PRINT November 1971

Problems of Criticism X: Pictorial Space and the Question of Documentary

FROM THE VERY BEGINNING, a tone of expansive confidence infused modernist analysis, so that the ear could detect immediately the distance between this new esthetic theory and the old. For, at the heart of earlier esthetic argument, a note of worried imperative had always sounded—as though anxiety about trust were the price to pay for being the child of a broken philosophical home.

The different tone of modernism seemed to be a consequence of inhabiting a house of critical discourse built upon a rock of hard, irrefutable fact. And that fact had to do with the nature of pictorial space. Whether one took pictorial space as a function of perceptual or cultural givens, its role within the making and the viewing of art was clear, and from it one could derive a set of operable definitions. Arguments or judgments which began and ended with the nature of pictorial illusion were open to verification.

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