Art Criticism: Mark Prince on the Slippage between the Boundaries of Art and Criticism

By Prince, Mark | Art Monthly, April 2011 | Go to article overview

Art Criticism: Mark Prince on the Slippage between the Boundaries of Art and Criticism


Prince, Mark, Art Monthly


[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Art criticism is a discipline distinguished by the permeability of its boundaries. It is always straying into--or being strayed into by--the surrounding fields of art history, philosophy, literature and visual art itself. Many commentators, in attempting to define its remit, are inclined to shore up this slippage by specifying what it is not, or prescribing what it should be. Michael Newman distinguishes it from art history in its reliance on judgement, and its lack of self-consciousness of its own history. The two points share an emphasis on aesthetic subjectivity, as distinct from historical objectivity. James Elkins, meanwhile, laments art criticism's renunciation of the faculty of judgement--at least since the 1970s--in favour of description spiced up with theory.

'Judgement', with its Kantian resonances, is a word that seems to recur. Geoffrey Hill, discussing TS Eliot and FH Bradley, finds in a line from Bradley's Essays on Truth and Reality, 1914--'to get within the judgement the condition of the judgement'--a description of both the poetic and critical act. He finds in Bradley an early intimation of Eliot's concept of 'objective correlative': the emotion of poetic language justified by the theatrical events which give rise to it (the phrase first crops up in Eliot's 1919 essay on Hamlet). Bradley had written of 'the uniqueness' of 'the "this" of feeling' being 'made "objective"'. That word 'within', bridging the two halves of the line I quote above, suggests how the slippage of criticism's parameters might be its essence, reconciling the insistent subjective/ objective binary, and intimating a symbiotic identification between art and critical commentary. The 'condition of the judgement' may comprehend historical context and objective critical witness, but it also covers 'the "this" of feeling': the subjectivity of art itself. Opening up to objectivity or gathering back to subjectivity, Bradley's 'judgement' encompasses both positions.

Eliot, in his roles as both poet and critic, came up against what this symbiosis might involve in practice. For its first publication, in 1922, he tacked a series of notes onto the end of The Waste Land, a poem notoriously dense with literary allusion. He was later to disown them, claiming they had obscured more than they revealed and encouraged a belief that access to a few arcane source references could 'explain' the poem. The notes resemble the work of an eccentric editor. At times, a peculiar tone creeps in, or rather an unfamiliar combination of tones, as Eliot shuttles between the formal language of annotation and a more personal, even confessional note. Offhand recollections are scattered among lines of neutral reference. Where these tones clash he seems to be recognising an irony in applying the critical language of an editor to his own poetry, and finding himself unsure of how and where his roles, of critic and poet, should intersect. Critical exegesis and self-revelation surrender to each other, and the fusion generates an unfamiliar electricity.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Artists of the 1960s, particularly those associated with Conceptual Art and Minimalism, offset critical language--in interviews and supplementary texts--with art which borrowed something of the pseudo-objective air of these documents. It is a commonplace that early Conceptual Art incorporated criticism into the artist's job description. For Newman, this is a usurping of the function of one discipline by the other. He sees art theory--'often carried out by the artists themselves'--'replacing' art criticism. Certainly, it was at this point that a symbiosis between the disciplines became explicit, self-conscious, even performative. Robert Morris's Box with the sound of its own making, 1961, might stand as a neat embodiment of Bradley's self-circling statement as well as the moment at which the phenomenology of Minimalism became self-reflexive. …

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

Art Criticism: Mark Prince on the Slippage between the Boundaries of Art and Criticism
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

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

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.