WHAT STRIKES ME as rather extraordinary, in Steinberg’s retreat into psychological self-analysis and in Danto’s dependence on philosophical categories, is an unwillingness to trust the experience of the eye. Now we all know that aesthetic experience is complex, ambiguous, subject to revision; and it goes without saying that there is no such thing as direct experience unmediated by ideas, theories, and earlier experiences. But behind both Steinberg’s and Danto’s thoughts I see a deep worry, a fear of the direct experiences that they believe so often misled those who first encountered the work of an earlier generation’s avant-garde masters. Steinberg cites Leo Stein, who bought Matisse’s work at the beginning of his career, as a man who was willing to take the risks needed to access “a novel and positive experience.” But when I turned from Steinberg’s essay to Leo Stein’s various recollections of his early encounters with the work of Cézanne and Matisse—you can find them in his book Appreciation and in a collection of letters called Journey Into the Self—I was struck by how different Stein’s experience was from Steinberg’s. Whatever elements of discomfort, whatever desire to embrace some fresh theory, were involved in Leo Stein’s encounters with modern art, the first and last thing was always the visual power of the work of art—not a problematized power, but power plain and simple.
Saturday, November 24, 2012
… The Curse Of Warholism | The New Republic. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)