Beyond the Brillo Box: The Visual Arts in Post-Historical Perspective

Arthur Coleman Danto, Author
Arthur Coleman Danto, Author Farrar Straus Giroux $25 (320p) ISBN 978-0-374-11242-4
Reviewed on: 08/03/1992
Release date: 08/01/1992
Paperback - 275 pages - 978-0-520-21674-7
Paperback - 264 pages - 978-0-374-52391-6
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In Danto's view, artists' feelings of belonging to a continuous tradition vanished around 1965, one year after Andy Warhol's Brillo Box. In the current ``post-historical'' epoch, he writes, postmodernists make pathetic stabs at reconnecting with the past, when what is really necessary is an art responsive to human needs. In these often heavy, academic lectures and essays for journals and catalogues, the Columbia philosophy professor and Nation columnist interprets Pop Art as ``a sacramental return of the thing to itself'' and applies his definition of artworks as symbolic expressions to a discussion of African ``primitive'' art and Chinese painting. One challenging essay deals with Western art's ``master narrative,'' comprising the Renaissance's ``narrative of recovery,'' the Enlightenment scenario of progress and modernism which, for Danto, began when Van Gogh and Gauguin turned for inspiration to Japan, Egypt and Polynesia. Elsewhere he defends the National Endowment for the Arts' sponsorship of the controversial Robert Mapplethorpe exhibit and delves into minimalism, museum architecture and pluralism in the arts. Illustrations. (Sept.)
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