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Dismissing Abstract Painting as the Arbitrary

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I have a quarrel with abstract paintings passing as art. This is my attempt to show for my own understanding, why I think abstract painting can be discounted and not considered as art, thrown out as arbitrary.

As I understand it,when one sees beauty, this presupposes that a harmonious whole is seen, which is to say that an integrated whole is present before the viewer. (In particular, I'm writing of beauty seen in a painting.)

I think a finished representational painting is the result of an applied method by the artist. To view a painting, is to see:

( A )-The artist’s recreation of reality, where entities represented in paint can be reduced back to referents. Where casual relations perceived by the artist were developed into visual concepts for the artist to use in making an idea concrete in paint. To be a representational painting, to be an artwork, beautiful or ugly, is to have the method grounded to reality.

( B ) -An artist having painted an integrated whole, which is a prerequisite to harmony, and finally beauty. If a painting holds a contradiction, which occurs in an abstract work, then it is non-harmonious, not integrated, and can be considered ugly.

( C )-the use of a hierarchy of concepts such as "shape", "value (light/dark)", "edges", "color"

What does it mean for a painting to be able to be reduced back to casual relations, which were observed by referents to the perceptual level? A painting is to represent something, to paint its identity. To observe a mountain scene that recedes into the distance is to see the causal relation of each mountain becoming lighter, lowered in contrast, bluer, which was later understood as atmospheric perspective. To recreate in paint requires the concepts "value", "color", "shape" in making an intelligible recreation of the scene. To see is to have knowledge of concepts, which were attained through a proper method of concept formation.

Contrast this to an abstract work, where there are no represented entities to reduce back to the observed in reality. What is this smear of color placed on the canvas? Color is an attribute, which if not reduced back to an observed entity it to not be grounded in reality. What is this shape that has no essential characteristics of a referent to reality?

What does it mean to have an integrated whole without contradiction? If the metaphysical is the standard, is harmonious, then deviating from the essentials perceived and seen in reality can only result in a contradiction, which will be ugly. To not paint the essential characteristics of an entity, or to purposely. do away with perspective will result in contradictions. To paint light in the shadows and reverse form will result in contradictions, etc.

To see a representational painting is to see the final result of a method. It is to see the artists knowledge, of "value" "shape" "edges" "color" applied to recreating what the artist values. To note, there is a hierarchy in the use of concepts. To use color presupposes the use of value(light/dark) and to use the concept “value(light and dark) presupposes that there is a shape to have this attribute.

It isn't possible for a product to be created without having gone through a method to attain the knowledge to apply the skill of creating the product. Rationalists may try to say that a gift has been seeded to an artist, in this way they show just how much knowledge is lacking in the creation of an abstract work. To try and “preserve the appearances of things” through abstract work is to throw away the method used to make representational paintings, artwork.

I think the sanction of an abstract painting is to say that knowledge cannot be known and applied. To gain knowledge requires a proper method of perception, observing casual relations, forming generalizations, and upwards to theories. Likewise, I think that to give consideration that an abstract painting is “art” is to say that knowledge can’t be known.

As I understand it, the current state of trash being passed as art is a result of the failure of the philosophers of the past, namely Kant who took the worst of rationalism and empiricism, to create a marriage of anti-concepts and skeptical content.

Again, I’m simply writing this for my own learning and understanding of showing the importance of distinguishing art from the arbitrary, abstract works. It is in my selfish interest to know what can be done to reverse the “anti-mind”, “anti-method” mentality that is reflected in modern art.

Any thoughts or constructive criticism is encouraged. Thank you.

Edited by brianleepainter

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The problem is the sweeping generalization that is being made.

I think that what you are referring to is the bulk of what people would most likely think of first when they think "abstract art". But abstract art has a long and varied history, it evolved and changed and abstract art isn't a simply defined thing.

From what people would commonly consider "abstract art" I would be inclined to agree with you.

But pure realism is not desirable as art either. Some early works of abstract art strike me more as Romantic Realism, which in art is arguably the ideal.

Specifically I would name James Abott Whistler's series of "Nocturnes" as an example of something that was deemed abstract but falls within the definition of true and compelling art.

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The problem is the sweeping generalization that is being made.

I think that what you are referring to is the bulk of what people would most likely think of first when they think "abstract art". But abstract art has a long and varied history, it evolved and changed and abstract art isn't a simply defined thing.

From what people would commonly consider "abstract art" I would be inclined to agree with you.

But pure realism is not desirable as art either. Some early works of abstract art strike me more as Romantic Realism, which in art is arguably the ideal.

Specifically I would name James Abott Whistler's series of "Nocturnes" as an example of something that was deemed abstract but falls within the definition of true and compelling art.

Thank you for the comment, SapereAude.

I’m taking into consideration that when a generalization is made, the context of concepts known at the time should be considered. Whistler, in representing night scenes, where the lack of light creates an overall tone close in value, created these nocturnes which were seen as a tonalism style. I do think that these nocturnes are representative of a night scene.

I understand that the generalization is perhaps very broad to integrate, and while I don't favor pure realism, approaching naturalism, I do want to generalize so that abstract work is not considered art, as is present in "modern art".

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( B ) -An artist having painted an integrated whole, which is a prerequisite to harmony, and finally beauty. If a painting holds a contradiction, which occurs in an abstract work, then it is non-harmonious, not integrated, and can be considered ugly.

That's false. Harmonious abstract images don't become non-harmonious and/or ugly just because you don't like the idea of non-representational art, or because you've convinced yourself that all abstract paintings, by definition, must contain "a contradiction." Certain colors go well together. They're harmonious and expressive, just as musical notes are (which are also non-representational by your standards), and they don't become any less harmonious or expressive when not attached to identifiable object shapes.

The harmony and expressiveness of abstract colors and forms isn't just the basis of abstract paintings, but of architecture as well (as Rand said, architecture "does not recreate reality"). So, in the name consistency, you'd also have to oppose the idea of architecture qualifying as art. Do you? If not, why not?

Additionally, your emphasis on the concepts of harmony and beauty is misplaced. Harmony and beauty are not requirements of art, including by Objectivist standards. Ugly images can qualify as art just as beautiful ones can.

What does it mean for a painting to be able to be reduced back to casual relations, which were observed by referents to the perceptual level? A painting is to represent something, to paint its identity. To observe a mountain scene that recedes into the distance is to see the causal relation of each mountain becoming lighter, lowered in contrast, bluer, which was later understood as atmospheric perspective. To recreate in paint requires the concepts "value", "color", "shape" in making an intelligible recreation of the scene. To see is to have knowledge of concepts, which were attained through a proper method of concept formation.

So, your theory is that visual art must mimic the "value", "color" and "shape" of objects in reality, and therefore abstract paintings are not art because, although they may mimic the color, motion or other attributes of objects in reality, they generally don't directly mimic objects' shapes? If that's your theory, then it would also logically follow that realistic, representational black and white drawings and monochromatic paintings don't qualify as art, since they also eliminate one of your prerequisites for visual art: color.

And, again, architecture does not deal with what you call representational "perceptual level referents" -- it does not "represent something" via what you call an "intelligible recreation" of "its identity." Nor does music. Therefore architecture and music are not valid art forms according to your standards.

Contrast this to an abstract work, where there are no represented entities to reduce back to the observed in reality. What is this smear of color placed on the canvas? Color is an attribute, which if not reduced back to an observed entity it to not be grounded in reality. What is this shape that has no essential characteristics of a referent to reality?

Shape is also merely an attribute. Why do you accept the isolated attribute of shape as conveying "identity" and meaning, but not the isolate attribute of color?

What does it mean to have an integrated whole without contradiction? If the metaphysical is the standard, is harmonious, then deviating from the essentials perceived and seen in reality can only result in a contradiction, which will be ugly. To not paint the essential characteristics of an entity...

"Essential" to whom? If an artist wants to paint the warmth of the sun, or of fire, or of love, upon what objective grounds would claim that the "essential characteristic" of his concept of warmth is a shape rather than a color?

...or to purposely do away with perspective will result in contradictions.

False. Deviating from reality within an artwork does not necessarily result in "contradictions." It can be self-consistent while not being consistent with reality. Rand's work, for example, was not consistent with reality. But that doesn't make it contradictory.

To paint light in the shadows and reverse form will result in contradictions, etc.

Not necessarily. If the light and shadows are consistently reversed throughout the painting, they are not contradicting the context within the artwork.

I think the sanction of an abstract painting is to say that knowledge cannot be known and applied.

I think what you're missing is that others have knowledge that you lack. They experience and understand the expressiveness of the relational/compositional aspects of abstract shapes and colors where you apparently don't.

To gain knowledge requires a proper method of perception, observing casual relations, forming generalizations, and upwards to theories. Likewise, I think that to give consideration that an abstract painting is “art” is to say that knowledge can’t be known.

No, what it means is that knowledge can be known beyond what you personally are currently able to comprehend.

As I understand it, the current state of trash being passed as art is a result of the failure of the philosophers of the past, namely Kant who took the worst of rationalism and empiricism, to create a marriage of anti-concepts and skeptical content.

Actually, as I overwhelmingly demonstrated toward the end of this thread over on OL, it would be more accurate to say that Kant was the "father" of Romantic Realism and of the Objectivist Esthetics than it would be to say that he was the "father of modern art" (as Rand erroneously stated). Far from being a proponent of abstract art, Kant would have had difficulty with the idea of it. He believed that art had to be a "representation of a thing."

Again, I’m simply writing this for my own learning and understanding of showing the importance of distinguishing art from the arbitrary, abstract works. It is in my selfish interest to know what can be done to reverse the “anti-mind”, “anti-method” mentality that is reflected in modern art.

Modern art is not anti-mind or anti-method, just as the abstract/non-representational art forms of music and architecture are not anti-mind or anti-method. Why are you not claiming that the purpose of calling architecture and music "art" is to say that "knowledge can’t be known"?

J

Edited by Jonathan13

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Jonathan13,

I’d like to discuss representational art and abstract works specifically, as the topic suggests. (The concept beauty, while I had mentioned it is not the subject I would like to discuss in this thread.)

In the arguments you've presented are you saying that there is an alternative way to obtain knowledge, to then be applied in a painting? I cannot accept that knowledge can be gained in any other way besides deriving and/or reducing back to the perceptual level. As I have reason to think, a representational painting is created by a method that is grounded in reality. All concepts which I have stated in the shape,value,color presuppose that one has learned these concepts by the proper conceptual faculty of man.

Edited by brianleepainter

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Jonathan13,

I’d like to discuss representational art and abstract works specifically, as the topic suggests. (The concept beauty, while I had mentioned it is not the subject I would like to discuss in this thread.)

I am discussing representational art and abstract works specifically. Music, architecture and abstract paintings are all what you call "abstract works." See, my point is that architecture as an art form works in exactly the same way that abstract paintings do. Both are aesthetically expressive without being mimetic or directly representational. The same is also true of music, except that music deals with abstract arrangements of sounds where architecture and abstract paintings deal with abstract arrangements of visuals.

In the arguments you've presented are you saying that there is an alternative way to obtain knowledge, to then be applied in a painting?

No, I'm not saying that there is an alternative way to obtaining knowledge. I'm saying that the expressiveness of color independent of mimetic shape is no different than the expressiveness of mimetic shape independent of color. Any isolated attribute, or group of attributes, has the potential to communicate and can be effective as a means of artistic expression. I'm also saying that the abstract forms of architecture and music are experienced in the same way that abstract paintings are, so whatever criticisms or judgments that you offer of abstract art and its creators and fans should also be aimed at architecture and music, and its creators and fans.

I cannot accept that knowledge can be gained in any other way besides deriving and/or reducing back to the perceptual level.

Then you might be interested in reading comments from Kandinsky (the "father or abstract art") on the "language" of abstract colors, which I posted a few years ago here (scroll down to the section that I titled "Kandinsky being very objective in describing the 'language' of color"). His explanation of the effects of abstract colors is based in what you call "deriving and/or reducing back to the perceptual level," so I would expect you to be happy to find yourself in agreement with him.

As I have reason to think, a representational painting is created by a method that is grounded in reality. All concepts which I have stated in the shape,value,color presuppose that one has learned these concepts by the proper conceptual faculty of man.

How are you defining "the proper conceptual faculty of man." It sounds as if you're proposing the idea that anything that you experience or understand counts as being within the proper conceptual capabilities of man, but that anything that anyone else experiences, but which you don't, is automatically outside the proper conceptual capabilities of man. If I and millions of other see, say, gentleness, femininity and calm confidence in a specific abstract form and colors, where you don't, why is it that your abilities, or lack thereof, automatically represent the limits of what is possible via "the proper conceptual faculty of man"?

J

Edited by Jonathan13

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Jonathan13,

I had read about Kandinsky and viewed his paintings. I think Plato and Kandinsky would have made good friends in the similar values they share. Kandinsky takes

the attributes away from entities and tries to appeal to some abstract. Substitute Plato's appeal to geometric shapes and symmetry with Kandinsky's appeal to color

and shape divorced from the entities they are attributed to. Perhaps Kandinsky's creations reflect the ideology of Platonism?

"The content of true reality, according to Plato, is a set of universals or Forms—in effect, a set of disembodied abstractions representing that which is in common among various groups of particulars in this world. Thus for Plato abstractions are supernatural existents. They are non-material entities in another dimension, independent of man’s mind and of any of their material embodiments. The Forms, Plato tells us repeatedly, are what is really real. The particulars they subsume—the concretes that make up this world—are not; they have only a shadowy, dreamlike half-reality." -Peikoff, "Ominous Parallels"

"Suppose a rhomboidal composition, made up of a number of human figures. The artist asks himself: Are these human figures an absolute necessity to the composition, or should they be replaced by other forms, and that without affecting the fundamental harmony of the whole? If the answer is "Yes," we have a case in which the material appeal directly weakens the abstract appeal. The human form must either be replaced by another object which, whether by similarity or contrast, will strengthen the abstract appeal, or must remain a purely non-material symbol." -Kandinsky on painting

Edited by brianleepainter

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Man, you're really stretching it there. Kandinsky's comments have nothing to do with universal essentials of form and material embodiments, but are merely an artist's comments on the act of visual composition. His comments could just as easily be those of a plein air painter discussing how he doesn't merely record reality in front of him, but asks himself how he should adjust the forms of a landscape to better serve the composition. When you paint, say, a winding creek, do you Naturalistically record reality exactly as it is, or do you enhance colors and shapes in order to strengthen their abstract appeal?

Contrary to your mischaracterization above, Kandinsky's goal was not to "divorce" colors and shapes from entities, but to explore and enhance our knowledge of the expressiveness of color and shape. He recognized, more than anyone had previously, just how much expressive power -- one might say "personality" or "body language," etc. -- that shapes, colors and compositional arrangements can have.

When you quoted Kandinsky on composition, it's odd that you left out the very next paragraph in which he rejects the idea of abandoning material objects in paintings, because he believed that to "deprive oneself of this possibility is to limit one's powers of expression." It almost seems as if you're intent on misrepresenting him and his views. Here's what he wrote in the paragraph that you neglected to post:

Must we then abandon utterly all material objects and paint only in abstractions? The problem of harmonizing the appeal of the material and the non-material shows us the answer to this question. As every word spoken arouses an inner vibration, so likewise does every object represented. To deprive oneself of this possibility is to limit one's powers of expression. That is at any rate the case at present. But besides this answer to the question, there is another, and one which art can always employ to any question beginning with "must": There is no "must" in art because art is free.

Now, if anyone is Platonic in their views on visual art, I would say that it is you (and those who share your opinions), what with your view that the single attribute of shape is the "essential characteristic" of any object, where any other attribute, or even all of the other attributes combined, are "divorced" from the object if shown without mimetic shape. If anything should be "dismissed" as being "arbitrary," it's your arbitrary, Platonic selection of shape as the only essential attribute of everything.

I'm wondering if you're ever going to get around to answering my questions about applying your requirements of mimetic intelligibility and representationalism to the abstract art forms of architecture and music. Why aren't you eager to accuse creators and fans of architecture and music of "divorcing" attributes from entities, and of reflecting the ideology of Platonism?

J

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For one, you don't give an example of abstract art. I have no idea *what* you are referring to. You know exactly what you're picturing, but I haven't a clue. Is Rothko abstract art? Is Cezanne abstract art? Is Dali abstract art? You're describing characteristics of what you've determined to be abstract art without helping me, the reader, figure out what particulars we are talking about. Right now, it reads as detached from the perceptual level.

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Jonathan13 and Eiuol,

I had read your responses, after my work today, but I'm sorry that I don't have enough time to respond to them now. I at least wanted to say thank you for your replies, and I plan on giving meaningful responses after work.

Edited by brianleepainter

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For one, you don't give an example of abstract art. I have no idea *what* you are referring to. You know exactly what you're picturing, but I haven't a clue. Is Rothko abstract art? Is Cezanne abstract art? Is Dali abstract art? You're describing characteristics of what you've determined to be abstract art without helping me, the reader, figure out what particulars we are talking about. Right now, it reads as detached from the perceptual level.

Are you talking to me or to Brian?

If you're asking me, then I would say that abstract art is art that doesn't seek to directly mimic the appearance or sound of objects in reality -- it doest create an optical or aural illusion of what is seen or heard -- but instead uses sounds, colors, forms, textures and relations/structures/compositions as a means of expression (which, obviously, is why I categorize architecture and music as abstract art forms).

In the past, here on OO, and elsewhere, I've posted this example of a work of art:

369315155_6fca71f322.jpg

After looking at it, many Objectivists have told me that it does not qualify as art by Objectivist criteria, because, they say, it does not include identifiable likenesses of objects from reality. Some have said that it looks like kitchen floor tiles, that it has no meaning, and cannot possibly have meaning.

Well, what if the image is a realistic painting based on actual stone tiles that the artist had selectively cut and arranged like this:

5414095796_e8052810ee.jpg

Does it now suddenly qualify as art? Simply because of a technicality, Objectivists can now appreciate its compositional beauty and expressiveness, and can deem it to be no less valid as a work of art than any other still life which realistically depicts actual objects from reality?

Or, conversely, would you take the absurd position that certain things, like arrangements of flat, colorful, stone tiles, somehow don't count as being representations of things from reality?

Here's another image, one that I painted, that I've posted in O-forums:

350645875_a6c1aa575b_o.jpg

Does it quality art?

As I've explained when I've posted it in the past:

It's a painting a of paint splatter that I had noticed on the marble slab that I use as a palette. Here's a photo of the splatter that the painting was based on:

350645871_69f5b24da3_o.jpg

In comparing the painting to the photo, you can see that I sharpened up the edges (reflecting my valuing of sharpness and clarity in cognition!), eliminated imperfections (accidents of nature), and romanticized and idealized the shapes (I had no choice but to stylize and romanticize them because I believe in volition). Since the subject matter of the painting is easily identifiable by anyone as a splatter of paint, and since a splatter of paint is just as much a thing from reality as anything else, the painting is representational, realistic and objective, and is therefore art according to Rand's criteria.

The painting is also very romantic and meaningful because paint is a product created by man. He invented it to protect and beautify his world. As a still life, a painting of a splatter of paint implies that man is active and using paint to improve the value of the objects which provide for or give meaning to his existence. It's a heroic symbol of productivity.

As an artist, paint also has deep personal meaning to me. It represents my primary means of "re-creating reality" and expressing my radiant "sense of life."

The painting is therefore pure Romantic Realism.

Anyway, to answer your specific question, Louie, I would say that Rothko's work is abstract art, some of Cezanne's might qualify, and so would elements of Dali's. Other examples would be works by Mondrian, Pollock, Doesburg, etc.

J

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Anyway, to answer your specific question, Louie, I would say that Rothko's work is abstract art, some of Cezanne's might qualify, and so would elements of Dali's. Other examples would be works by Mondrian, Pollock, Doesburg, etc.

Ah, some ambiguity in who I was asking. I was referring to the original post, the argument presented. I agree with the categorization here, but in the argument in the original post, I had to make assumptions.

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*As an opening statement to this post, I may have not been specifc throughout this thread, but I would like to limit the discussion to the representational painting(which under the philosophy of Objectivism is art) and abstract painting(which is not art in the same respect) (I understand, Jonathan13, that you had brought up music and architecture, but in respect to the thread I had created, I'd like to discuss specifically painting.)*

Now, To emphasize my point of the thread, I want to show why I understand representational painting to be art, and why I dismiss abstract work as the arbitrary.

I'm concerned with epistemology and the area of concept-formation as much as I'm concerned with representational paintings and abstract works. I'll explain why further in this post.

When I see a finished product, or read about a theory shown to work by induction, I think that a method was applied to arrive at the final product or current theory. In order for a creation,product, invention,theory,etc. to work, it had to be proved and cannot handle a contradiction.

To see a representational painting is to presuppose that a method was used to create it. It had to be that way. I think that an abstract work may be arrived at when there is a departure from method.

As I understand it, scientists use a method to arrive at theories and to learn how the world works. There is no alternative to gain knowledge and create concepts. Philosophers of the past, such as Plato and Kant had spread ideas, which affected scientists and artists greatly. A philospher can say that the world can't be known to a scientist, and yet here I am, typing on a computer to post this. Here I'm painting with a method to create a representational work. As I had written earlier, I think that an abstract work can occur when a method is not applied.

Maybe something broke in the past. Due to the teachings of Plato and Kant, among many others, science and art were treated differntly, such that scientists studied the world through a rigourous application, always updating and creating new concepts, able to see farther by standing on the shoulders of the past scientists. Such is the nature of induction, how self-correcting it can be. Somehwere in the past artists exempted themselves from this, and here we are with "modern art", with abstract works being upheld to consumers as a legitimate art.

If I were to paint a winding creek, using the example that Jonathan13 had written, I have to enage in the use of concepts, to recreate reality in a representational painting is to use abstracting in the application of visual concepts, i.e.; shape,value(light/dark),color,edge There is no other way.

On color:

If one is to take action and pick up the brush to paint a winding creek, attributes and characteristics are isolated, in order to then paint the attributes. Here is where my hierarchy of visual concepts come into play: Color is an attribute of an entity. To perceive color is to also perceive an entity. Notice how artist applying color has no choice but to have created a shape on the canvas when the color is applied. To paint color is to paint a shape. But what is the shape? Blank out. If someone, wanting to just paint "color" places it on the canvas without concern for what they are trying to represent, then it is abstract, it is not representing anything at the moment until the shape is worked out. To place color on the canvas is to place a shape, and a value(light/dark) (value being inseparable from a color)

If I go outside to paint a creek, and I want to paint the color of the creek, there is a method involved. Concerning seeing and knowledge, when I see a flowing creek, the creek bed nearby is visible due to in part my viewing angle in relation to the plane of water, because I'm viewing it at this angle I can see the color of the warm creek bed, and as I divert my gaze upstream my viewing angle changes in relation to the plane of water, and I see the reflected sky which when I'm isolating the attribute color in the use of a visual concept I can isolate " cool blue". In order to complete the use of visual concepts, I create a concrete, a representation of the color in the form of a shape, and finally I actually paint the creek. Make sense? The beauty of knowing the "how" and "why" comes into play when creating a representational painting, especially so when painting from "memory". There is no other way to gain knowledge and apply it without using concepts, and abstracting in order to recreate reality in a painting. Understanding and applying the concepts of reflection and refraction is used when painting the representational, but this knowledge is not necessary(of course it is gained from the staring point of perception and then noting casual relations)

In this painting of a little waterfall, when painting color, I isolated the orange color of the creekbed(my vantage point of being high on a cliff, in relation to the plane of the water I can see the "warm orange" of the creek bed) and then when isolating color, I also extracted the color of the distant water(my vantage point being in the same location, but this time seeing the water plane at a different angle in relation to me I can see"cool" blue") The process of using the visual concept "color" is complete when I paint the shape of the river, and apply the attribute color:

post-7444-0-55762200-1315674362_thumb.jp

or here, when I use color as an attribute of an entity, which has a shape the process is complete. The use of concepts is seen in the representational, and the representational painting can be reduced to the perceptual:

post-7444-0-53750200-1315674483_thumb.jp

Consider, a farmer who gains a sense of life from seeing his creek represented in a painting. He may not understand the method which is applied to create the painting, but he certainly does not need to in order to enjoy it. It is one thing, seeing a finished product, but it is a different matter of understanding the process of it. To recreate reality in a representational painting is to use the abstract, and ground it to reality.

edit:grammar and clarity

Edited by brianleepainter

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*As an opening statement to this post, I may have not been specifc throughout this thread, but I would like to limit the discussion to the representational painting(which under the philosophy of Objectivism is art) and abstract painting(which is not art in the same respect) (I understand, Jonathan13, that you had brought up music and architecture, but in respect to the thread I had created, I'd like to discuss specifically painting.)*

Well, I don't want to artificially limit the discussion in a manner which allows you to avoid universally applying your criteria and principles to all art forms. That's not the way that philosophy works -- you don't get to limit the discussion so that your opponent can't bring up any of the areas in which you contradict yourself. So, sorry but, no, I'm not interested in going along with you and avoiding your blatant inconsistencies. I'm not interested in helping to pretend that you're not arbitrarily using one standard for art forms that you like and another for ones that you don't.

I'm concerned with epistemology and the area of concept-formation as much as I'm concerned with representational paintings and abstract works. I'll explain why further in this post.

If you're actually concerned with the epistemology of the subject of people claiming that abstract art deeply affects them aesthetically, then stop avoiding my questions about architecture and music. Stop compartmentalizing abstract painting into a special category because you hate it, but instead apply to it the same generosity of judgment which allows you categorize architecture and music as art. What is it about the abstract colors and forms of architecture and the abstract sounds of music that you find expressive and communicative, and enough so that they qualify as art? Take those same methods and concepts and apply them to abstract paintings. Are you getting it now?

Maybe something broke in the past. Due to the teachings of Plato and Kant, among many others, science and art were treated differntly, such that scientists studied the world through a rigourous application, always updating and creating new concepts, able to see farther by standing on the shoulders of the past scientists. Such is the nature of induction, how self-correcting it can be. Somehwere in the past artists exempted themselves from this, and here we are with "modern art", with abstract works being upheld to consumers as a legitimate art.

I'm not interested in vilifying philosophers, or watching you haphazardly guess at who you suspect should be blamed for things that you don't like. Anyway, Rand's assertion was not that Kant's epistemologcial theories were the foundation of modern art, but that his aesthetic theories were. When claiming that Kant was the "father of Modern art," she referred her readers to his Critique of Judgment, which is his treatise on aesthetics, she did not refer readers to his other Critiques which cover his views on the other branches.

She was wrong. Kant was very Objectivish in his aesthetics. As I've mentioned before, it would be closer to the truth to say that Kant was the father of Romantic Realism, of the Objectivist Esthetics, and of Rand's novels and "sense of life" than it would to say that he was the father of Modern art.

If one is to take action and pick up the brush to paint a winding creek, attributes and characteristics are isolated, in order to then paint the attributes. Here is where my hierarchy of visual concepts come into play: Color is an attribute of an entity. To perceive color is to also perceive an entity. Notice how artist applying color has no choice but to have created a shape on the canvas when the color is applied. To paint color is to paint a shape. But what is the shape? Blank out.

I think it's kind embarrassing that you're mimicking Rand and borrowing her term "blank out," especially since you use the term so inappropriately and ineffectively. Imitation is said to be the sincerest form of flattery, but not when done so poorly. Abstract art theorists did not "blank out" on the subject of color and shape, but were very detailed and coherent about it. Artists like Kandinksy, Mondrian, Rothko, Klee and even Frank Lloyd Wright were much more specific, and objective, about why they chose certain abstract shapes and colors than Objectivist artists have been about why they chose to paint the objects that they've painted.

For example, read here what Objectivist artists Linda Mann says about her method of choosing objects to paint -- she does not choose objects for their symbolic content, but for their abstract visual appeal, which compositionally "entices" her, and involves a "process" that "is only partly conscious." She seems to have much less of a conscious notion of what she's doing than abstract painters and architects do. And I would suspect that the same is true of you: if I were to question you about why you chose to paint what you've chosen to paint, I'd be willing to bet that your answers would be quite vague and subjective compared to the ideas of Kandinksy, Mondrian, Rothko and Wright.

So, your accusation of abstract artists "blanking out" is completely false. I would even go so far as to say that your accusation is an example of projection or self-diagnostics: it is you who is "blanking out" by refusing to learn what abstract artists believed while falsely accusing them of holding beliefs which they did not hold, and it is you who is "blanking out" in trying to steer the conversation away from my attempts to get you to think in principles and apply your aesthetic criteria to all art forms (especially architecture and music).

If someone, wanting to just paint "color" places it on the canvas without concern for what they are trying to represent, then it is abstract, it is not representing anything at the moment until the shape is worked out.

Where did you get the idea that abstract artists are not concerned with what they are trying to represent or express? You really should read their ideas on the subject rather than just making stuff up about what you imagined they might have believed.

If I go outside to paint a creek, and I want to paint the color of the creek, there is a method involved. Concerning seeing and knowledge, when I see a flowing creek, the creek bed nearby is visible due to in part my viewing angle in relation to the plane of water, because I'm viewing it at this angle I can see the color of the warm creek bed, and as I divert my gaze upstream my viewing angle changes in relation to the plane of water, and I see the reflected sky which when I'm isolating the attribute color in the use of a visual concept I can isolate " cool blue". In order to complete the use of visual concepts, I create a concrete, a representation of the color in the form of a shape, and finally I actually paint the creek. Make sense?

You didn't answering my question, which was "do you Naturalistically record reality exactly as it is, or do you enhance colors and shapes in order to strengthen their abstract appeal?" I'm asking very simple, direct questions. Why is it so hard to get answers out of you?

J

Edited by Jonathan13

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Jonathan13, I am curious, in your view, what is art?

And, in your view and by your standard (of what art is), is there good art and bad art? What determines the difference?

(I do not mean to sidetrack this discussion, so if my question seems out of place, I can ask it in another, more appropriate thread).

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Jonathan13, I am curious, in your view, what is art?

I largely share what I take to be the meaning of Rand's definition of art. She defined art as a selective re-creation of reality according to an artist's metaphysical value-judgments. I take "re-creation" to mean that art is a simulation of reality (or of aspects of reality), and by "metaphysical value-judgments," I take her to mean that the artist expresses something that is important to him, and which he thinks is worthy of experiencing and contemplating.

And, in your view and by your standard (of what art is), is there good art and bad art? What determines the difference?

I think that's a very complex subject, but, basically, I think: that aesthetic judgments necessarily involve both objectivity and subjectivity; that there are multiple standards and contexts by which to judge what is art, and what is good or bad art; that no individual can assume that his or her aesthetic capabilities, sensitivities, interpretations and reactions (or lack thereof), represent (or should represent) the objective, the norm or the universal for all mankind; that new standards and contexts are frequently discovered which enhance or replace the old standards, and then those new standards themselves are often eventually enhanced or replaced; and that the new and different is usually hated by the masses for generations until they finally get it.

Art is usually a very individualistic activity, and therefore the traditional or collectively accepted standards and norms that society adopts at any time are always being rejected and/or improved upon to suit the next generation of creators' individual ideas. I think that Howard Roark is a great fictional example of what being an artist is all about -- he blazed his own trail regardless of whether or not society and his colleagues, competitors, and critics understood or agreed with his vision, theories, methods, tastes and styles, etc.

J

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Thank you, Jonathan13, for your answer to my questions. As I said, I do not want to sidetrack this thread's focus, so I'll think about what you've said and perhaps respond later, here or elsewhere, if I have something to add.

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I think a visual concept is not yet an artwork, but a blueprint, a means to an end. It is the scaffolding embracing an architecture, or a skeleton that supports it, waiting to realize the purpose of its function. If the architect were to simply walk away from his work what would be abandoned would not be an architecture. It has yet to function. as one. A visual concept is not yet an artwork, but a blueprint, a means to create an artwork that is then an end in itself.

From what I understand an artwork has an art form; painting,sculpture,music,literature, and in order for that art form to perform its function it needs to be representational, unlike the decorative arts. I think there are universals that apply to all art forms, namely that concepts are concertized so that the viewer can then perceive the idea in the form of a representational work. That is the general, now to be more specific, to bring light to the function of painting is not to evade integration of the other art forms. The universal functioning of artwork is applied to all, to integrate the sum of all art forms in their psycho-epistemological function to the viewer, but the species, i.e. music,painting,sculpture,etc. do have different forms based on their functioning to the viewer.

In the species of painting, under the genus artwork, I’m concerned with its function.

When I look at something, and I’m unable to figure what it is, then I don’t understand its function. I think visual concepts can represent an idea, but as I understand it, if the idea

is not concertized into a representational painting, then it does not function as an artwork. I think what it does function as is a visual concept. There is concept behind every painting, an abstract appeal sure, and understanding how to manipulate contrast,balance,implied lines,etc, will only help the representational. I think the masterworks are created by artists who understand the abstract, and put it into representation.

post-7444-0-59881300-1316023808_thumb.jp

You didn't answering my question, which was "do you Naturalistically record reality exactly as it is, or do you enhance colors and shapes in order to strengthen their abstract appeal?" I'm asking very simple, direct questions. Why is it so hard to get answers out of you?

J

Jonathan13, I thought my examples show that I do enhance colors and shapes. In order to create a representational painting the artist does "strengthen the abstract appeal" by creating an artwork that functions to show the metaphysical so that someone, having a conceptual faculty, can perceive it to complete the psycho-epistemological function of an artwork.

post-7444-0-45698900-1316023870_thumb.jp

p.s.- Thank you for the nice comment.

Edited by brianleepainter

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From what I understand an artwork has an art form; painting,sculpture,music,literature, and in order for that art form to perform its function it needs to be representational, unlike the decorative arts. I think there are universals that apply to all art forms, namely that concepts are concertized so that the viewer can then perceive the idea in the form of a representational work.

Then the art forms that I'm being asked by you (and by a moderator) not to discuss on this thread are not valid art forms. The art-forms-which-shall-not-be-named are not "representational." As Rand said about one of them, it "cannot tell a story, it cannot deal with concretes, it cannot convey a specific existential phenomenon, such as a peaceful countryside or a stormy sea," and as she said about the other, it "does not re-create reality."

That is the general, now to be more specific, to bring light to the function of painting is not to evade integration of the other art forms. The universal functioning of artwork is applied to all, to integrate the sum of all art forms in their psycho-epistemological function to the viewer, but the species, i.e. music,painting,sculpture,etc. do have different forms based on their functioning to the viewer.

Did you intentionally leave out you-know-what from your list of art forms because you disagree with Rand that it's a legitimate art form, or merely because there's no entry for it in the Ayn Rand lexicon that you could link to?

In the species of painting, under the genus artwork, I’m concerned with its function.

When I look at something, and I’m unable to figure what it is, then I don’t understand its function. I think visual concepts can represent an idea, but as I understand it, if the idea

is not concertized into a representational painting, then it does not function as an artwork. I think what it does function as is a visual concept. There is concept behind every painting, an abstract appeal sure, and understanding how to manipulate contrast,balance,implied lines,etc, will only help the representational. I think the masterworks are created by artists who understand the abstract, and put it into representation.

Am I understanding you correctly? You seem to be heading toward the view that there's something inherent in the nature of paint or painting that requires mimesis -- that painting has something like a specific Platonic essence? And other art forms have different essences? So, somehow it's okay that certain art forms don't present identifiable likenesses of objects in reality, but it's not okay that other art forms do the same? Is it your theory that abstract arrangements of shape and color can have profoundly deep aesthetic meaning when done in, say, wood and concrete, but the exact same abstract arrangements of shape and color are meaningless and an attack on man's method of cognition if done in paint?

Jonathan13, I thought my examples show that I do enhance colors and shapes. In order to create a representational painting the artist does "strengthen the abstract appeal" by creating an artwork that functions to show the metaphysical so that someone, having a conceptual faculty, can perceive it to complete the psycho-epistemological function of an artwork.

Okay, thanks for clarifying. So, it sounds as if you agree with the substance of Kandinsky's comment -- that a form in a painting should be altered or replaced if it doesn't offer the right compositional abstract appeal.

J

Edited by Jonathan13

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Then the art forms that I'm being asked by you (and by a moderator) not to discuss on this thread are not valid art forms. The art-forms-which-shall-not-be-named are not "representational." As Rand said about one of them, it "cannot tell a story, it cannot deal with concretes, it cannot convey a specific existential phenomenon, such as a peaceful countryside or a stormy sea," and as she said about the other, it "does not re-create reality."

The point that I was trying to get across was that each of the art forms has an identity, included in this is a certain function to the viewer. For example, each art form does have limitations that the artist may understand, and once understood only help the artist to better his work. These limitations are because of the identity of both the medium of use, and of the function of the art form. A representational oil painter is not a sculptor or architect that recreates or creates a world to walk around and/or live in. He creates a world that he would want to walk around and/or live in, and as a corollary the viewer may want to do that too. In order to have this function of, the oil painter is concerned with how to create representation by understanding the nature of paint and having an understanding of the purpose of the chosen art form.

I do not think Beethoven had to contemplate the limitations of a painter's medium and art form when he was engaged in his next composition. Nor do I think that Sargent,Zorn, or Vermeer, had to be concerned with sculpting marble when they were working with oils.

Did you intentionally leave out you-know-what from your list of art forms because you disagree with Rand that it's a legitimate art form, or merely because there's no entry for it in the Ayn Rand lexicon that you could link to?

In my above analogy I did reference architecture, and I do consider it an art form. If one is to specialize in, say, representational painting, one is not obligated to first be a sculptor,musician,novelist, and architect before they can then create representational work according to the species of painting, in the genus art.

Am I understanding you correctly? You seem to be heading toward the view that there's something inherent in the nature of paint or painting that requires mimesis -- that painting has something like a specific Platonic essence? And other art forms have different essences? So, somehow it's okay that certain art forms don't present identifiable likenesses of objects in reality, but it's not okay that other art forms do the same? Is it your theory that abstract arrangements of shape and color can have profoundly deep aesthetic meaning when done in, say, wood and concrete, but the exact same abstract arrangements of shape and color are meaningless and an attack on man's method of cognition if done in paint?

Essence? No. Identity. Yes! Different art forms have different identities.

Okay, thanks for clarifying. So, it sounds as if you agree with the substance of Kandinsky's comment -- that a form in a painting should be altered or replaced if it doesn't offer the right compositional abstract appeal.

I think the representational has primacy over the abstract, so that the abstract compositional appeal is geared towards the representational.

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The point that I was trying to get across was that each of the art forms has an identity, included in this is a certain function to the viewer. For example, each art form does have limitations that the artist may understand, and once understood only help the artist to better his work. These limitations are because of the identity of both the medium of use, and of the function of the art form. A representational oil painter is not a sculptor or architect that recreates or creates a world to walk around and/or live in.

I think the mistake that you're making is that you're not focusing on architecture strictly in its role as an art form, but you're confusing yourself by referring to its utilitarian identity and functions and conflating them with its aesthetic identity and functions. Your act of focusing on the fact that architecture "creates a world to walk around and/or live in" is to focus on architecture's practical aspects rather than its aesthetically expressive aspects. The point that you're apparently missing is that architecture, in its role as a work of art (as opposed to its separate utilitarian role), is an art form whose means of expression is the arrangement of abstract colors and shapes. Exactly like abstract paintings and sculptures, architecture's artistic expression is achieved non-mimetically via abstract relationships and proportions.

I do not think Beethoven had to contemplate the limitations of a painter's medium and art form when he was engaged in his next composition. Nor do I think that Sargent,Zorn, or Vermeer, had to be concerned with sculpting marble when they were working with oils.

I think you're missing the point. My point is not to suggest that an artist working in one medium must first understand all other media in order to create. My point is simply to get you to understand that if you accept architecture and music as valid art forms, then you shouldn't have any difficulty in understanding how and why abstract paintings can also be art, since, in accepting architecture and music as valid art forms, you've already accepted art forms which rely solely on abstract shapes, colors and/or sounds as their means of artistic expression!

Essence? No. Identity. Yes! Different art forms have different identities.

What is the "identity" of abstract paintings and sculptures?

It is the arrangement of abstract shapes and colors for the purpose of artistic expression.

And what it the "identity" of architecture as an art form?

It is the arrangement of abstract shapes and colors for the purpose of artistic expression.

What is the "identity" of music?

It is the arrangement of abstract sounds for the purpose of artistic expression.

What is the "identity" of dance as an artistic performance?

It is the arrangement of abstract motions for the purpose of artistic expression.

All of these art forms are abstract. None of them are mimetic or "representational" in the sense that you use the term.

I think the representational has primacy over the abstract, so that the abstract compositional appeal is geared towards the representational.

Others see things differently. They respond more to the relational/compositional aspects of visual art than to the imitative/narrative aspects. They are not trying to destroy man's consciousness, or deny that knowledge can be known, or whatever you accuse them of. They're focusing on the aspects of art that they respond to. You could compare it to people responding differently to different aspects of music: Certain people might respond strongly to melody or rhythm, where others might respond more strongly to the drama of the overarching harmonic structure. And I think it would be just as mistaken for those who respond only to melody to accuse those who respond to the harmonic structure as being "arbitrary," of denying the true and proper nature of man's consciousness, and of claiming that knowledge can't be known.

J

Edited by Jonathan13

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