wk1_principles_of_interpretation - PRINCIPLES OF...

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PRINCIPLES OF INTERPRETATION Artworks han "aboutness" and demand interpretation. This is the fundamental principle on which this chapter depends. It is VCT) basic and readily accepted by critics and acstheticians. but it is sornenmes disputed by artists. an occasional art professor. and, more Irequentlj; art students . ... ho hold thai "art speaks lor itself or "you rant talk about art." All the examples of inn-rprctauous in this chapter dis- prove the latter position. hen an that seems readily understandable. such as \"'eg- man's. can and does sustain interesting interpretations thai would not readily
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C 'va p t e r 4 • In t e rp re tin g Art 114 emerge From merely til-wing the work. That an is al\\':l Y ~ trlmul sornet hing is also a prtnviplc aro un d \\ hich \\ hole books h,IH' been \\ tit tcn-c-Xclson Goodman's LllII- :~ tldg(~ 11fAn and Arthur Dantos Trall sfi ~Hl"lllit m llf lllt, C HIHIl Ollp ltl ct', '+\ for example. \ 'CT)- ' briefly. this principle holds that a work of an is an expressive object made by a person and that . unlike a tree or a rock . for example . it is always about something. Thus. unlike trees or rocks. artworks 1.'. . 111 for inte rpre tations. Interpretations are persuasive arguments. This principle might better be writ- ten as two separate ones: lnterprctat ions arc arguments. and crit ics attempt to be persuasive. Because critics attempt to be persuasive, their interpreta tions rarely jump out as logical arguments with premises lead ing to a conclusion. One clear example of an interpretive argument is Ken Johnson's argument concerning what he sees as the sexual content of Murray's painnngs. He argues that My Manhattan is a painting full of symbols referri ng to sexual intercourse. His evidence is a list of per- suasive descriptions of aspects of the painti ng. He notes a cup and a hugely swollen, weirdly flexible spoon. He writes that the spoon is turgid and unnaturally fluid. The spoon's handle is serpentine and winds around the canvas's edge and ente rs the cup from below. The spoon's handle docs not end as on a normal spoon with a broad end. but rather it turns into a knob with a hole in it. The knob penetra tes an actual hole in the shaped canvas. At the point where the spoon splashes the liquid in the cup. giant droplets shoot out from the cup. If Johnson's interpretation were put into a logical argument , his descriptions of the painting would be his premises leading to his conclusion tha t the painting is about sexual intercourse. Cri ticism, however, is persuasive rhetoric. That is, the critic would like the readers to sec a work of art the way the critic sees it. And there is more than one way (Q be persuasive about an interpretation. One could pu t forth a formally logical argument , with premises and a conclusio n-a syllogism, for instance. Critics, however, are much mo re likely to be persuasive by putting their evidence in the form of lively writing, using colorful terms in carefu lly wrought phrases. to engage the reader with the critic's perception and understanding so that eventually the reader will be
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This note was uploaded on 10/11/2010 for the course ART ART 120 taught by Professor Tihanyi during the Fall '10 term at University of Washington.

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wk1_principles_of_interpretation - PRINCIPLES OF...

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