Honestly, Danto’s writing wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. It was very entertaining and I completely enjoyed it. So Jeff, for this post I’m not going to critique Danto at all because I agree with what he was saying. Rather, in this post, I am going to critique Andy Warhol’s twisted way of thinking alongside him. Perfect duo, wouldn’t you say? I’m just going to address two major points, in my opinion, that I got out of reading this passage.
One thing Danto does a good job of is proving that Andy Warhol’s ‘success’ has made him an egotistical narcissist. He let something as simple as ‘beautiful tracing’, if you will, turn him into someone who thinks he knows it all. He reminds me of Eliza in ‘My Fair Lady’ when conversing with some people of high society. She uses a bunch of big words that when deciphered sounds utterly ridiculous yet high-classed people think it sounds stupendous and try to continue in conversation with her. Warhol allows this work to make him think that he know of art and is defying the limits of what art is. Just like Eliza can use mediocre language and be a lady, Warhol can do mediocre art and be an artist. He’s ‘the Challenger’. One passage that I had to draw a unicorn beside (forget ponies; they aren’t enough) is what Edmund White says about what Warhol’s goals are:
“Art reveals the trace of the artist’s hand: Andy resorted to
silk-screening. A work of art is a unique object: Andy came up with
multiples. A painter paints: Andy made movies. Art is divorced from
the commercial and the utilitarian: Andy specialized in Campbell’s
Soup Cans and Dollar Bills. Painting can be defined in contrast to
photography: Andy recycles snapshots. A work of art is what an
artist signs, proof of his creative choice, his intentions: for a small
fee, Andy signed any object whatever.”
Just from looking at this and how Warhol seems to defy every artist barrier there is, isn’t this further proof that he isn’t an artist? If you cannot follow the rule of an artist, then doesn’t that make you a fool with a paintbrush? That’s like a chicken that wants to be an eagle.
“An eagle uses it’s wings to soar: the chicken preserves it’s wings
so that when it flies, it flies better than the eagle. The eagle is free
to go wherever it pleases: the chicken can also go places but for the
moment, it’s chilling in the coop. An eagle is on the face of every
dollar because it holds a great symbolism: the chicken is on
every package at the store because people love to eat them.”
Warhol is a chicken. He doesn’t take chances, he plays it safe, he pretty much ridicules the eagles by trying to make it seem as though that as an artist he does better than most. Danto in a nice way (I say nice because he took the time to waste words on him in a paper while I would spare no time or words) is trying to say that Andy Warhol’s art is a joke. He was never an artist just like a chick is never an eagle.
Finally, I must point out the passage in which Danto brings up Marcel Duchamp and his infamous ‘urinal’ that he considered art. Danto comments that the work was ‘hustled’ and the goal of Fountain was for Duchamp to aim at ‘defamiliarizing the urinal, revealing its inherent aesthetic merits…’ A urinal? Seriously? I think what Danto was getting at was that Duchamp was ‘inspired’ (and I’m really stretching the definition of inspired in this case) when he saw that the Brillo box was made by Warhol and was selling quite well. Duchamp probably was behind on bills and wanted to get in on the gold mine (hence why I think Danto chose the word ‘hustled’ to define this situation), however the art community wouldn’t let him. It didn’t consider Fountain ‘art’. Why is that?
Why is it that a direct duplication of a box is considered art, but a duplication of another artifact isn’t ‘art’. Personally, I think the reason for this lies in the meaning. Danto commented saying this issue was of one that dealt with public vs. private, but I want to look deeper into this. Think about what we do as human at a urinal. We release excretion. Some people consider this the ‘imperfection’ of a human being. To release something as disgusting as excretion is embarrassing and something that can be somewhat embarrassing to bring up in a normal conversation. Imagine two critics reflecting on this piece of ‘art’.
“Yes Bob. Magnificient urinal. Reminds me of just this morning when I had to rush to the bathroom to relieve myself. Aah, it was magnificient, splendid. This piece of work calms me down knowing that a Fountain will always be there for me. Speaking of which, it’s about that time to relieve myself. Excuse me.”
Art is considered beautiful, something aesthetically pleasing to the eye and something reflective. When one thinks about a urinal, we think of excretion and excretion to most people is not considered beautiful, pleasing, or something we want to think about. So Duchamp, if you want easy money, I suggest you think more carefully about what you want to display.