Author Archives: Michael Marfil

Posts by Michael Marfil

Oppression To Opera

This opera seems like a very interesting and eye-opening thing to watch. Check it out! Hopefully someone can go see it.

Oppression To Opera: Could A Woman’s Courage Change Pakistan?

Paintings Found In Munich

You never know what might be lurking in your apartment…I heard that these paintings were confiscated by the Nazis!!!

Lost Works by greats Matisse, Chagall finally revealed

Screenshot 2013-11-12 21.48.34

What Really Is Art?

In American Muse, Chapter 1, Anderson puts forth the notion that “there is an enormous amount of art in America today — far more than is generally recognized by most people, scholar and nonspecialist alike.” He goes on to define art as “being made by humans whose elevated intellectual, creative, or bodily skills are recognized by others in their group; of being imaginatively created in an immediately, and directly sensuous, public medium.” If one applies Anderson’s definition of art to the music, paintings, sculptures, and other works that have been created in modern times by Americans, one can say that Anderson’s argument that art is alive and well in America is quite valid. However, do you believe that Anderson’s definition of art is flawed, and if so, how would you define art?

Anderson focuses on the descriptive rather than the evaluative usage of the word art throughout American Muse. However, most people who look at art make statements such as, “Oh, that’s a beautiful painting” or “That doesn’t look lifelike enough.” Is it wrong to make such evaluative statements about art? Is there such thing as “good art” or “bad art?”

Dewey asserts that “art is a mode of prediction not found in charts and statistics, and it insinuates possibilities of human relations not to be found in rule and precept, admonition and administration.” However, Anderson appears to downplay this by assuming that “art and aesthetics in America have an objective reality, one that can be empirically studied.” Can one’s reaction to art be studied quantitatively, or is art something that cannot be explained in numbers?

Moving The Barnes: Albert and The Art Experience vs. The Masses

In The Art Of The Steal, the economic impact of the Barnes Collection relocation was projected to be the equivalent of “three Super Bowls, without the beer”, benefiting the masses and injecting money into the city. However, this is exactly what Barnes and his immediate cohorts did not want this collection to become. Do you think that the Barnes Collection should be exhibited in the public and economic interest contrary to Barnes’ intentions, or should the will of but one man and his followers be respected?

Martin Filler portrays Albert Barnes as an “incompetent, out-of-control relative” in Victory! and compares the movement of the Barnes to a “desperate family’s intervention aimed at saving a shared inheritance from being irrevocably squandered.” Based on what we know about Albert Barnes in this reading, Moving Pictures, and The Art Of The Steal, is Filler’s argument about Barnes and his collection justified, and if not, what about his argument is flawed?

In Moving Pictures, Peter Schjeldahl describes how worthwhile a visit to the Barnes is in that “a lifetime of art-history lectures will teach you less about his [Cézanne’s] art’s quiddity, and why and how it matters, than an hour at the Barnes.” In understanding a work of art, how important are facts and dates as opposed to the experience of actually admiring that work of art and treating it as a “feast of the eyes?”

Comments by Michael Marfil

"Are you trying to apply this objectivity to the art piece or to the viewer/listener?"
--( posted on Nov 21, 2013, commenting on the post Frank Sibley, “Aesthetic concepts” )
"In "Aesthetic Concepts," Sibley points out that aesthetic qualities are defined as certain characteristics of a work of art that require the use of "taste" and "perceptiveness." According to Sibley, aesthetic language should be free of objectivity, that an aesthete cannot make conditional statements when describing a work of art. For example, one cannot say that if a work of art has soft tones, then it is delicate. Although one may say that the soft tones do make it delicate, one can also say that soft tones, together with other characteristics, make an art piece brooding. As Sibley points out, this is also why one should avoid precedents when describing the aesthetic qualities of an art piece. This, I take it, transcends all historical categories a work of art fits into. However, I wonder if Sibley wants us to completely throw away the context that an art piece was made for. Can we come to an understanding of an artwork merely on the basis of aesthetics? Can we apply these aesthetic concepts to all works of art? Take The Nose, for example. What sort of aesthetic qualities does it have?"
--( posted on Nov 21, 2013, commenting on the post Frank Sibley, “Aesthetic concepts” )
"I must say that it was a little difficult to understand what Berenson was talking about, but what I take home from the article is this: In order to understand works of art regardless of culture, one must have a sort of "personal" connection with the artist. Although it is very much impossible to actually meet the artist and actually spend time with him so that you can gain an understanding of the artist's personality, one can still gain that "personal" connection, according to Berenson. How? If one can understand the historical, cultural, and aesthetic context of that work of art, then it is possible to personally connect with the artist and thus come to an understanding of it. According to Berenson, this understanding comes with a reflection, a rumination on that work of art. Berenson puts forth three levels of understanding: an identification based on embodiment, an identification based on a particular embodiment, and an understanding of what the art means to the artist. The first two steps are relatively easy to master, since experienced persons can readily identify the category a work of art fits in. However, it is that third step that is troublesome for most people. Perhaps I was wrong in saying that one does not need to have some objective knowledge of a work of art. According to Berenson, the problem we have with understanding a work of art from, say, the African culture is that we do not understand the culture itself. Because we are not educated on African culture we cannot understand why African art may not look realistic, for example. This is why an education on different cultures is very important. At times, however, I question how one can apply Berenson's ideas to the likes of certain modern art forms that emphasize the use of geometric figures. In the article that we were supposed to read, "Shapes Of Things," they showed a picture of a gallery in MoMA. The gallery contained some works of art that were a bunch of shapes that appeared to be pasted to the canvas. Is it possible to understand modern art forms using Berenson's method? Perhaps we can understand what the art might mean for the artist, but we can only speculate."
--( posted on Nov 7, 2013, commenting on the post Frances Berenson, “Understanding Art and Understanding Persons” )
"In this piece, Walter Benjamin condemns the use of mechanical reproduction in art, because it depreciates the value of that work of art. At first he describes that mechanical reproduction can enhance the original work and also allow more people to see this work of art. Benjamin goes on to give an example through photography, in which a single shot can be made into a limitless amount of prints. However, he argues that this reproduction depreciates the value of that work of art, as millions of copies of the work of art are available to the public. This brings us to the argument of quantity vs. quality. Should we trade off the value of art for the masses to see or should we preserve the quality of art for those who will truly appreciate its value? That is the literal million dollar question asked during auctions and exhibits. To synthesize with the Barnes discussion in the beginning of the semester, Barnes kept a tight grip on his collection because he believed that the quality (namely, the aesthetic quality) of the pieces was much more important than for millions and millions of people, many who are uneducated, to view his unique collection."
--( posted on Oct 31, 2013, commenting on the post Walter Benjamin )
"I found Shostakovich's adaptation of "The Nose" quite absurd, perhaps more absurd than the story itself. For me, the production seemed to over-exaggerate Gogol's story a bit. Perhaps the lack of emotion in the opera was due to the fact that Shostacovich used a Communist theme. Why is there a Communist theme in this story? Maybe Shostakovich was trying to make us see that there is still a social hierarchy between the Communist officials and the common man, or perhaps he was trying to underscore the many difficulties of a new communist society, as the social differences between the characters were still present even under communism."
--( posted on Oct 29, 2013, commenting on the post The Nose )
"I must agree with Copeland and you on this assertion that "composing to a composer is like...something that the composer happens to have been born to do...and, because of that, it loses the character of a special virtue in the composer's eyes," based on what I have learned so far in psychology about the subconscious and the conscious. When a person expresses a routine behavior, it eventually moves from the conscious to the unconscious, that is, it becomes almost instinct. When this happens, it does lose out on its special quality for the person conducting this behavior. However, that is not to say that it is not special at all. For a person who is not a composer - or a scientist, artist, or architect, for that matter - it is truly amazing to see how these people go about their work. If you take this concept of the subconscious and say that the creative process for a composer is no different than those of painters and architects, then you would be correct. However, you cannot say the same for scientists. The sciences are different in that the non-routine happens in science all the time. Even for a scientist, it is amazing to discover new things."
--( posted on Oct 13, 2013, commenting on the post 10/8 – Copland, Kramer, Sparshott )
"4/11. I thought for sure that that marbled piece was modern art!! I think they didn't credit the toddlers for reasons of anonymity."
--( posted on Oct 2, 2013, commenting on the post Can you tell the difference between modern and toddler art? )
"Tolstoy argues that "people who consider the aim of art to be pleasure cannot realize its true meaning and purpose." However, in the typical art museum, most people seem to do the very thing that Tolstoy did not want people to do. In your opinion, is there a lack of true appreciation of art today as defined by Tolstoy? If so, what are we doing wrong as a society, and how do we go about fixing this problem? Tolstoy emphasizes that art is an expression of one's feelings, emotions, and ideas. However, many of us like to classify "art" and architecture from different styles, using terms like Gothic, Neo-classical, Art-Deco, etc. Does this categorization make art lose its quality as a conduit of expression and individuality, as defined by Tolstoy?"
--( posted on Sep 26, 2013, commenting on the post 9/26 – Tolstoy )