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Green Berg, Clement - The Case for Abstract Art

Green Berg, Clement - The Case for Abstract Art

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T h e C ase
fo r
A bstractA rt
A D V E :N T U R E S
O F T H E
M IN D
3 2 .
By CLEM ENT
G R E E N B E R G
M

a n y p e o p les a y th a tth e k in d of art our age p ro d u c e s isone of the m ajor sym ptom so f w hat's w rong w ith th e

age. T he
d is in te g ra tio n
and,fin a lly , the dis-
a p p e a r a n c eo f re c o g n iz a b le im a g e si n p a in tin ga n d s c u lp tu re ,
lik eth e o b s c u r ityi n a d v a n c e d
H terature, a re supposed
to re-

f le c t a d is in te g r a tio no f v a lu e si n s o c ie tyi t s e l f . S o m e p e o p leg o fu rth e r and say th a t a b s tra c t, n o n re p re s e n ta tio n a la rt is p a th o - logical a rt, crazya rt, a n d that those w ho practiceit a n d those w ho

adm ire
a n d b u y it a re either sick
ors illy . T hek in d e s t

c ritic sa re th o s e w h o say it's all a jo k e ,a h o a x and a fad, and that m odernist art in general,o r abstract art in particular, w ill so o n p a ss. T h is so rto f th in gi s h e a rdo r re a d p re tty c o n s ta n tly , buti n some years m ore often

th a n
o th e rs .
T h e re
seem s to be
a
c e rta in
rh y th m
in
th e
a d v a n c e
in
p o p u la rity
o f
m odernist
art. and
a
c e rta in
rh y th m
in
th e
c o u n te ra tta c k s
w h ic h
try tos te m
it . M ore
o r
le s s
th e
sam e
w orkso r argum entsa re used
in all thep o le m ic s , but the tar-
g e ts u s u a lly c h a n g e . O n c eit w as th e Im p re s s io n is ts w h o w e re
a s c a n d a l, n e x tit w a s V a n G o g h
a n d
C e z a n n e , th e n
it w as
M a tis s e , th e ni t w a s c u b is m
a n d Picasso, after that M ondriaan,
a n d
n o w
it isJ a c k s o n
P o llo c k . T he fa c t t h a t P o llo c kw as an
A m erican
sh o w s in a b a c k h a n d e d
w ay how
im portant A m er-
ic a n art has la te ly b e c o m e .
S o m e of th e s a m e p e o p le w ho a tta c k m o d e rn is ta r t in g e n -
e ra l,o r a b s tra c t art in
p a rtic u la r, h a p p e n
a ls o
t o
c o m p la in
th a t our age has lo st th o se h a b itso f d is in te re s te d
c o n te m p la -
tio n
a n d
th a t c a p a c ity
fo re n jo y in g
th in g sa s e n d si n
th e m -

selves a n d fo r their ow n sake, which form er agesa re supposed to h a v e c u ltiv a te d . T h is id e ah a s b e e n a d v a n c e d o fte n e n o u g h to c o n v e r ti t in toa c iic h e .I h a tet o g iv e a s s e n t to a c lic h e , fo r iti s a lm o s t a lw a y sa n o v e rs im p lific a tio n , but I h a v et o m a k e a n e x c e p tio ni n th is c a s e .

C O N T IN U E D
O NPAGE 69
A b o u t th e
A u th o r
M oderna r t h a s fe w dcT cnders m ore eloquent than
C le m e n t G r c c n b c r g .A p a in te r h im s e lfa n d
a c ritic , h e
h a s
w ritte n
v o lu m in o u s ly
o n
a rt
T orT heN a tio n
H ariisan
R eview
a n d
C om m entary,a n d
h a ss e r v e d
o n
th e editorial staffs o t th ela s ttw o p e r io d ic a ls . A t
present h e is actinga s consultanto n contem porary
art to the fam edN ew Y o rk
art anda n tiq u e firm of
F re n c h
a n d C om pany. In
1 9 5 8 -5 9
h e c o n d u c te d
a
s e m in a r in art c ritic is m
a t P rin c e to n

U n iv e rs ity .T he a u th o ro f b o o k so n M iroa n d M a tis s e ,h eis c u rre n tly a t

w o rk
on as t u d y
o f th ela te
A m erican
p a in te r,
J a c k s o n
P o llo c k .
P h o to g ra p h
b yP h ilip p e
H a ls m a n
A ugust
I ,
\9 5 i)
answ er.
A nd
s o m e th h ig
p u rp o s e fu l
a n d
g ra v e
a n d
h e a rty
cam e
t o
her. and
sh e
s to o d
ta ll a n d
re a d y
t o
m e e t T h a d 's
re -
a c tio n . S h e w e n t o u ts id e
to m e e t h im
a s
s h e a lw a y s d id .
It was not Thad. A
w om an
w a s w h ip -
p in g
th e
te a m
w ith
th e
r e in s ,
a n d
h e r
skirts w ere flung crazily in tlie w ind
a n d
lh e r u s h o f th e w a g o n . It w a s B illie N a n
K e tc h u m .
L ucy
c rie d
o u t
a n d
w aved
h e r a rm s , fo rg e ttin g
h e rs e lf.
B illie
N an
s h o u ld n 't
b e d riv in g
that w ay; she
w as
d e e p w ith c liild .
T he
te a m
cam e
u p
lik e
a

b a rre lin g fla m e , th e ir e h e s is fro th in g , n o s trils w id e w ith

a n
a n g u is h
th a t m a tc h e d
the set of
B illie
N a n 's
fa c e .
L ucy
ra n
u p
a n d
s to p p e d
B illie
N an
fro m
fa llin g
o ff
th e
box. She
h e lp e d
h e r
t o
th e
g ro u n d
a n d
in to
th e
house. The
te a m
stam ped,
a n d
th e
w agon
m oved.
L ucy
ra n
o u t.
T he
w agon
tu rn e d
t o
th e
ta n k .
S h e d id
n o t
w ait to see if the horses drank
to o m u c h
w a te r. S h e
ra n
in s id e a n d
q u ie te d
B illie
N an
o n th e b e d .
B illie N an
fo u g h t, a n d
th e n a s th e rid e
a n d
th e
w in d
slo w ly
d ro p p e d
i t s
fu ry
fro m
her, she
fell into
a
w a k in g
tra n c e .
She stared
a t
th e c e ilin g
a n d
spoke. "I
c a in 't,I c a rn 't,I c a in 't n o m o re . N o b o d y 's
c o m e b y in a w e e k . I c a i n 't n o m o r e . "

L u c y lo o k e d d o w n a t h e r . B illie N a n 's fa c e w a s tig h t a n d h e r iip s w e re b lis te re d . S h e

w as
o n ly
tw e n ty -o n e ,
I w o
y e a rs
y o u n g e r
th a n
L u c y . B iliie
N an
lif te d
a
h a n d
a n d
p u s h e d
a t h e r h a ir. " I 'm
u g ly
a n d
[ 'm
g o n n a
d ie . I g o t m e a c h ild , b u t
I 'm
g o n n a d i e . I 'm
g o n n a
d ie o u t th e re
a ll b y
m ysef,"
L uey
lo o k e d
dow n
a t
h e r.
I n
B illie
Nan"s eyes she
s a w
th e
w ild
c ry
o f
th e
w in d .
L ucy
m ade
b ro th
a n d
fe d
B illie
N an.
S h e
w ent
o u t
a n d
m ade
su re
th e

te a m w as grounded. Som etim es, unle-ss a team h a d

th e
d is c ip lin e
o f
a
ro p e , th e
w in d

s p o o k e d it a n d it w o u ld ru n its e lf o v e r th e p la in u n til th e b lo o d b o ile d , a n d th e n lh e te a m w o u ld s ta n d q u ie tly u n til it d r o p p e d , w ith

th e
flu id s
in
th e
h o rs e s
w h ite
a n d
sticky as grease.
L ucy
b u ilt u p
th e p o o r fire w ith
m es-
q u ite w o o d
th a t T h a d
h a u le d
fro m
a fa r

to m ake sure she alw ays had the cheer of a good blaze. It w as one of the good com - p a n io n s ,

a s
w as
th e
h a n g in g
k e ro s e n e
la m p . Thad w as good
to h e r in th a t w a y ,
to o \u2014 a
lo t o f w o m e n
h a d
t o
u se
g re a s e
c a n d le s s tu c k in th e to p o f o ld c o n ta in e r s .
The sun w as sinking far off. The w inds
ehum ed
a ro u n d
th e h o u s e . A c o y o te w a s
c ry in g .
L ucy
o p e n e d
th e
d o o r
a n d
lis -
te n e d ; th e c o y o le w a s fa r off. S h e w o u ld
n o t h a v e to
ta k e d o w n
th e
rifle or shot-
g u n
a n d
s ta lk
h im , o r s ta n d
a ro u n d
th e
c h ic k e n s o r p ig s to m a k e s u r e a w o lf d id
n o t c o m e in a n d
w a n to n ly
k ill.
S h e h a d a fe e lin g a b o u t w h a t s h e m u s t
d o .A
k in d o f m a g ic h a d b e e n
perform ed
o n
h e r th is a fte rn o o n ,
a n d
n o w
she was
cool and
d e ta c h e d
a b o u t it. S h e fe lt t h a t
sh e
h a d
b e e n
tric k e d ,
b u l
it w a s o f
th e
k in d
a
w om an
c o u ld
a lT o rd . A
w om an
n e e d e d
p re tty
th in g s , a n d
o n e
o f
th e m
w a s h e r c o n c e p tio n o fh e rs e lf. N o m a tle r
what a
m an
w o u ld
say, a salesm an
lik e
M r. W ard could stop the w ind from
s p in -
n in g
a n d
s to p
th e
w o rld
fro m
tu rn in g
o v e r
o n
i t s
s id e .
S h e
f e lt
a s s u r e d
a n d
re s te d .

S h e w e n t to B illie N a n a n d s a id . " D i e ? W h y , B illie N a n , F io w c o u ld y o u s a y s u c h a th in g ? Y o u , th e p re ttie s t g irl a ll a r o u n d ? I declare, you

m ake
m e m ad
w hen
y o u
say such a thing. N ow
y o u ju s t ta k e th is
m irro r. ... N o , y o u ta k e il\u2014 h e a r?
E ver
see a
m irro r
m ore
e le g a n t?
W hy, now,
Billie N an, that m irror can
tell the truth
a b o u t y o u . B u t first w e h a v e to d o a few
littie th in g s . N o w
I 'm
g o in ' to
ta k e y o u r
h a ir
dow n. A nd
s e e
th is
hyar com b?\u2014
is n 't
it
th e
b e s te s t
com b
y o u
e v e r
d id
s e e ? W h y , B illie N a n , y o u j u s t d o n 't h a v e
n o
c o n c e p tio n
a b o u t
h o w
p re tty
y o u
a re
"
A
te a m

and w agon w ere churning over the plain. Som ew here it m ust have passed B illie N a n 's , a s th e g irl d r o v e b a c k

hom e
w ith
a lig h t in h e r e y e s th a t h a d
seem ed
t o
m ake
L u c y 's
g ifts
th e
best thing
sh e
h a d
e v e r d o n e . L u c y 's
hair w as back
in
th e b u n , b e c a u s e B illie N a n
h a d
the rib-
bon, and
Lucy had
ta k e n
th e p a in t fro m
h e r
fa c e .
W ith o u t
th e
b e a u tifu l
m irro r
a n d
th e c o m b
sh e d id n 't
have spirit
fo r
fix in g
up. A nd
Billie N an
h a d
th e
p a in t
and pow der, so Lucy did not w ant Thad
t o
s e e
her onee
in
a
w ay
th a t h e w o u ld
n o t
s e e
h e r
a g a in
u n til
th e
d a y
th e y
b ro u g h t
in
a
g o o d
c ro p
o f c o tto n . S h e
s u r e ly
w o u ld
n o t w a n t to
m a k e h im
fe e l
d is a p p o in te d
w h e n s h e w a s n 't a b lel o b e
a s p re tty a g a in .
S h e w a ite d a s s h e u s u a lly d id , a n d
th is
tim e It w a s T h a d . H e d r o v e u p , a rtd th e y
lo o k e d
at each other, w hich w as the w ay
it a lw a y s w a s . T h e n
he bedded
th e
te a m
a n d
lo o k e d
around. W hen
h e g o t in
th e
house, she had
the kerosene
lam p
b u rn -
ing, even
th o u g h
s o m e d is ta n t lig h t w a s
le f t
o n
th e
p la in . T h e
lig h t w a s

s in k in g in to th e g ra s s , a b rillia n t th in g g o in g in to th e g ro u n d

its e lf .
T h a d s a id , " I s a w B illie N a n . Y o u g iv e
her som e things."
" S h e w a s ta k in ' b a d ," sa id
Lucy. "She
w astakin' pretty bad,and she's carryin'."
T had sat at the table and peered at her,
"Billie Nan seem ed
p re tty
happy. A bout
as happy
as Cve ever seen
h e r."
Lucy w as glad. B ut she knew
th a t th a t
w a s n o t th e e n d
of it.
"R eckon
som e
drum m er
b e e n
h e re ,"
said Thad w ithout m oving. The kerosene
lam p swung a little over his head
a s th e
n ig h t w in d s v ib ra te d th e s o lid little h o u s e .
" T h is
a fte rn o o n ,"
s a id
L u c y .
"C am e
b e fo re
B illie
N a n ."
S h e
lo o k e d
a t
h im ,
h is lo n g ra n g y fo rm , th e b ro k e n
k n u c k le s
ly in g o n
th e ta b le , th e s q u in te d
eyes that
h a d
lo o k e d
lo n g
in to
su n
a n d
b liz z a rd
a n d
dust. The deep lines in his face w ere
lik e
e ro s io n
o n
th e
s o il,
a n d
th e
lig h t
d e e p in
his eyes was im penetrable.
L o st
o f
U S
a re
w illin g
t o
s u p p o r t
o u r
G o v e rn m e n t.
I t 's
s u p p o rtin g
th e
o th e r
g o v e r n -
m e n ts
th a t ra n k le s .
JA C K
H E R B E R T
H e
s a id
w ith
th e
d e c e p tiv e
s o f tn e s s ,
"Y ou
g iv e h e r a ll y o u
b o u g h t? "
L ucy
n o d d e d .
T had
got up. It was a
slo w ,
p o w e rfu l
u n w in d in g
a n d
h a d
p u rp o s e
in
i t .
H e
p ic k e d
u p
th e m o n e y
box and
o p e n e d
i t
a n d c lo s e d it a g a in .
\u2022 \u2022 T h a d ? "
'\u2022Ju st y o u d o n 't w o rry y o u r m in d ," he
said. He opened
th e d o o r a n d
went out.
S h e h e s ita te d , fo llo w e d
h im
and saw
h im
s a d d lin g
th e
h o rs e .
H e
le d
th e
h o rse
a ro u n d
a n d
s a id ,
" T h a t
drum m er\u2014 he
w e n t to w a rd
to w n . D id n 't
p a s s
h im
o n
m y w ay
in .''
" T h a d ? "
He grounded
th e re in s a n d
p a s s e d
h e r
in to
th e
h o u s e
a n d
to o k
dow n
th e
lo n g
r if le .H e fo n d le d
it a little a n d
th e n
w ent
by her and
s w u n g in to th e s a d d le .
-T h a d !"
\u2022 \u2022 D o n 't y o u
w o rry
y o u r
h e a r t
n o n e ,"
he said, and spurred, and the horse leaf>ed
in to th e risin g m o o n .

H er head w as bent hours later w hen he returned. A false calm had burned around h e r,

a n d
n o w
sh e
f e lt
lik e
a s h e s .
T had
h a te d
drum m ers,
a n d
h e
h a d
s a id
h e
w o u ld
kill one that sw ift-talked
h im
o u t
of his m oney; he had w orked so hard
fo r
th e little a m o u n t o f m o n e y th a t h a d
b e e n
in t h e b o x .
She heard
th e s o u n d
of the horse. The
w ind carried it to her and aw ay and
b a c k
a g a in . T h e w in d c a u g h t o n th e so d

s t r i p s o f tlie h o u s e a n d s h o u te d a t h e r d o w n th e c h im n e y . T h e fire w a s w a n , a n d

Ihe kero-
sene lam p was swinging.
It seem ed
a
lo n g
tim e
u n til
th e
d o o r
o p e n e d
a n d
c lo s e d
a n d
th e
la tc h
f e ll.
S h e
o p e n e d
her eyes, but
h e ld
th e m
o n
th e d im m in g fire . S h e h e a rd
T had
sit on
th e c re a k in g
chair. She heard
th e
s o u n d
of som ething
p la c e d
o n th e ta b le .
" L u c y ? "
S h e d id n o t re p ly .
" L u c y ? "
S h e c o u ld
n o t te ll fro m
h is v o ic e w h a t
h a d
h a p p e n e d \u2014 w h e th e r
h e
h a d
c a u g h t
u p
t o
that drum m er and
k ille d
h im
a n d
w as sorry, or had
not caught up
t o
h im
a n d
w as sorry.
It w as a
v o ic e
th a t

w as sorry about m any things, and she did not k n o w

w hat they w ere.
\u2022 'L o o k
o n th e ta b le , L u c y ."
She shivered, but at last she turned and
lo o k e d . T h e
r if le
was not there. Instead
th e re
w as
a
sm all
la c q u e re d
b o x .
S h e
w a lk e d
q u ie tly
to w ard
it. S h e s a t a c r o s s
fro m
T h a d , n o t to u c h in g
th e b o x .
" W h a t is i t ? " s h e a s k e d .
" S o m e th in g
I d o n e tra d e d
fo r."
H er
e y e s
cam e
u p ,
b la c k
a n d
d e e p .
\u2022\u2022Traded ?"
H is face w as inscrutable. "W e have us
a s h o tg u n . N o
use to
have m ore."
"Y our
r if le ? "
" J u s 'l i f t
th e
k e v e r
o n
th a t
b o x ,"
h e
said. "N ow
you jus' do
th a t,"
H er
h a n d
w ent
o u t,
tre m b lin g .
H er
fin g e r
tip s
lif te d
th e
c o v e r.
In s ta n tly
a
s p rin k lin g
of m usic traveled
the w alls of
th e ro o m
a n d
in a
m om ent fell into
th e
springs of her heart.
" A
m u sic b o x !'" sh e c rie d .
"N ow
y o u
k in j u s ' w in d
th a t u p
a n d
get all the m usic you w ant," he said.
B u t sh e w a s lis te n in g to th e m u s ic . S h e
s p r e a d
o u t
w ith in
h e rs e lf,
a n d
sh e
re -
m em bered
dances and
th e
riv e r w h e n
i t
ro se
in to
sw ift,
b e a u tifu l
lif e
a b o v e
th e
rocks and sand and w ent by singing, and
she rem em bered
organs and
p ia n o s
a n d
v io lin s ;
a n d
sh e
r o s e ,
b e d a z z le d ,
a n d
sm iled and
s p r e a d
h e r s k irts a n d
d a n c e d
a ro u n d
th e ro o m
g ra c e fu lly
w ith
s u p p le -
n e s s
in
h e r
y o u n g
lim b s \u2014 a n d
T had
w a tc h e d , w a itin g .
"I love you!" she cried.
H e
w a tc h e d
h e r,
a n d
a fte r
a
w h ile
a
sm ile creased
th e
d e e p
lin e s o f
h is
fa c e
because he no longer saw
th e w ild w in d s
o f th e p la in s in h e r e y e s .
T he
C ase
fo r
A bstract
A rt
(C o n tin u e d
fro m
W hile I strongly
d o u b t th a t d is in te re s te d
c o n te m p la tio n
w as
a s
u n a llo y e d
o r
a s

p o p u l a r in a g e s p a s t a s is s u p p o s e d , I d o te n d to a g re e th a t w e c o u ld d o w ith m o r e o f

it in
th is tim e , a n d
e s p e c ia lly
in
th is
c o u n try .
I th in k
a p o o r life is liv e d
by any
o n e
w ho
d o e s n 't
re g u la rly
ta k e
tim e
o u t
t o
s ta n d a n d g a z e , o r sit a n d lis te n , o r to u c h ,
o r s m e ll, o r
b ro o d , w ith o u t a n y
fu rth e r
e n d
in
m in d , sim p ly
fo r
th e
s a tis fa c tio n
g o tte n
fro m
th a t w h ic h
is g a z e d
at, lis-
te n e d
to , to u c h e d , s m e lle d , o r
b ro o d e d
u p o n . W e a ll k n o w , h o w e v e r, th a t th e c li-
m ate of w estern
life, and
p a rtic u la rly
o f
A m erican
lif e ,
is
n o t
c o n d u c iv e
t o
th is

k in d o f th in g ; w e a re a ll to o b u sy m a k in g a liv in g . T h is is a n o th e r c lic h e , o f c o u r s e . A nd

s t i l l
a
th ird
c lic h e
s a y s
th a t
w e
s h o u ld
le a rn
fro m
O rie n ta l
s o c ie ty
h o w
t o
g iv e m o r e
of ourselves
t o
th e
lif e
o f
th e s p irit, to c o n te m p la tio n
a n d
m e d ita -
tio n , a n d
t o
th e a p p re c ia tio n
o f w h a t is
s a tis f y in g
o r
b e a u tifu l
in
its
ow n
s o le
rig h t. T h is la s t is n o t o n ly a c lic h e b u t a
fa lla c y ,
s in c e
m ost
O rien tals
a re
e v e n
m ore preoccupied
th a n w e a re w ith m a k -
ing a
liv in g . I h o p e th a t I m y s e lf a m
n o t
m a k in g a g ro ss a n d
re d u c tiv e
sim p lifica-
tio n w h e n
I say that so m uch of O riental
c o n te m p la tiv e
a n d
a e s th e tic

d is c ip lin e s trik e s m e a s a te c h n iq u e fo r k e e p in g o n e 's eyes averted

fro m
u g lin e s s a n d
m isery.
E v e ry
c iv iliz a tio n
a n d
e v e ry
tra d itio n
of culture seem
to possess capacities
fo r
s e lf - c u r e
a n d
s e lf-c o rre c tio n
th tit g o

in to o p e ra tio n a u to m a tic a lly , u n b id d e n . If th e g iv e n

tra d itio n
goes too far in one direc-
tio n
it w ill u s u a lly
tr y
t o
rig h t
itself by
g o in g
e q u a lly
fa r
in
th e
o p p o s ite
o n e .
T h e re is n o q u e s tio n b u t th a t o u r w e s te rn
c iv iliz a tio n ,
e s p e c ia lly
in
its

A m erican v a ria n t, d e v o te s m o re m e n ta l e n e rg y th a n a n y

ofiher to
th e p ro d u c tio n
o f m a te ria l
th in g s a n d
services; and
th a t, m o re th a n
a n y
o th e r,
it
p u ts
s tr e s s
o n
in te re s te d .
p u rp o s e fu l a c tiv ity
in g e n e r a l. T h is is r e -
fle c te d
in our art, which, as has been fre-
q u e n tly
o b s e rv e d ,
p u ts
s u c h
g re a t
em -
p h a s is
o n
m ovem ent
a n d
d e v e lo p m e n t
a n d
re s o lu tio n ,
o n
b e g in n in g s ,

m id d le s a n d e n d in g s \u2014 th a t is, o n d y n a m ic s . C o m - pare w estern

m u sic w ith
a n y o th e r k in d ,
o r
lo o k
a t
w estern
lite ra tu re ,
fo r
th a t
m atter, w ith
its relatively
great concern
w ith
p lo t
a n d
over-all structure
a n d
its
re la tiv e ly
sm all concern
w ith
t r o p e s a n jd
fig u re s
a n d
o rn a m e n ta l
e la b o ra tio n s ;
th in k
of how
s lo w -m o v in g
C hinese
a n d
J a p a n e s e
p o e try
Is by
com parison
w ith
o u rs,a n d
h o w
m uch
it d e lig h ts in
s ta tic
s itu a tio n s ; a n d
h o w
u n c e rta in
the narra-
tio n a l
lo g ic
o f
nonw estern
fic tio n
te n d s
t o
b e . T h in k
of how
e n c r u s te d
a n d
c o n -
voluted A rabic poetry is by contrast even
w ith
o u r
m ost
e u p h u is tic
ly ric a l
v e rs e .
A nd as for nonw estern m usic, does it not
a k n o s t a lw a y s s trik e
us as m ore
m o n o t-
onous than ours?
W ell, how does w estern art com pensate
fo r,
c o rriic t,
o r
a t
le a s t
q u a lify
i t s
em -
p h a s is o n th e d y n a m ic \u2014 a n e m p h a s is th a i
m ay o r m ay
not be excessive? A nd
h o w
d o e s
w estern
lif e
its e lf c o m p e n s a te
fo r,
c o rre c t, o r
a t
le a s t q u a lify
its
o b s e s s io n
w ith m a te ria l p ro d u c tio n
a n d
p u rp o s e fu l
a c tiv ity ? I s h a ll n o t h e re a tte m p t to
a n -
sw e r th e la tte r q u e s tio n . B u t in th e re a lm
of art an
answ er
is b e g in n in g
l o
em erge
o f its o w n
accord, and
the shape of part
o f t h a t a n s w e r is a b s t r a c t a r t .
A bstract
d e c o ra tio n
is alm ost
u n iv e r-
s a l,and C hinese and Japanese calligraphy
is quasi-abstract\u2014 abstract
t o
th e
e x te n t
th a t few

O c c id e n ta ls c ;in re a d th e c h a r a c - ters of Chm ese or Japanese w riting. But o n ly

in
th e
W est,
a n d
o n ly
in
th e
la s t
fifty
years, have
s u c h
th in g s
a s
a b s tr a c t
p ic tu re s
a n d
fre e s ta n d in g

p ie c e s o f a b - stract sculpture appeared. W hat m akes the b ig d iffe re n c e

b e tw e e n th e s e a n d
a b s tr a c t
d e c o ra tio n
is th a t th e v
a r e , e x a c tly , n ic -

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