Saturday, April 6, 2013

2010 catena malbec, picasso's les demoiselles d'avignon and the nature of aesthetic judgments (post for comment)


hi kids. last friday, we had an interesting discussion. judgments are "statements about." there are many different kinds of judgments: scientific, moral, aesthetic, etc. let's revise what they do.

1- scientific judgments are about the nature of reality.

2- moral judgments refer to the nature of actions.

3- aesthetic judgments are about the nature taste.

we briefly touched upon 2 & 3.

i wanted to stress the salience of these judgments by talking about food. then about art. le't take a look a these two statements: 1- "i hate this wine." 2- "this wine tastes awful." 

the difference between the two is that 1- is a subjective judgment. one is talking about one's experience. with 2- there is a difference. one is making a judgment about s state of affairs, i.e, the juice.

suppose john doesn't know much about wine and makes a judgment of type 2- about this wine, a moderately-priced malbec from argentina. this is an excellent wine for the price (what i mean is comparing price and taste). this is the consensus of people that understand wine.

& what's in the taste? when you sip the juice you get nuanced complexity of spice, tobacco and plum, all balanced with a finish of soft, supple tannins and good length.

so, how are we to treat john's 2- kind of judgment? let's say that john is wrong. he doesn't know enough about wines to make that call (remember that in 2- he's talking about the juice).

what john is doing is committing a fallacy of taking his subjective reaction to the juice as an objective property of the juice.  but they are not the same. much less coming from a person that's not educated in wine tasting.

the same goes with art. talking about art is not that simple. for example, suppose paul has no knowledge of modern art. he visits MoMA and looks at picasso's famous 1907 painting les demoiselles d'avignon. john says: "this painting by picasso sucks!"

pablo picasso's demoiselles d'avignon, 1907
again, there's a difference between,

a- "i hate this painting"
b- "this painting by picasso sucks"

ok, let's agree that catena malbec 2010 can be experienced in a substantially different manner than picasso's painting. nonetheless, there is a way to apply a similar criteria to the one used above.

a- is totally ok.
b- is more problematic.

consensus: the reason is that one has to understand cubism to properly critique it. this is not your regular realist rendition of a 1907 paris whorehouse. paul doesn't understand the conventions of modern art. he doesn't know, for instance that picasso has deliberately changed the way artists depict, thus becoming a catalyst for modern twentieth-century art.  the general consensus of art historians, critics, artists is that this is a landmark.

actual properties: to examine demoiselles d'avignon properly one has to wear cubist glasses. why? because there is a shift in perspective here. picasso is not painting "as a realist". he had already left that behind, as in this: 

yo, picasso, 1901

the young painter was absorbing influences. the piece above has a kind of spanish impressionist flavor.  the painting from 1907 is breaking with all that.  

so, it's not only about consensus. we need an additional "harder" criteria. which is why i talked a little bit about the painting's properties.  

of course, there is always the question, what if art historians are wrong? could they not be?

yes, they could. but it's more difficult to disregard the consensus' weight than paul's uninformed claim. don't you think?

(to be continued)