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Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:
A lively meditation on the nature of art by one of America's most celebrated art critics
What is it to be a work of art? Renowned author and critic Arthur C. Danto addresses this fundamental, complex question. Part philosophical monograph and part memoiristic meditation, What Art Is challenges the popular interpretation that art is an indefinable concept, instead bringing to light the properties that constitute universal meaning. Danto argues that despite varied approaches, a work of art is always defined by two essential criteria: meaning and embodiment, as well as one additional criterion contributed by the viewer: interpretation. Danto crafts his argument in an accessible manner that engages with both philosophy and art across genres and eras, beginning with Plato's definition of art in The Republic , and continuing through the progress of art as a series of discoveries, including such innovations as perspective, chiaroscuro, and physiognomy. Danto concludes with a fascinating discussion of Andy Warhol's famous shipping cartons, which are visually indistinguishable from the everyday objects they represent.
Throughout, Danto considers the contributions of philosophers including Descartes, Kant, and Hegel, and artists from Michelangelo and Poussin to Duchamp and Warhol, in this far-reaching examination of the interconnectivity and universality of aesthetic production.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Description based on PDF.
Reviews provided by Syndetics
Publishers Weekly ReviewBucking the critical trend, Danto, an influential critic and winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Encounters and Reflections, attempts to offer something like a succinct and clear definition of art that is capable of spanning historical, geographical, and cultural contexts. This latest work relies heavily on his accomplished career, recapitulating some of his dominant arguments while also occasionally revising them or departing in new directions. The conclusion he reaches-that art is embodied meaning, and that the viewer adds to the creation of art through interpretation-is elegant in its clearheaded take on an endlessly difficult question. This definition is secondary, however, to the route Danto takes getting there, and his asides and far-reaching rhetoric can variously please, illuminate, and frustrate. He's at his best when his attention is concentrated, such as with the extended consideration of the controversial restoration of the Sistine Chapel (he ultimately became a supporter of the process), and likewise at his weakest when he indulges in broad-stroked generalization, a tic that occasionally leads to unfortunate digressions on feminism and identity politics. As a critical memoir, however, tracing the particulars of a gifted mind's lasting focus, Danto's latest is a useful addition to a long career. (Mar.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
CHOICE ReviewDanto's confidently titled new book is a loose collection of six essays more or less centered on his attempt to define art. According to Danto (emer., Columbia), art is embodied meaning. However, he is careful to make clear that embodiment and meaning are merely necessary conditions for something being a work of art; they are not sufficient. (His title, What Art Is, is therefore only half earned.) The first and longest essay, "Wakeful Dreams," is an interesting and helpful survey of the history and philosophy of art. Although most of the ideas have been presented in Danto's earlier work, they are developed here in an attractively accessible way. The middle essays explore the account of art from different perspectives: the restoration of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling (chapter 2); the role of the human body in one's understanding of art (chapter 3); the tension between painting and photography (chapter 4); and Kant's meditations on aesthetic judgment and artistic achievement (chapter 5). The final chapter considers the future of aesthetics in the philosophy and practice of art. Danto writes clearly and with verve, and his considerable learning is appropriately displayed. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates and above; general readers. R. Bonzon Augustana College
Author notes provided by SyndeticsArt critic and philosopher Arthur C. Danto was born in 1924. He received a B.A. from Wayne State University in 1948 and a M.A. and a Ph.D. from Columbia University, in 1949 and 1952, respectively. He began teaching at Columbia University in 1951 and has been a professor since 1966. He has received many fellowships and grants including two Guggenheims, ACLS, and Fulbright, and has served as Vice-President and President of the American Philosophical Association, as well as President of the American Society for Aesthetics. His book Encounters and Reflections: Art in the Historical Present, a collection of art criticism, won the 1990 National Book Critics Circle Prize for Criticism. He is also the art critic for The Nation and an editor for the Journal of Philosophy.
(Bowker Author Biography)
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