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Higgins
04-04-2007, 05:43 AM
I've been reading some of Mary Beard's work lately. But not this:

http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog/BEAINV.html?show=reviews

And not much of her blog:

http://timesonline.typepad.com/dons_life/

The question I've been mulling over is: is there some Art that can only be adequately described now in post-modern terms? Paradoxically that seems to be the case with really classical (post-classical) classics like the Venus di Milo or the Apollo Belvedere or the Laocooniian Laocoon and their various now-being reconstructed series of "settings" and reconstructions.
This is all thanks to Mary Beard's collaborative little introductory book on Classical Art ( which is a tale with a very odd and partly purely imaginary chronology of unseen originals from say 400 BC and the reconstructed copies we have from say 100 AD as rebuilt in the Renaissance or later):


http://www.powells.com/biblio?isbn=9780192842374

Kate Thornton
04-04-2007, 07:32 PM
I've The question I've been mulling over is: is there some Art that can only be adequately described now in post-modern terms?



Yes, of course - all post-modern Art. Decscribing post-modern Art in Classical terms is more of an interpretation through an historical glass than a description.

But I know you aren't looking for the glib answer - even if it is the simplest and maybe the real answer to the question. For one thing, you would have to agree on the existence of post-modern Art, something up for grabs in some circles. For another, Mary Beard is really the question. Her art (the mere idea of a serious "anti-biography" for example) is a prime illustration of Art which cannot be classified, or maybe even discussed, in the usual terms which derive from our classical understanding of Art.

I'm not wild about the Mary Beard items I have read - but she sure has an interesting approach. Her stuff may be the most convincing refutation of the old "I don't know art, but I know what I like" idea that I have seen, only this time I know what I don't like but it is still Art.

Of course, painters like Juan Thorpe do the same thing for me. Architects like Leigh Douglas Johnson. I'm more of a Karl Benjamin fan (for painting) and of the mid-century post-modern architects like the Harvard 5 (Marcel Breuer, Philip Johnson, Landis Gores, Eliot Noyes, John Johansen) John Black Lee and Cliff May. (Okay, I'm an architecture junkie)

You don't have to exclude anything in art - one of the really great things about art - and you don't have to agree with it all, either. There's no discounting the history of Art - but the interpretations abound (copy of a copy of a reconstruction of a lost original...)

Okay, I'm becoming incoherent here - thanks for a great topic to chew on.

Higgins
04-05-2007, 03:12 AM
You don't have to exclude anything in art - one of the really great things about art - and you don't have to agree with it all, either. There's no discounting the history of Art - but the interpretations abound (copy of a copy of a reconstruction of a lost original...)


I'm not looking for a definite single answer, I'm just bringing up some things that occurred to me in the course of my mulling things over.

After seeing a fair amount of early Imperial Roman wall painting in various museums on the East Coast of the USA ( all from villas near Pompeii, such as:

http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/ropt/hd_ropt.htm ) ....a number of problems occurred to me:
1) How much is known about these kinds of paintings? How does their rapid development go with the supposed massive copying and appropriation of Greek and Hellenistic statuary?
2) to what degree is the area around Pompeii the only real source of this kind of painting?
3) What did the people who commissioned these works expect from them? What did the painters see themselves as doing?

That's all still up in the air, because I happened to read Classical Art by Mary Beard and John Henderson, which, while it confronts the problem of Pompeii head-on, instantly opens a new array of basic problems. The problems are all vaguely similar:

Problem Group One: "Classical" is essentially an 18th century construct, but it is not based on nothing (ie it's not an entirely "pure" invention) because the Romans in the late Republic and the Early Empire appear to have done a lot to bring Greek and Hellenistic Art of a distinctly earlier period to Rome. So if we think of say, Mid-5th century BC Athens as Classical-set-of-things A, then those objects or that aesthetic was in some way "made Classical" by what we can also think of as a different (less Classically Classic, and yet the originator of all that is Classic in terms of the 18th century interpretation) Classical series (of copies mostly) some 400 to 500 years later, where versions of A appear as the central elements of Classical-set-of-things B.
Problem Group Two: And yet the 18th century "Classical" is based on Renaissance reconstructions of Roman works ( as well as 18th century studios in Rome that assembled or completely made reconstructions or copies or forgeries of things that looked Classical...whatever that means)
So there are really 4 different chronological centers of Classical object invention: the indefinite array of originals, the massive copying and thematic variations of early Imperial Rome, the 16th century and the 18th Century. In theory, an original bronze of say 425 BC, might have disappeared by say 100 BC, but already have been copied in various forms enough times to provide enough different arms and legs and heads to be reconstructed in dozens of different ways by the 16th century and to justify any number of "forgeries" by the early 19th century.
If you add in the gaps where people are not quite so interested in these moderately dull works of art...well you also have the problem of what goes on in the gaps, when the works are of little interest....which for non-specialists, includes right now. Yes we are living in a gap.

Mary Beard's book on this art is pretty earnestly post-modern...which works for sculpture, but not really at all for wall paintings....it seems to me.

The idea of "gaps" comes from Leonard Barkan

Leonhard Barkan,Unearthing the Past: Archaeology and Aesthetics in the Making of Renaissance Culture (Yale UP,1999)

ColoradoGuy
04-05-2007, 10:55 PM
You don't have to exclude anything in art - one of the really great things about art - and you don't have to agree with it all, either. There's no discounting the history of Art - but the interpretations abound (copy of a copy of a reconstruction of a lost original...)
Or a copy of a copy of an original that never existed, which brings up that simulacrum thingy again.

Higgins
04-06-2007, 12:05 AM
Or a copy of a copy of an original that never existed, which brings up that simulacrum thingy again.

With reference to the image in the Link below:

The bust right in front of d'Hancarville (Townley is the guy with the dog under his chair...Hancarville is at the table with the book) is more or less a "forgery" in the sense that it proports to be a copy, but it is very possibly an 18th century work that Towneley purchased on the theory that it was a Roman copy of a lost Greek work. If you look at the photos (I haven't seen the "original" of this actual original probably posing as a copy) in Beard's book...a more purely 18th century object cannot be imagined: a nymph emerging from a flower blossom...and yet it might be a totally 1st century piece...well, I guess you get the past that you pay for:

http://www.wga.hu/frames-e.html?/html/z/zoffany/towneley.html

Interestingly enough, we can get a better sense of all this from Zoffany's painting (presenting as it does a lot of very good images of all those copies and semi-forgeries) than from the Art Historians of the time. Zoffany's painting (1782) gives a better "snapshot" (haha) of what "classical" meant while it was in the very process of being invented than all of the theorists of the time could possibly explain (especially since they were wrong about what was going on in the middle of Antiquity's last days).....even Hancarville et ali are checking on their books in the painting...That Discobolus is definitely off....

jthome1223
04-06-2007, 11:30 AM
Why do you capitalize "art"? It's not a proper noun.

Higgins
04-06-2007, 05:05 PM
Why do you capitalize "art"? It's not a proper noun.

It is a proper noun in some contexts such as "Hellenistic Art" or "Classical Art"....

For example, if I wrote: "Through some mysterious Hellenistic art, Fynes Morrison extracted Lloyd Gibson's tooth..." I would be saying something completely different from "Through some mysterious Hellenistic Art, Fynes Morrison extracted Lloyd Gibson's tooth..."

In the first case, Fynes uses some technique...in the second he probably makes a mess and wrecks the decor. So to specify objects ('Art') rather than techniques ('art') sometimes the caps spill over from the Art-as-proper-noun contexts.

jthome1223
04-06-2007, 06:30 PM
You're absolutely right. However, in this case it is not a proper noun. That was my point. Had it been a proper noun in this instance, I wouldn't have commented.

Higgins
04-06-2007, 06:51 PM
You're absolutely right. However, in this case it is not a proper noun. That was my point. Had it been a proper noun in this instance, I wouldn't have commented.

It's true. I wrote:
"The question I've been mulling over is: is there some Art that can only be adequately described now in post-modern terms?" And if I had it all to do over again, I probably would not ever do that again.

And yet, going over what my motives might have been,
I think I was tending to use "Art" where I was implying that the "Art" I was referring to was some set of objects that would belong to some properly-named place or period such as "Romantic Painting" or "Eighteenth Century Venetian Glassware"...so rather than name all the potential arrays of properly-named objects, I ellided the proper part and left the taggy end awaiting the terms that might fit the description, something like the case where you would say "The President (unspecified) uses his Powers of Reason (as a painful wiff of the Enlightenment or even Phrenology or The Higher Things in Life as envisioned by the Great Prigs of the Nineteenth Century)."

I will avoid the caps in "art" from now on.

jthome1223
04-06-2007, 06:59 PM
Ah, don't listen to me. I spent too many years as a copy editor at a newspaper and it's still hopelessly ingrained. Not to mention that most of what you're writing about it so far over my head that I never should have commented in the first place. It wasn't constructive, and I'm sorry if I came across as a jerk!

Higgins
04-06-2007, 08:07 PM
Ah, don't listen to me. I spent too many years as a copy editor at a newspaper and it's still hopelessly ingrained. Not to mention that most of what you're writing about it so far over my head that I never should have commented in the first place. It wasn't constructive, and I'm sorry if I came across as a jerk!

Don't give it a second thought. I gave you a positive rep point. Caps on 'art' can be annoying, as can gratuitous caps anywhere. A fact, of which, sadly, I am well aware.