Andy Warhol: Brillo Box

By Danto, Arthur Coleman | Artforum International, September 1993 | Go to article overview

Andy Warhol: Brillo Box


Danto, Arthur Coleman, Artforum International


Considerations of modesty, fortified by counsels of prudence, must caution philosophers against inviting comparisons between their own work and that of Immanuel Kant. These wise recommendations notwithstanding, I have irresistibly thought of Andy Warhol as having played in the evolution of my thought the role that Kant assigned Hume in the evolution of his own. Hume, Kant wrote, "interrupted my dogmatic slumber, and gave my investigations in the field of speculative philosophy a quite new direction." It was Warhol who awoke me from mine, and made plain to me that the philosophy of art must move on. This was what Brillo Box meant to me the moment I saw it, in an East 74th Street one-man show widely if inconclusively discussed at the time: 1964.

"Hume!" one can hear Kant's colleagues saying, with the same strained incredulity I have encountered when arguing that Warhol had the greatest philosophical acuity of any modern artist. "It is positively painful," Kant wrote, "to see how utterly [Hume's] opponents missed the point." A painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds portrays one of these opponents, the blissfully forgotten James Beattie, holding the book of his that allegedly demolished Hume's arguments, and accompanied by a winged spirit shown vanquishing three enemies of truth: Hume, Gibbon, and Voltaire. To the same extent that Hume was condemned for destroying the foundations of faith and morality (until Beattie restored them), Warhol was seen as a contemporary destroyer of spiritual and esthetic values. ("You're a killer of art, you're a killer of beauty," de Kooning told him.) For what it's worth, Warhol and Hume even looked alike, or would have if Hume had had access to diet pills. Both had that flat, expressionless, almost stupid sort of face that made it possible to see Warhol as one of the "pin-headed, gum-chewing" delinquents Max Kozloff felt were invading the art galleries in 1962, and made it all but impossible to see Hume as the shrewdest philosophical wit of his age: "His Face was broad and fat, his Mouth wide, and without any other Expression than that of Imbecility," a contemporary wrote, obsrving that "the Powers of Physiognomy were baffled by his Countenance."

In 1964, the Kantian question was: how was Brillo Box possible? Its impossibility was assured by virtually every esthetic precept it flaunted, at the same time that the mere fact of its existence as art demonstrated that all those precepts lacked necessity. Yet those precepts defined the laws of the art world, and everyone who looked at paintings took them for granted. It was altogether natural to think of painting in New York as attaining a state of purity, just as Clement Greenberg assured us that Modernist art was evrywhere doing. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Andy Warhol: Brillo Box
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.