Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I never would have made the connection

My wife, I'm sure, is sick of me bemoaning the state of public art in the Bay Area. It seems that aside from the stature of Willie Mays in front of PacBell Park all public art, especially statuary is of the most hideous modernest, non-representational style.

Digression: Plato disliked art because, in his thought, it was a further step away from the ideal. In his cosmology there was the Ideal and there was this world made of stuff that represents or points to the ideal. To Plato, Art is something that points to something that points to the Ideal. So, what would he have thought of abstract sculpture that points to nothing?

My own taste in public art tend toward the monumental. I like all those general on horseback, those lions in front of the New York Public Library, the bronze Burghers in the Stanford Main Quad. Not for me the pink shrouded islands.

Whither this modern disdain for the representational? One Scotsman, the Queen of England's official sculptor, no less, has an opinion:

That, Stoddart says, is the trouble with Scotland. 'The Reformation says smash impressive things. Scotland has become a metaphysically philistine country. That is to do with having become an abode of a people of the book.' He holds that in a word culture there is no respect for beauty and people are therefore likely to disfigure beautiful buildings with ugly glass boxes. 'Like the Jews and the Arabs, Scots worship logos. The word is on high but as everybody knows the word is a very crude instrument, because it is the handmaiden of the concept. Artists are concerned with the percept.(Read the whole thing here.)

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