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

A Review of The Philosophy of Andy Warhol by Andy Warhol


Warhols’ “The Philosophy of Andy Warhol” is a philosophy book with a whole lot of nothing to say. Reading Warhol is like reading a grocery list.  I mean it’s clear that he was a genius and I guess his own erudition is captured eloquently through his bland and catty musings. Yet in order to uncover any of the real meat and potatoes philosophy behind this book one finds it encapsulated in Warhols interpretation of  the American ethos. He goes into explicit detail concerning:

  • The transformative properties of consumerism
  • Business as the best form of art
  • Television as a way of life
  • Things that are glamorous and things that are fabulous

Now I wouldn’t say that Warhol is boring, moreover that he wants us to perceive him as boring.  One example is that when he describes his many philandering and  excursions with stars or celebrities he only really goes into detail about what they were eating at the restaurant or what the hotel room was like (and if it had a Television or not).  This whole book lacks any sort of felling or intensity.  It is completely amoral and dry like a JCPenny catalogue or a toothpaste commercial.

The only time Warhol describes any sort of sentimentality is when he goes into explicit detail about his love affair with television.  Warhol describes how he lives his life as if he was constantly on TV.  One of the most prolific things he had to say about this was that after he had been shot he realized that it felt more real watching others get shot in movies than getting shot in real life. 

It’s clear in this book that Warhol tried to make a simulacrum of himself like a soup can or a coca cola bottle.  He talks about he prefers being told what to do by others than to making decisions for himself.  To anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of the American middle class labor system one can see Warhol’s alignment with the standard employee model of behavior.  A staple of the American zeitgeist.  Warhol was truly the quintessential American artist and philosopher.

Although this book is weird and dry it is a genuine piece of work and really exposes Warhol as the dreamy eyed simpleton that he was. You get a real sense of his philosophy or lack there of.