Figuring Out Figurative Art
Contemporary Philosophers on Contemporary Paintings
In 1797 Friedrich Schlegel wrote that "philosophy of art usually lacks one of two things: either the philosophy, or the art." This collection of essays contains both the philosophy and the art. It brings together an international team of leading philosophers to address diverse philosophical issues raised by recent works of art. Each essay engages with a specific artwork and explores the connection between the image and the philosophical content. Thirteen contemporary philosophers demonstrate how philosophy can aid interpretation of the work of ten contemporary artists, including:
- Jesse Prinz on John Currin
- Barry C. Smith and Edward Winters on Dexter Dalwood
- Lydia Goehr and Sam Rose on Tom de Freston
- Raymond Geuss on Adrian Ghenie and Chantal Joffe
- Hallvard Lillehammer on Paul Noble
- M. M. McCabe and Alexis Papazoglou on Ged Quinn
- Noël Carroll on Paula Rego
- Simon Blackburn and Jerrold Levinson on George Shaw
- Sondra Bacharach on Yue Minjun.
The discussion ranges over ethical, political, psychological and religious concepts, such as irony, disgust, apathy, inequality, physiognomy and wonder, to historical experiences of war, Marx-inspired political movements and Thatcherism, and standard problems in the philosophy of art, such as expression, style, depiction and ontology of art, as well as major topics in art history, such as vanitas painting, photography, pornography, and Dadaism. Many of the contributors are distinguished in areas of philosophy other than aesthetics and are writing about art for the first time. All show how productive the engagement can be between philosophy, more generally, and art.
Table of Contents
Introduction: figurative art and figurative philosophy Damien Freeman 1. John Currin and pornography Jesse Prinz [John Currin The Dane] 2. A moment of capture Barry C. Smith [Dexter Dalwood A View From A Window] 3. Uncanny absence and imaginative presence in Dalwood's paintings Edward Winters [Dexter Dalwood Room 100 Chelsea Hotel and Hendrix's Last Basement] 4. At the still point of the turning world: Two Quartets by Tom de Freston Lydia Goehr [Tom de Freston Quartet - Stage One and Quartet - Stage Two] 5. Being ironic with style, Sam Rose [Tom de Freston, Quartet - Stage Four] 6. The radioactive wolf, pieing and the Goddess "Fashion" Raymond Geuss [Adrian Ghenie Dada is Dead and Nickelodeon] [Chantal Joffe The Black Camisole] 7. Confinement, apathy, indifference Hallvard Lillehammer [Paul Noble Heaven] 8. Thinking outside the frame: Plato, Quinn and Artaud on representation and thought M. M. McCabe [Ged Quinn, The Fall] 9. Nature, life and spirit: a Hegelian reading of Quinn's vanitas art Alexis Papazoglou [Ged Quinn, Hegel's Happy End] 10. Of war and madness Noël Carroll [Paula Rego War] 11. Showing us how it is Simon Blackburn [George Shaw This Sporting Life] 12. Paintings, photographs, titles Jerrold Levinson [George Shaw No Returns] 13. The laughter behind the painted smile Sondra Bacharach [Yue Minjun Untitled]. Index
Damien Freeman lectures on ethics and aesthetics at Pembroke College, Cambridge, UK and the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Australia. His books include Art’s Emotions: Ethics, Expression and Aesthetic Experience (2012).
Derek Matravers is Professor of Philosophy at The Open University, UK and his books include Introducing Philosophy of Art (2012), and Fiction and Narrative (2014).
"This collection of essays by leading philosophers stands out because of its focus on contemporary figurative (representational) art. Being freed from the strictures of an academic audience, Freeman and Matravers are able to engage with the works across a broad landscape of personal reflection and the histories of both art and philosophy. … The discussion of each work is beautifully and intimately framed and not always the focus of the essay. At times, the works serve as entrée to a larger cultural discussion. Perhaps this is the inherent nature of art - to point beyond the work itself to the placement of the individual in society. Summing Up: Highly recommended." - S. J. Shaw, CHOICE
"Art and philosophy have always been intertwined; but philosophers have often focused on a few well-known exemplars in particular genres. This unique book represents a new departure in philosophical writing about art. Leading philosophers talk illuminatingly about a striking range of contemporary paintings. The resulting discussions are original, provocative and will appeal to anyone with an interest in contemporary art and aesthetics. A wonderful book." - Tim Crane, University of Cambridge, UK