Evangelist of the sanguinary and excremental

Barry Gewen in the New York Times:

DantoARTHUR C. DANTO is arguably the most consequential art critic since Clement Greenberg. He is an erudite and sophisticated observer, a trained academic philosopher who is also wholly at home in the world of modern art, about which he writes with forcefulness and jargon-free clarity. Yet what truly distinguishes Danto from his peers is that he offers his readers more than simply his personal (if highly informed) opinions. His responses to works of art, like Greenberg’s, are grounded in a coherent intellectual structure that takes them out of the realm of free-floating subjectivity. To look at a work with Danto is to see it within the context of contemporary art, its very raison d’être.

In ”Unnatural Wonders,” a collection of reviews written for The Nation between 2000 and 2004, framed by a few broadly philosophical essays, Danto declares: ”I was in a sense the first posthistorical critic of art. . . . What was special about me was that I was the only one whose writing was inflected by the belief that we were not just in a new era of art, but in a new kind of era.” Greenberg was set on his critical path by Jackson Pollock. Andy Warhol performed the same function for Danto, who argues that ever since Warhol’s Brillo boxes of 1964, an art object could be anything at all (or even nothing), that for the first time in history artists were free to do whatever they wanted — to slice up dead animals, throw elephant dung on canvases, display their soiled underwear and used tampons, mold images of themselves out of their own blood. In this world of total freedom, the actual physical attributes of a work counted for less than its philosophical justifications. All art had become conceptual art, and the job of the critic was to articulate what meaning the particular artist wished to convey and how that meaning was embodied in the work at hand.

More here.