Friday, March 26, 2010

From Meghan Clulow: Beauty as a thing

In this essay I will answer three questions about the chapter “The quotation of beauty”. Steiner believes that we need to stop looking at beauty as a thing or quality but as a form of communication. According to Steiner beauty is in the eye of the beholder. One art piece is not more beautiful then another because

everyone sees beauty differently. In the chapter “the quotation of beauty” Steiner quotes Barnett Newman she says “the impulse of modern art is the desire to destroy beauty” I think the desire to destroy beauty has interned made it beautiful. Steiner states “the judgment of beauty in a person or artwork varies enormously from one person to the next, and in the course of time, even within the same person.” There is not one set way to look at beauty.

In the 1950s Abstract expressionism made waves in New York, for the first time New York was the art capital of the world. In the chapter Steiner stated that Abstract expressionism “Canvasses were pure, superhuman, sublime: art objects in the most literal sense, but objects whose very refusal to mean gave them transcendent meaning.” I believe this is what Steiner is meaning when she says beauty is a type of communication. During this time Jackson Pollock invented his splatter technique which seemed to flow from his very life force. His work was spontaneous and opened a whole new way to look at beauty. The photograph (figure 15) shows a female model in front of a splatter painting that is too big to fit into the photograph. When you first look at it you think that the woman is the main subject in the photograph but really she is the “window dressing” for the painting. Steiner states “the painting has in effect called her into being as a decorative add-on; the absoluteness of its formal beauty reduces any other sort of beauty to mere ornament.” This contradiction between artwork and model was very popular in fashion magazines in the 1950s.

Conceptual art tries to deprive its viewer of any female beauty but wants there to be an idea of beauty. Steiner writes “John Baldessari captures this notion in a work of 1967-68 called pure beauty in which the title is simply painted in black caps across a neutral background.” The “vehicle” for beauty is language rather than a female subject so that it is thought provoking and sublime in nature. This is an example of beauty communicating to the viewer.

In postmodern art work form is uniform it completely ignores function. There is no from to the madness. In the chapter Steiner states “One might argue that this is the case with any paradigmatic style, for example, neoclassicism, in which buildings with a variety of functions-bank museum, railroad station-all echo the façade of a Greek temple.” Postmodern uses tasteful restraints of the earlier movements. Steiner says “Accordingly, in his visual “treaties” matrix of 1993, Robert Venturi calls his buildings “decorated sheds” and advocates the use of ornament to create pattern, symbolism, irony and wit.” This is an example of how art communicates to a single person.

In 1960s-1970s pop art, photorealism and neoepressionism was very popular. Things that we saw everyday became beautiful artwork. Steiner states “In Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s soup cans, for instance, the illusionistic cans are repeated in a pattern, commercial images morphing into art.” Andy Warhol took an everyday thing, a soup can, and made it into a work of art. He used a commercial image to express himself. I believe this is an example of communication. Warhol takes it to the next level with his disaster series. He took things like atomic explosions and car wrecks and made them into a pleasing design. Steiner states that “the double vision produced by this strategy dramatizes the contrary pull of visual art: toward from and toward representation.”

In conclusion Steiner made a lot of good points about beauty and art. I agree with her beauty can be communication. Beauty is always communicating something be it good or bad. I think Steiner has it right when she says “I think, we must stop treating beauty as a thing or quality, and see it instead as a kind of communication.” If we think of it as communication then anything can be beautiful as long as it communicates it to us.
Meghan Clulow

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