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Theories of Art

.  Japanese art– imperfection / impermanence.

.  Greek art — beauty / perfection.

[Civilizations PBS]


Art Deco quit all the squiggles and vines of Art Nouveaux. Art Deco went to straight geometric lines. Yes, of course Art Deco included swirls and curves, but these are regular lines, not the intertwined serpentines of Art Nouveau.


de Kooning

  “ ‘In art one idea is a good as another.’  William de Kooning. He held, as he noted in relation to Mondrian, that trying to attain a distinct style is a ‘horrible idea.’ He wrote that when he read Kierkegaard’s line ‘To be purified is to will one thing,’ the words ‘made me sick.’ But then he was a great admirer of Kierkegaard—and Mondrian.” 

[Sanford Schwartz, The Cauldrons of de Kooning. The New York Review, December 8, 2011, p. 9]



“ Karen Armstrong in The Art of Scripture: Rescuing the Sacred says ‘We have only perspectives that come to us through the intricate circuits of our nervous system, so that we all—scientists as well as mystics—know only representations of reality, not reality itself.’ We live amid appearances, haunted by the intuition that something ultimately real stands, behind them: ‘in all cultures until the modern period, it was taken for granted that the world was pervaded by and found its explanations in a reality that exceeded the reach of the intellect.’ Men and women have sought to ‘live in genuine relation’ with the unknowable, and a chief means of doing so has been the mythos of art and religion, which stand in contrast to the logos of rational thought.” [Christopher Beha, How to Read the Bible, Harper’s Magazine, November 2019, p. 88.]


“Noumenon, plural noumena, in the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, the thing-in-itself (das Ding an sich) as opposed to what Kant called the phenomenon—the thing as it appears to an observer. Though the noumenal holds the contents of the intelligible world, Kant claimed that man’s speculative reason can only know phenomena and can never penetrate to the noumenon. Man, however, is not altogether excluded from the noumenal because practical reason—i.e., the capacity for acting as a moral agent—makes no sense unless a noumenal world is postulated in which freedom, God, and immortality abide.” []


8 1⁄2  Otto e Mezzo, 1963 Italian surrealist comedy-drama film directed by Federico Fellini.

Here are the closing remarks of script critic Daumier to film director Guido, who has come to realize he will not complete his film. Guido walks forward, then stops to take another look at the set being taken down. Daumier appears in profile.

DAUMIER You did the right thing. Believe me … today is a good day for you. These are difficult decisions, I know. But we intellectuals—I say “we” because I consider you one—we must remain lucid right to the end. 

There are already too many superfluous things in the world. It’s not a good idea to add more disorder to disorder. 

In any case, losing money is part of the producer’s job. I congratulate you! You had no choice. And he got what he deserves. To have so thoughtlessly embarked on such a frivolous project! Believe me, you should feel neither nostalgia nor remorse. It’s better to destroy than create when you’re not creating those few things that are truly necessary. And finally, in this world of ours, is there anything so just and true that it has the right to survive? For him [the producer], a bad film is only a fiscal event. But for you, at this point in you life, it could have been the end. 

It’s better to knock it all down and strew the ground with salt, as the ancients did, to purify the battlefields. What we really need is …some hygiene, some cleanliness, some disinfection. We’re stifled by words, images, sounds that have no right to exist …that come from the void and go back to the void. Anyone who deserves to be called an artist should be asked to make this single act of faith: to educate oneself to silence. Do you remember Mallarmé’s praise of the white page? And Rimbaud …a poet, my friend, not a movie director. Do you know what his finest poetry was? His refusal to continue writing and his departure for Africa. If you can’t have everything …true perfection is in nothingness. Forgive me for making all these learned references. But we critics …do what we can. Our true job is …to sweep away the thousands of abortions that every day …obscenely …try to come into the world. And you would really like …to leave behind you a complete film, just like a cripple who leaves behind his crooked footprint! What a monstrous presumption to think that others might enjoy the squalid catalogue …of your mistakes! And what good would it do you to string together …the tattered pieces of your life, your vague memories, or the faces of …the people that you were never able to love? 

Guido rubs his head, comes to peace and an epiphany.

GUIDO (interior monologue)  What is this sudden joy that makes me tremble, gives me strength, life? [ 8 1/2  — The Continuity Script from the film with screenplay by Federico Fellini Ennio Flaiano Tullio Pinelli Brunello Rondi ]

BASQUIAT (1997) Directed by Julian Schnabel / Dialogue between Basquiat and Benny on basket ball court.


How long do you think it takes to get really famous? 

During the following, Benny performs a series of amazing shots 

while Jean looks on admiringly.


For a musician or a painter?

Jean shrugs.


Whatever. Famous. To where you can do your 

stuff all day without thinking about 

anything else.


Ummm… Four years. Six to get rich.

He shoots. Swish.


First, you have to dress right.

He shoots again. Swish.


Then, you have to hang out all the time  

with famous people  the right people, the 

right chicks, the right parties.

He shoots again. Swish.


And you gotta do your work all the time 

when you’re not doing that. The same kinda 

work, the same style   over and over 

again, so people recognize it and don’t 

get confused. Then, once you’re famous, 

you have to keep doing it the same way, 

even after it’s boring  unless you want 

people to really get mad at you  which 

they will anyway.

Benny tosses Jean the ball. Jean walks off the court.


Come on. I hate this. I’m no good at it.

Jean shoots the ball and keeps walking. The ball goes in. He 

doesn’t notice. Benny runs after it.


Benny and Jean walk along. Benny dribbles.


Famous people are usually pretty stupid. 

You’re too smart. You’d get bored to 

death. You don’t wanna be like John Henry 

 fighting the machine. Just do what you 

do. It’s about integrity. Follow your 



Who’s John Henry?


Oh man! Folklore guy  worked on the 

railroad. Y’know, pounding in spikes and 

laying down track. Then one day they 

invented a machine to do it. And he says 

“Fuck that, I’m a MAN” and he challenges 

the machine to a race to lay down a mile 

of track. It takes two days. Neck and neck 

the whole time. They get right to the end, 

and he beats it by one spike.


Got a cigarette?


So then what?


He drops dead! See? Just do your shit like 

you do it! Your friends like you, you get 

laid, everyone walks by, sees your stuff 

everywhere. It’s good. What else do you 



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