Footnote Number 6: Art and Objectness

Download (4)Joseph Marioni at nonsite:

In 1951, Wallace Stevens gave a talk at the Museum of Modern Art titled “The Relations Between Poetry and Painting.” In it, he did not offer a universal Pythagorean theorem of the transcendent divinity in a numerical correspondence between poetry and painting, nor did he give an abstract analysis of the structural identity of the two art forms. Rather, he proclaimed that there is a universal poetry that is reflected in everything, and one could become a painter after one becomes a poet. Sayings about paintings have value for poets, Stevens said, “because they are, after all, sayings about art.” Stevens’ remarks are well within the character of his later work—which gave him the reputation as a philosopher of aesthetics—in which he argues for the primacy of the creative imagination. He also stands in a long tradition of writers on comparative aesthetics, from Gotthold Lessing’s “Laocoön” of 1766, all the way back to Aristotle’s Poetics.

What we have in the tradition of this comparative understanding is a deeply entrenched syncretic belief system. It is a system that mixes two different forms together, like the uniting of early Christian religion with Roman law to produce the Roman Catholic Church. The art of painting has been married to the structure of language since the early church declared painting acceptable as the visual bible for the illiterate. This system unites “painting”—a site-specific material-based form of art—with “language”—a form of communication that is separate from what it signifies, and defers materiality to the category of mere craft. This syncretic system interprets all the arts as being language-based, and this justifies the art of painting as a picture-language. Picture-paintings tell a story.

more here.