wax until further inspection.  Thus art was fraudulent yet there were only two truth elements that art aroused in its viewers: Beauty and Interest (curiosity). 

Art asks Questions


janine-antoni-touch-2002   So art was something which did not disclose truth in natural reality like objective fact but it disclosed an “ideal” truth.   In the 20th century the modern art movement known as “Conceptualism” began to center its focus on expressing more abstract concepts that were not so easily represented pictorially.  This caused people to reevaluate their previous notions of the concepts.  Some of these ideas that the conceptualists began to convey were:

  • time
  • place
  • identity
  • spirituality
  • language
  • the body

Art is Beautiful

There are those in the school of aesthetic theory who believe that they can determine the artistic quality of something based on it’s beauty.  The idea of sublimity was  a quasi-religious veneration of nature.  Art which produced a “sublime reaction “induced” extraordinary phenomenon in the viewer.

Photography is Plato’s Ultimate Artistic Medium

To Plato art was an imitation of nature.  So if the goal of the artist was to reproduce the things he sees in nature as accurately as possible then all artists would be photographers because nothing visually portrays reality better than the medium of photo.

Art is Creative IMG_0024

Thomas Hobbes had a far broader interpretation of art.  He saw art as the artificial or that which directly stemmed from mans manipulation of natural events.  He divided things between the “Natural” and the “Artificial.”  Nature, he thought, was a “The art whereby God hath made…” while the Artificial was the things that stemmed from mens own creations.  In this sense everything man made is art.

Interpreting art is a creative process itself  Readers and viewers of texts and images necessarily create their own meanings.  According to Roland Barthes no author or artist can fully dictate how others will decode an existing work of art.   Art is subjective and means different things to different people.  As Schopenhauer said, “The inner truth of a representation as to it’s corresponding ideal cannot be perceived by others.”  Quite simply the art is yours to make of it.  I implore you to ask the same question right now.  What is art?


Themes of Contemporary art: Visual art after 1980

Jean robertson, Craig McDaniel published 2005


Arthur Schopenhauer, The Art of Controversy 1831