THE STATE OF THE ART by Arthur C. Danto

THE STATE OF THE ART

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A compilation of 38 stimulating and elegantly written reviews and essays by the philosopher/art critic of The Nation, in whose pages most of these pieces first appeared. Danto writes with clarity and perception, eschewing the bafflegab that makes much of today's art criticism so difficult to decipher. No fashionable catch phrases here, just soundly reasoned and straightforwardly expressed analyses of works by Rousseau, Toulouse-Lautrec, Franz Kline, Caravaggio and CRASH, a graffiti artist ""discovered"" by the New York art Establishment, along with dozens of other painters and sculptors. Danto is refreshingly unintimidated by the ""powers-that-be"" in the American art world. He describes the Museum of Modern Art's highly touted ""Primitivism"" show of 1984 as ""a failed product of misapplied ingenuity,"" calls the latest Whitney Museum Biennial Exhibition an assembling of ""work so awful that one cannot but wonder, if this is the cutting edge of art, whose throat is being threatened?"" In an especially felicitous phrase, he points out that ""the failed Rockefeller Wing of the Metropolitan Museum. . .looks like a detached segment of Bloomingdale's."" This is more than a collection of highly quotable quotes, however. As an academic philosopher, Danto probes beneath the surface of gallery shows and museum exhibitions to investigate the deeper implications of today's ""State of the Art."" His central thesis, referred to in passing throughout the book, is encapsulated in the final essay, ""Approaching the End of Art."" Here, Danto suggests that the question posed by the Campbell Soup Cans and Brillo Boxes of the ""Pop"" movement--what distinguishes a ""work of art"" from the commonplace artifact of which it is an exact replica?--has moved art into the realm of philosophy and out of a historical context in which it ""moved forward"" toward an ideal end. As Danto states, art ""had gone, as art, as far as it could go. . .The time for next things is past. . .It is like coming to the end of the world with no more continents to discover. . .this means returning art to the serving of largely human ends."" Whether you agree or disagree, Danto's postulates will set you thinking. Provocative and pleasurable, a title that should be on every art-lover's must-read list.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1987
Publisher: Prentice Hall Press