Kant, Celmins and Art after the End of Art

Sandra Shapshay

Resumen


One typically thinks of the relevance of Kant’s aesthetic theory to Western art in terms of Modernism, thanks in large part to the work of eminent critic and art historian Clement Greenberg. Yet, thinking of Kant’s legacy for contemporary art as inhering exclusively in “Kantian formalism” obscures a great deal of Kant’s aesthetic theory. In his last book, Arthur Danto suggested just this point, urging us to enlarge our appreciation of Kant’s aesthetic theory and its relevance to contemporary art, because, for Danto, “Kant had two conceptions of art.” In this essay, I support and build on Danto’s claim that there are really two conceptions of art at work in Kant’s third Critique, and that the second conception offers a non-Modernist/formalist way that Kant’s aesthetic theory remains relevant to post 1960s art (art “after the end of art” in Danto’s terms). My ultimate aim is to highlight another facet in the continuing relevance of Kant’s aesthetic theory to post- Abstract Expressionist contemporary art, namely, the explicit attention to the differential aesthetic values of nature and art respectively. I shall do this by putting it in dialogue with the art practice of Latvian-American artist, Vija Celmins (1938- ) whose illustrious career since 1960s has made her an ‘artist’s artist’ but who has also recently garnered much wider attention with a retrospective titled “To Fix the Image in Memory.” Celmins takes up artistically a problematic that is quite central philosophically to the concerns of the third Critique, and thus her work illustrates (even if unconsciously) another way in which Kant’s aesthetic theory is of great continuing relevance to the artworld today.


Palabras clave


Kant; Danto; Celmins; nature; art; contemporary art; beauty; sublimity

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.4304079

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