Danto_2 - Arthur Danto "Works of Art and Mere...

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Arthur Danto “Works of Art and Mere Things” from his book The Transfiguration of the Commonplace 1981 1) Consider various all-red paintings that look exactly alike: one described by Kierkegaard of Israelites crossing the Red Sea, one by a Danish portraitist titled Kierkegaard’s Mood , Red Square (realist), Red Square (minimalist version), Nirvana , Red Table Cloth , canvas grounded in red lead prepared by Giorgione (not an artwork), a surface painted but not grounded in red lead (not an artwork, just a thing with paint on it): the illustrated catalog would look all the same, even though the paintings belong to diverse genres. 2) J (a young egalitarian artist) thinks they should all be called “work of art” and so he paints a work that resembles the last example and insists that his is a work of art and wants it hung in the show. a) Danto thinks Js work is rather empty compared to the narrative richness of Israelites, the impressive depth of Nirvana, etc. b) Yet it is not empty in the way that a mere expanse of red painted canvas is “empty.” c) The statement that it was empty was an aesthetic judgment which presupposes its object is an artwork. d) His work is literally empty, as are all the works in the show, but it is also “empty” in the art appraisal sense of “empty.” 3)
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Danto_2 - Arthur Danto "Works of Art and Mere...

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