Friday, November 29, 2019

NEW PATENT SAVES YOU FROM THINKING TOO MUCH ABOUT ART

Not long ago, Publishers Weekly made the following claim about the art of Jaime Hernandez:

 "Jaime's ability to sum up life's joy and pain in a few images has never been surpassed in all of art."


I like the work of Jaime Hernandez as much as the next person but this sentence might just be enough to topple the human race from our place on the evolutionary tree.

People have become emboldened to say ignorant things because of our current conceit that art is totally subjective.   Personally, I side with Harlan Ellison who wrote, “You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.”

When people express silly opinions about art, it provokes the people around them to strain for some kind of rational, objective standard for evaluating art. The problem is, the people who claim to have found scientific standards usually end up in a place equally goofy.

Which brings us to this week's headline: a forensic accountant claims he has developed a computerized technique for identifying Norman Rockwell's artwork.  No longer will you have to judge a Rockwell painting by its artistic merit.

If you research patent #10,460,412 at the Patent and Trademark Office, the inventor claims that in 1940, 
Mr. Rockwell created a blend of Posterization and Steganography, the art of hiding data in a cover medium, to provide an anti-forgery feature to his paintings. He created CMYK paint colors that matched the RGB color model and used the colors he created to hide his initials.
Some of you cynics may be amazed by Norman Rockwell's technical computer skills dating back before the invention of the computer. That shows how little you know. In 1938, the first patent application for "posterization" was filed.  Apparently, when Rockwell reviewed the daily docket for the Patent and Trademark Office he recognized the potential to adapt these nascent technologies into an anti-forgery system for his own paintings:




The patent application claims that using this system, Rockwell was able to conceal his own initials in his paintings to prove their authenticity.  Here are some of the examples of Rockwell's art in the patent application, processed by computer to reveal his hidden steganographic initials:




Note that in one of these examples, Rockwell supposedly wrote his initials "rn" instead of "nr."  No explanation for this is offered.




 
Based upon this convincing proof, the Patent and Trademark Office granted a patent for this computerized Rockwell detector.

There isn't one character in this process-- including the Patent and Trademark Office-- who wasn't as loony as the claim about Jaime Hernandez.

My point is that we should avoid being coaxed or harassed into either extreme; taste is not totally subjective nor is it objectively provable.  Art continues to demand our highest and best judgment, guided by both reason and passion, on a case by case basis.




24 comments:

Richard said...

Steganography absolutely existed when Rockwell was working and it’s likely that he would be aware of it.

Printed works naturally posterize. There are other pre-computer optical methods to crush gradients as well. Either way, it’s theoretically possible that Rockwell added steganographic elements with the intention that they’d be detectable in print?

What’s not clear to me is if the patent seeker intentionally added those NRs and RNs to accentuate what he thought he saw, or if that’s the end result of the process.

If that is the end result of his process, without editorializing, that to me to be incontrovertible evidence that Rockwell was using steganography, even if the patent holder was misguided about how he believed Rockwell got there.

Would like to test this myself and see what comes out, luckily the patent includes very clear directions.

Richard said...

Okay, this is fake. The letters shown in your images and in his patent application have been “annotated” to show the letters he’s claiming he sees. You don’t get those letters put off the process.

Tom said...

It reminds me of Danial Patrick Moynihan’s quip, “everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not to his own facts.” But isn’t “taste,” what you like? One may not like Raphael’s “taste” but one does not doubt his “objective skill.” I do think there are many qualities of art that can be identified and discussed “objectively.” A movement toward objectivity might be a nice after a hundred years of modern subjectivity.

But both your examples are superficial. The Rockwell patent detector just identifies Rockwell paintings while the Publisher Weekly comment seems like hyperbole. Neither engage the topic of art.

kev ferrara said...

Of course one is not entitled to their ignorances, biases, fallacies, and lunacies. Because such requires no grant; no title passed. Mental garbage is a basic human right and feature requiring no extrinsic or ulterior endowment. It is through our sovereign nature alone that we may, as we please, be hysterics and trolls and bleeding-heart first order thinking empaths and rage-a-holics and watchers of manipulative ahistorical horseshit on the history channel. Such cannot be stopped without stopping humanity itself.

I would, however, posit that no one is entitled to the last word. For the reservoir of human opinion is in neverending runoff. There is no plug. A reality that drives both ideological control freaks and actually informed people equally batty. Which is why both such information jokeys long to be the gatekeepers for what is allowable in human discourse; for what is vice and what is virtue. A plague on both their houses.

Aside from all that...

I reject your inherent/unspoken presumption that quality cannot be extricated from taste. Although I realize that the matter would take a very deep argument to untangle.





Robert Cook said...

When the Hernandez Brothers first debuted their comic LOVE AND ROCKETS, I was quite impressed with Jaime's drawing. It was elegant, economical, and skillful. His use of blacks added punch to his compositions. Over the years, he has pared down and simplified his work to a point where it is now leached of any distinction or feeling. His drawing looks like it is drawn with the aid of templates, and his line is dead. It astonishes me that anyone still finds particular pleasure in his rote drawing, much less can make hyperbolic statements to the effect he is an apex of artistic mastery.

Anonymous said...

The persistent inability of smart people to find “objective” standards of art does result in overstatement when they think they have found it. “Good art” or beauty or whatever standard you are talking about requires an interplay between the subjective and objective. Beauty (grace, subtlety, harmony, wonder etc.) is not something in the object but an experience of pleasure with the object giving rise to a sense that it is beautiful, etc. Its more subjective than objective, but requires both, and is derived from our natural psychology. This was basically the theory of G. Santayana in his insightful book The Sense of Beauty -- beauty as an “objectified pleasure.”

For example, I’ve never cared much for Hernandez’s works but they certainly show skill. I prefer the more cartoony drawing of Seth, though I would not have expected to enjoy that heavier cartoony style. I enjoy the old Sad Sack comics, though their artistic skill and rendering is nothing to brag about, and I wouldn’t call the art “good”. So the issue is enjoyment first, skill secondary, but both critical. That is, the first component of an “objective” standard for good art actually is subjective – Do you enjoy it? That’s an irony that explains a lot of why there have been few satisfactory answers to the quest for such standards.

I like Norman Rockwell OK, but there’s a lot of schmaltz in his work, leading me to not find it very enjoyable, so its very reasonable to me to opine that his art is that not that “good”, or at least, not as good as Sargeant, for example, who I enjoy. That’s a reasonable position to take.

Unknown said...

One of my art friend's favorite sayings was, "I can stand ignorance and I can stand arrogance but not from the same person".

kev ferrara said...

Again, I believe the role of subjectivity in the art experience is exaggerated.

The viewer doesn't complete the artwork because the viewer has grand imaginative talent. The viewer completes the artwork because the artist knows exactly how to manipulate him into doing so. It is hardly to the credit of the viewer that he has normal imaginative function, easily directed by artistry.

If one can enjoy trash, knowing it is trash, or find boring some masterpiece because one is "just not in the mood" for it, then obviously enjoyment is an insufficient standard by which to judge quality in art.

All great art exerts tremendous control over its audience. And, by and large, each member of the audience is subject to the same manipulative spell casting, the same aesthetic information, during this receptive and suggestive period. This is just why art is communal.

Since art is expressed in the language of aesthetics, it does not prompt decoding. Conscious interpretation is more like a late elective, once the spell has faded. That is, once the viewer falls out of the aesthetic meaning-transference of the work, he may follow any unique non-communal rabbit trail, inspecting and remembering and considering whatever and however, at his unique whim. But this late free-for-all period is already a different kind of thing; art as the inspection and consideration of an object, rather than Art as Experience.

Overall, what is subjective is interpretive. And since everything is open to interpretation, there's no reason to think such constitutes a unique aspect of art.

David Apatoff said...

Richard-- Yes, the patent owner modified his computer-processed versions of the Rockwell images by tracing over the places he "perceived" NRs and RNs. He then drew circles around them to show the Patent & Trademark Office where the initials were found. I added the red color to the circles to flag them for readers.

In my view, a practiced eye looking for differences in quality, style and technique would have a far better chance of spotting a fake Rockwell. It's highly unlikely that Rockwell, who worked 6 days a week creating pictures, spent his seventh day reading technical journals on steganography. He was living in rural Vermont at that stage of his life, and there was no Google to aid his research. He was also a humble man, and not the kind of person likely to be encrypting clues to "authenticate" his paintings.

But even if you reject the "practiced eye" theory, this patent theory is unrealistic. Rockwell was always so meticulous about lettering his name or his initials, it's highly unlikely he'd scrawl his initials that way; he was too proud a craftsman. If he wanted an authenticating watermark to hide with steganography, why choose to use his initials? Any hidden symbol, such as Whistler's butterfly, would be just as effective. More importantly, the whole justification for this supposed process-- "authenticating" his paintings-- makes no sense because no one was counterfeiting Rockwell's paintings back then. He was too hard to imitate and there was no incentive to do so, because the only economic value of his paintings was for publication in magazine illustrations and ads. Once they were photographed and published, many were given away. Nobody was copying them for sale, so Rockwell had no need to "authenticate" them.

Tom-- It seems to me that both of these examples "engage the topic of art." The hyperbole goes to a comparison of the quality of different types of art. The authentication goes to our ability to recognize and appreciate the inherent qualities of a picture. It's like a John Henry moment: which is better, man or machine?

Kev Ferrara wrote: "Of course one is not entitled to their ignorances, biases, fallacies, and lunacies. Because such requires no grant; no title passed. Mental garbage is a basic human right..."

Just as there is no entitlement without a corresponding grant, there is no right without a corresponding duty. If people had a right to be morons, then I would have a duty to forbear, rather than ridicule them and attempt to lower their social status. Then what would I have to write about here?

I do agree with you that no one is entitled to the last word, although I think that the burden of proof increases with the passage of time. So much of art criticism seems to fall into the category of "everything has been said already, but not everybody has had a chance to say it."

I am not surprised that you "reject [my] inherent/unspoken presumption that quality cannot be extricated from taste." If you think you have a purely object way to determine quality in art, I suggest you apply to the PTO for a patent on it. They seem to be pretty gullible these days.

Laurence John said...

Anon: "Beauty (grace, subtlety, harmony, wonder etc.) is not something in the object but an experience of pleasure with the object giving rise to a sense that it is beautiful, etc. Its more subjective than objective, but requires both, and is derived from our natural psychology."

Agreed. Beauty is a quality we ascribe to things which move us in a certain way. It's not an inherent quality like hardness or shape that you can scientifically measure or weigh. When enough people agree that a certain thing is beautiful we have a mass consensus about beauty standards, and we act is if beauty is a real thing. Why do we broadly agree on what is considered beautiful ? Because of out natural hard wiring, as you say.

Anon: "I like Norman Rockwell OK, but there’s a lot of schmaltz in his work, leading me to not find it very enjoyable..."

That's more to do with taste. There are lots of artists who i will agree make work of high quality, but it doesn't appeal to me personally. The mass consensus broadly agrees that X's work is well made, even beautiful, (it's 'high quality'), but it does nothing for me personally. It's not to my taste, but i'm not going to argue that it's rubbish and everyone who likes it is mistaken.

On the other hand, Y makes work that is lauded by certain members of society, but i'm convinced it's very low quality (total rubbish, even). It's not even well made, it's shoddy. This is trickier, because can both sides be right ?

If it's possible that both sides are correct then we would have a truly 'subjective' situation (where 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder'). But i'm not convinced that is the case.

Wes said...

Laurence – you’ve summed it up well: “Beauty is a quality we ascribe to things which move us in a certain way. It's not an inherent quality like hardness or shape that you can scientifically measure or weigh. When enough people agree that a certain thing is beautiful we have a mass consensus about beauty standards, and we act is if beauty is a real thing.”

Santayana’s standard combines the subjective and objective by noting beauty is an “objectified pleasure” -- pleasure being the subject’s objective response to something. There would also be “objectified disgust” for ugliness. In each case, the subject can point to or signify the objective components that give rise to subjective experience, justifying the opinion, though certainly not the last word. ;^) The subjective becomes the objective.

Much of the human experience works this way – and we use different terms to “objectify” various and sundry subjective experiences – reifying nothing into something, hypostatizing concepts into concretes, etc. Since western philosophy has mostly treated subjective experiences as a marginal place to look for Truth, any view that we can derive objective standards from subjective experiences is considered suspect. However, we are starting to get more mileage out of the “subjective” in many, many ways now, and its worth musing over how we derive objective standards in art from subjective experiences . . .

Re “taste”, I think Susan Sontag’s “Notes on Camp” is still the best guidance. Her insight that “Taste has no system and no proofs” explains the continuing appeal of Liberace, the Royal Family, Elton John, Lady Gaga, superhero comic books and movies, and even – dare I say it – the advent of the 45th President of the US.

Ryan said...

I appreciate the post, the patent does seem ridiculous, as well as the quote at the beginning. However, I feel your point could have been made more strongly if the patent had been some sort of machine that claimed to identify Rockwell paintings based on the actual style and paint application, something a human could actually judge. This patent isn't really trying to objectify art or beauty. Here we have something that a human can't actually see and that is not related to the actual paintings. I feel like the patent has more to do with chemical composition than the aesthetic quality of the work.

kev ferrara said...

there is no right without a corresponding duty.

I think the right to hold idiotic opinions is more of a liberty right than a claim right. So there would be a corresponding restraint rather than duty.

I am not surprised that you "reject [my] inherent/unspoken presumption that quality cannot be extricated from taste." If you think you have a purely object(ive) way to determine quality in art, I suggest you apply to the PTO for a patent on it.

But… But… On this blog you’ve flatly stated that there are objectively good works of art, objectively bad works of art, and objectively mediocre works of art. Possibly you should patent yourself. ;)

I find it amazing that all agree that qualia pretty much affect us all in more or less the same way. But then so many will curtly dispute and utterly deny that ‘quality’ would also, and quite logically, affect all of us in more or less the same way. The quality of anything is after all only due to the organization of its qualia. Organization itself is qualitative.

In other words, the argument seems to be that some qualities are apprehended almost identically by folks in the normal distribution of aesthetic sensitivity, but once complexity comes into it, quite different responses may arise.

To me, this doesn’t track with the basic similitude of human nature, even allowing for the wide variety of personalities out there.

The real issue of variation, it seems to me, comes to bear on the viewing experience mostly in the non-aesthetic phase of art experience, once the spell of aesthetic arrest loses its grip. At that point the viewer's will is completely up for grabs, and any particular viewer’s particularities will naturally overmatch the specific complex of manipulations originally set up by the artist to produce the artistic effect.

That so many aesthetic philosophers fail to distinguish these two phases of art experience is a big problem, in my view. Santayana, mentioned above, is no exception. It is quite easy to enumerate the many ways one may appreciate a painting; technically, culturally, historically…. But I think it is telling that almost none of these academics make any inroads at all into the actual poetics; the first phase stuff. Which is exactly why they aren’t getting at just how controlling the object is in the experience. For example, Santayana’s assertion that Beauty arises from the “unity of inclusion” is simply too insufficient a statement to take seriously.

Richard said...

> If people had a right to be morons, then I would have a duty to forbear, rather than ridicule them and attempt to lower their social status.

In as much as a child with Down's Syndrome has a right to moron-y, so does a Publishers Weekly editor. Ridicule is never the deontologically moral response to genetic and sociological disability, people don't choose to be morons.

Tom said...

Well some people are eating the art!

https://www.zerohedge.com/economics/see-you-after-jail-guys-art-world-stunned-after-man-eats-120000-banana-duct-taped-wall

Others are buying

https://www.zerohedge.com/personal-finance/things-you-see-top-woman-calls-pile-crap-artwork-successfully-sells-it-225000

And dealer are disappearing!

https://www.zerohedge.com/personal-finance/where-world-inigo-mysterious-disappearance-billionaires-art-dealer

David Apatoff said...

Anonymous wrote: "so the issue is enjoyment first, skill secondary, but both critical. That is, the first component of an "objective" standard for good art actually is subjective--do you enjoy it?"

While I agree with you that enjoyment (or to reduce it to a more basic level, titillation) is crucial to the motivations for art, I've tended to avoid taking the point as far as you have simply because I think some forms of "enjoyment" are objectively worthier than others. Some people enjoy art for what I regard as inferior reasons. For example economists distinguish between property that is valuable because of its inherent quality, and property that is valued simply because other people can't have it. This second type of property is called "positional goods." If an investment banker enjoys art because he owns something no one else can possess, I think that exceeds the acceptable bounds of subjectivity; I have no problem calling that an inferior form of enjoyment. I think people who want to extract as much as they can of what art has to offer should be striving for enjoyment in a richer, more profound sense.

Unknown--I share your friend's view.

Kev Ferrara wrote: "The viewer completes the artwork because the artist knows exactly how to manipulate him into doing so."

Yes, I know this is a long-standing area of disagreement between us. I feel that the artist who is too controlling, who "knows exactly how to manipulate" the viewer is a lesser artist. If the artist new "exactly" how to manipulate than all viewer reactions would be exactly the same and clearly they are not. Most importantly, I think the greatest artists reserve room in the process for intuition and interpretation and subliminal reaction. It may be that "all great art exerts tremendous control over its audience" but artists who don't know when to back off and up working for Rand McNally instead.

"On this blog you flatly stated that there are objectively good works of art, objectively bad works of art, and objectively mediocre works of art. Possibly you should patent yourself."

I do believe that people can be objectively wrong about art (such as that hilariously dopey quote from Publishers Weekly). I also believe that anyone with an opinion should be prepared to defend it in reasonable terms. But I think that what I have tried to suggest on this blog is that when it comes to evaluating good or bad works of art, we must constantly tack between Scylla and Charybdis.

As for patenting myself, I appreciate the suggestion but any good intellectual property lawyer will tell you that unless the anticipated profits are higher than the patent filing fee, there's no point in applying.

Laurence John said...


David: "I feel that the artist who is too controlling, who "knows exactly how to manipulate" the viewer is a lesser artist"

There's the suggestion in this comment that to be manipulated is a negative experience. That the viewer has been fooled into believing a cheap illusion in some way. But, we're willingly manipulated all the time whenever we watch a film by a great director, or go to look at paintings by a great painter. The experience is only cheapened if the ideas behind the work are trite.

If it's a general truism that great art has an ineffable quality about it, that doesn't mean great art is synonymous with art that is vague.

Wes said...

A very keen insight here:

". . . the artist who is too controlling, who "knows exactly how to manipulate" the viewer is a lesser artist. If the artist new "exactly" how to manipulate than all viewer reactions would be exactly the same and clearly they are not. Most importantly, I think the greatest artists reserve room in the process for intuition and interpretation and subliminal reaction."

It explains (at least partly) why Hollywood has lost its magic when it comes to movies. They are so good at manipulating the audience with dumb action and dumb suspense and so many other tricks that watching blockbusters and streaming series is a tediously predictable experience now. Are they great artists who can manipulate emotions on command? I feel great artists hold something back and allow the viewer to find something not placed by the artist. Scorsese's recent remarks re superhero movies hit a nerve because how many times do we need to see the same story? The may be movies, but they are really just thrill rides -- something you can get at an amusement park.

Wes

kev ferrara said...

I feel that the artist who is too controlling, who "knows exactly how to manipulate" the viewer is a lesser artist.

First of all, every artwork is perfectly controlled from top to bottom, in the sense that the artist is responsible for everything that appears; whether on the page, the stage, the canvas or the silver screen. The artwork (Or the art event) is a symbolic field, fully charged with the expectation of meaning from corner to corner and start to finish. What is left on the field when it is offered up as art is what has been signified. Nobody else is to credit or blame.

If the artist leaves vagueness in the artwork, allowing the viewer to ponder just there, they are still in control of the exact qualitative nature of that vagueness. Vagueness is a design, after all. Further, the allowance of interpretation that the vagueness affords is an artistic choice; also designed.

True, just what the interpretation is, is out of the artist's control. And that is why I took pains to bifurcate the aesthetic moment from the interpretive moment earlier, as I think these phases are actually distinct, (although one can loop back into the aesthetic phase from the interpretive 'free-will' phase if one is imaginatively triggered.) I am only vaguely interested in the interpretive phase, while I am quite dedicated to understanding the aesthetic phrase.

By 'too controlling' I assume you mean "controlling in a way that I can detect." And I agree that such is a defect (presuming you aren't looking at a work designed for consumption by children or dopey people or light entertainment seekers who care not for artistry - in which case, you wandered into the wrong storefront - your error.)

If you are looking at a work of art and the heavy hand of the artist, in trying to achieve some artistic or propagandistic note, breaks the spell that the whole/gestalt is casting, that's an artistic failing; you fell out of the aesthetic experience before receiving all the aesthetic information, and that is a disunity; a pothole or speedbump in the artistic journey.

But, I submit, the issue is not with the control per se in those cases. It is with the justification of the artistic effects. What we long for in Art is the meaning-effect justified. That which is sufficiently justified (as opposed to ginned up via merely corroborative detail, intended to give artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative) sublates. And what is subliminal is out of our conscious notice, and thus not 'controlling' in the interfering manner.

But that justification via artistry is itself a form of artistic control.

So really, in my view, what you are criticizing is the use of one kind of artistic control without the necessary other; effect without integrity; which is cheap sensationalism.

kev ferrara said...

As Laurence pointed out, this negative way of seeing "manipulation" is the problem. (Its the same thing that happened to word "rhetoric.")

Manipulation that you know is manipulative is bad art. As Mucha said in his lectures, the prime directive for the artist is "hide your artistry." Or as Harvey Dunn said, "If they catch you being clever, you aren't clever."

If there is anything we have learned from taking a deep dive with the great film-makers or the great narrative artists is that every single square inch of the frame is attended to for the purposes of expressing meaning aesthetically. And while you're in the audience, that idea never crosses the mind.

kev ferrara said...


If the artist knew "exactly" how to manipulate than all viewer reactions would be exactly the same and clearly they are not.

Let's attend to the subtleties here; I wrote that the artist knows exactly how to get the audience to close the imaginative gaps, and complete the picture. By which I mean, complete the artistic intent. This effect structure can be either consciously or unconsciously manifested, but either way, the structure is.

This is a lynchpin point. The artist is after the controlling of the effect; the effect is sensational; the point of which is to convey some significant narrative meaning (or expressive or decorative idea) through suggestion rather than statement. The human mind (in the normal distribution of aesthetic sensitivity) cannot help but receive aesthetically transmitted information in more or less the same way. Blue pretty much means Blue all the time. Mananerism is mannerism. Dynamism is dynamism. And more complex combinations of such basic qualities are apprehended, equally, in more or less the same way.

The reaction to the meaningful sensation-effect, though, has some variation across the population of the audience due to variations in aesthetic sensitivity as well as idiosyncrasies of personality and experience. But this "reaction" to the effect is already secondary to the effect itself. You can't have a taste-reaction to a sensation until you've already experienced the sensation. And aesthetic sensation carry meaning.

Which leads one to believe that what is going on with "taste" is often a rejection, from a very deep core sensibility, of certain kinds of ideas or feelings; certain kinds of effects. But that rejection doesn't mean that the power of those effects to convey meaning suggestively was absent.

This is just why a great work of art can be hated, despite its greatness. And just why something that suits any particular taste can be baby food, crap, or trash.

David Apatoff said...

First of all folks, let me apologize for a flurry of typos in my recent comments. I'm trying out new dictation software in an effort to become more efficient and obviously it's not yet ready for prime time.

Lawrence John writes: "When enough people agree that a certain thing is beautiful we have a mass consensus about beauty standards, and we act as if beauty is a real thing. Why do we broadly agree on what is considered beautiful ? Because of out natural hard wiring..."

Unfortunately, the "mass consensus" seems to lead us to Hello Kitty and Baby Shark. There's much to be said for popular taste but I'm not sure I'm ready to put beauty to a popular vote just yet.

Ryan-- You're right, this patent is not a perfect fit, although it does purport to fill the role of authentication that was previously performed by experts employing taste. The patent was just too hilarious a story to pass up.

Tom-- Well, at least that banana fed someone. It's difficult to think of a sphere of modern life where ignorance isn't becoming better funded and more aggressive.



David Apatoff said...

Wes-- It's interesting how many different writers on art (including the commenters here) have struggled (unsuccessfully I'd say) to find a word for the feelings that draw us to art. You quote Santayana as calling it "objectified pleasure." Sontag claimed that the "only valid end" for art is "an active comprehension accompanied by voluptuousness." I described it as "titillation" above. Anonymous called it "an experience of pleasure with the object." All of these efforts strike me as either too narrow to be complete or so broad as to be useless.

As for Sontag's thesis which you quote, I must admit I've tended to steer clear of her on the subject of art ever since she wrote, "Before a fully conscious work of art, one feels something like the mixture of anxiety, detachment, pruriency and relief that the physically sound person feels when he glimpses an amputee." I began edging for the door around the word "pruriency" and I hope she didn't hear the door click shut behind me with the word "amputee."

But let's put her quote to the test. She says:“Taste has no system and no proofs” I would agree that we have yet to find convincing proofs for taste, but if you believe taste can be at least partially taught, if you believe it has guidelines and prioritized values, then I don't see how she can argue it has no "system." If you don't believe these things about taste, then (as I've argued in previous posts) it seems to me you're saying everything is subjective which means that humans are merely objects like trees, incapable of meaningful language shaping a common standard.

Laurence John-- I agree with you that "manipulation" is not necessarily a pejorative term. There are all kinds of wonderful manipulations in art. And I didn't mean to assert that "great art is synonymous with art that is vague." However, I think that much of the best part of the best art implies rather than expressly states; when an artist implies he or she loses "exact" control over the reaction of the viewer. I agree with Walt Whitman who said, "I swear I see what is better than to tell the best, It is always to leave the best untold."

Laurence John said...

David: "However, I think that much of the best part of the best art implies rather than expressly states"

If everything was implication in art, narrative art couldn't exist. It would be so vague as to be intangible. Narrative art has to be specific about certain things and vague about others.

In an Edward Hopper painting we don't know what the person looking out of the window is looking at or thinking about. Nor will we ever know, because that information will never be given by the painting. Hopper still 'controls' what is in the painting, even if the painting hints at things which we can only guess at.

That is completely different to an artist making some semi-abstract vague marks on a canvas, and saying "see whatever you like in this".

David: "when an artist implies he or she loses "exact" control over the reaction of the viewer"

I think you're getting hung up on the word 'exact'. It's as if you're imagining the viewers struck numb by the effects of the artwork, and all staring, hypnotised, experiencing exactly the same thing.

Isn't your beef just with bad art (artless art) which signposts its intentions in a clumsy and obvious way ?