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Reblogged: On Modern Art

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I’ve never seen a better commentary on modern art than this painting. The expression on her face says … everything!

painting.jpg

The photo was posted here, with the following comment: “Another Spanish artist I like a lot, Cayetano de Arquer Buigas. Not on Facebook, but you can find more of his work online.”

More of his work can be found here. It looks to be mostly pastels, and many are well worth a look!

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I’ve never seen a better commentary on modern art than this painting. The expression on her face says … everything!

I would imagine that the average model would have the same reaction to the content of Atlas Shrugged and to the philosophical tenets of Objectivism. Expressions like shock and incomprehension often say more about the viewer's capabilites than the object of her attention.

And if we could transport this painting's fictional character to the world of The Fountainhead, she'd probably have the same traditionalist/classicist-inspired reaction to Howard Roark's architecture (in the same way that many people in reality were initially aghast at Frank Lloyd Wright's work -- it took a lot of people quite a long time to catch on to what Wright was doing, and to stop fearing and ridiculing his work out of their own ignorance and personal aesthetic limitations).

J

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I would imagine that the average model would have the same reaction to the content of Atlas Shrugged and to the philosophical tenets of Objectivism. Expressions like shock and incomprehension often say more about the viewer's capabilites than the object of her attention.

And if we could transport this painting's fictional character to the world of The Fountainhead, she'd probably have the same traditionalist/classicist-inspired reaction to Howard Roark's architecture (in the same way that many people in reality were initially aghast at Frank Lloyd Wright's work -- it took a lot of people quite a long time to catch on to what Wright was doing, and to stop fearing and ridiculing his work out of their own ignorance and personal aesthetic limitations).

J

Are you implying that modern art as depicted in this painting is rational?

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Are you implying that modern art as depicted in this painting is rational?

I'm saying that, aesthetically, "modern art" is no less rational, no less meaningful and no less objectively communicative than architecture, music and dance. I'm saying that a Picasso-style painting would be more successful at objectively communicating meaning to the average viewer than any work of architecture, music or dance. I'm saying that I and millions of others can apply Rand's stated method of objective aesthetic appraisal and successfully identify meanings in works of "modern art," where, in comparison, Objectivists applying the same method cannot identify meanings in realist paintings, often times including when given acces to all sorts of "outside considerations" (additional information that is not contained within the work of art).

J

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Dr. Hsieh,

I'm curious as to how you'd describe the positioning of the main character's body in this painting:

BASTIEN-LEPAGE_Joan_of_Arc_1879_.jpg

Do you see the tree that she is leaning against while relaxed and lost in her thoughts, or do you somehow fail to see that she is leaning against the tree, and do you therefore misinterpret her body as being in an awkward, tense and rigid position? Do you think that someone's failing to recognize the obvious, objectively demonstrable fact that she is leaning against the tree might be grounds on which to suspect that that person might have some visuospatial difficulties and aesthetic deficiencies?

J

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Actually, I wouldn't expect her to answer even if she did see the replies here.

Only a noob would expect her to take part in any kind of debate where she can't personally delete her opponent's posts. Alright, can't hurt to try, maybe this'll work to summon your quarry:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2VOEOjGuFzI

BTW, I don't get the point of the Joan of Arc painting. Is it by someone that some supposed Objectivist art authority reveres as the cat's meow? The one up top is good for a chuckle, but I can't imagine hanging it on a wall unless it was a one time thing, like if I was having boring guests over and was going to need comic relief.

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BTW, I don't get the point of the Joan of Arc painting. Is it by someone that some supposed Objectivist art authority reveres as the cat's meow?

My posting the Joan of Arc image was a reference to Luc Travers, an Objectivist teacher of art appreciation, whose presentations Dr. Hseih has promoted in the past. In

of his instructions on how to comprehend the information in a painting, he somehow neglects to notice that the character is leaning against a tree, and therefore misinterprets her relaxed body as tense and rigid!

Hsieh's promotion of him and his presentations makes me wonder how and why certain people choose certain other people as their teachers or trusted allies or authorities. When they have no knowledge of a given subject, do they choose to associate with and be taught by someone who will challenge their predispositions and relieve them of their ignorance, or do they choose someone who they think will make them feel validated about their uninformed predispositions? Is Travers worthy of promotion solely because he's an Objectivist (and despite the fact that he unintentionally ends up demonstrating in his presentations that he can't apply the Objectivist theory of aesthetic appraisal to visual art -- that he inevitably must rely on "outside considerations" to identify "artists' meanings")?

J

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The painter may have intended to show her leaning against the tree, but that isn't what he painted. Maybe he just didn't understand perspective. Her shoulder touches the tree and her arm is suspended uncomfortably in mid-air.

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Dr. Hsieh,

I'm curious as to how you'd describe the positioning of the main character's body in this painting:

Do you see the tree that she is leaning against while relaxed and lost in her thoughts, or do you somehow fail to see that she is leaning against the tree, and do you therefore misinterpret her body as being in an awkward, tense and rigid position? Do you think that someone's failing to recognize the obvious, objectively demonstrable fact that she is leaning against the tree might be grounds on which to suspect that that person might have some visuospatial difficulties and aesthetic deficiencies?

J

I've leaned against trees more than a couple times in my life and never have I looked anything like that while doing so. That is definitely, a tense, awkward way to lean against a tree (try leaning your head and a shoulder against a wall with your arm stretched out). Depth also isn't very clear. Ignoring the bottom fifth of the painting and the couple branches that are in front of her, the painting looks to me like it is of a woman standing in front of a painted canvass.

Either way, I still don't get what your point is.

Edited by oso
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Actually, I wouldn't expect her to answer even if she did see the replies here. My questions to her were more on the rhetorical side for the purpose of illustrating a point for those who don't limit themselves to sources of knowledge which confirm their own uninformed biases.

J

Cool, Gotcha...but wait......(question)what is an uninformed bias?

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Actually, I wouldn't expect her to answer even if she did see the replies here. My questions to her were more on the rhetorical side for the purpose of illustrating a point for those who don't limit themselves to sources of knowledge which confirm their own uninformed biases.

J

Okay, well in that case, consider including this explanation in that same post:

My posting the Joan of Arc image was a reference to Luc Travers, an Objectivist teacher of art appreciation, whose presentations Dr. Hseih has promoted in the past. In
of his instructions on how to comprehend the information in a painting, he somehow neglects to notice that the character is leaning against a tree, and therefore misinterprets her relaxed body as tense and rigid!

Post #6 basically makes no sense to anyone who doesn't know the context later explained in this paragraph, hence my assumption that your intention was to question Hsieh directly.

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The painter may have intended to show her leaning against the tree, but that isn't what he painted. Maybe he just didn't understand perspective.

That's false. Objectively speaking, the artist was a master of perspective, and of every other aspect of visual art. If one knows what one is doing, one can even objectively measure the accuracy of his use of perspective in the painting. So, no, it's not the artist or his art that is to be judged as lacking here, at least not by any objective standard.

Her shoulder touches the tree and her arm is suspended uncomfortably in mid-air.

The arm is not suspended uncomfortably. I would suggest that you borrow Luc Travers' method and assume the pose of the painting's character, only do it while leaning against something like a door frame rather than doing it while not leaning against anything as Travers did. Once in the position, lift your arm as if to touch a nearby leaf on branch, as the character in the painting is doing. It's not uncomfortable at all. It's quite relaxing.

J

Edited by Jonathan13
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I've leaned against trees more than a couple times in my life and never have I looked anything like that while doing so.

How do you know what you looked like? When you've leaned against trees during those more than a couple of times, did you take a large mirror with you so that you could observe yourself, or a camera on a tripod?

That is definitely, a tense, awkward way to lean against a tree (try leaning your head and a shoulder against a wall with your arm stretched out).

I have leaned against a wall with my arm reaching outward (as if to stroke a nearby leaf), and there was nothing tense or awkward in my doing so. My body was very comfortable and relaxed.

Depth also isn't very clear. Ignoring the bottom fifth of the painting and the couple branches that are in front of her, the painting looks to me like it is of a woman standing in front of a painted canvass.

Purely objectively speaking, the depth and perspective are masterfully executed.

I think that, in exploring people's judgments of this painting, I may have perhaps stumbled upon a sort of litmus painting which instantly reveals people's ability, or lack thereof, to integrate nuanced visuospatial information and to "read" body language.

Either way, I still don't get what your point is.

The point, in a nutshell, is that the Objectivist Esthetics offers no method of judging the qualifications of individuals to objectively judge works of art. Art is like a transmitter, and viewers are like receivers. The Objectivist Esthetics instructs the receivers that they are to judge the quality of the transmitter and its transmissions. In doing so, it doesn't address the possibility that the receivers might malfunction or be limited in some way -- that all receivers might not have the equal ability to receive transmissions clearly. The Objectivist Esthetics only addresses the issue of the transmitter's functioning or malfunctioning, and how it is to be judged. But if we are to be truly objective about it, don't we have to test and judge the levels at which both the transmitter and the receivers are functioning? If a receiver doesn't receive a message -- or even if several receivers don't -- is it rational to conclude that the transmitter failed to transmit?

What I find interesting are three things:

1) The "receivers" who are the most passionate about asserting that the limited range of frequencies that they are capable of receiving are the only valid frequencies in existence, and that all other receivers are lying when they claim to receive information on other frequencies, tend to associate or congregate only with similarly limited receivers, and, when discussing transmission/reception theory, they actively limit themselves to "learning" only from teachers who share their limitations and their belief that there are no receivable frequencies outside of those that they personally receive.

2) These limited "receivers" tend to act as if their congregating is somehow proof that there are no receivable frequencies outside of those that they receive. They seem to feel that their gathering en masse somehow constitutes objective proof that no receiver has abilities beyond their own. When congregated, they like to laugh at other receivers who claim to receive more frequencies.

3) The "receivers" who are limited in range of frequencies often show themselves to be incapable of receiving transmissions even well within the limited range that they accept as valid. When tested in that range, they reveal that they haven't received the transmissions as clearly as those who can receive more frequencies. They miss obvious things that were transmitted. They imagine receiving things that weren't transmitted. They garble meanings. Yet they insist that they're accurately receiving the transmissions within that range, and that anyone who says otherwise is lying, delusional, etc.

J

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Cool, Gotcha...but wait......(question)what is an uninformed bias?

People have biases while having different levels of knowledge about different subjects. You might be an expert on visual art but have biases. Someone else might have no knowledge of visual art, and have biases. I would classify the expert as having "informed" biases, and the novice as having "uninformed" biases.

J

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