PRINT January 1974

A Phenomenological Approach to Artistic Intention


THE APPROACH IS TRIPARTITE, each part a stage transcending its predecessor: (1) artistic intention as the matter-of-fact ground of art, in the same way in which, as Husserl describes it, the “foundation of naive-objectivistic science” is something taken for granted;1 (2) the subjectivization of the perception of art through the deliberate introduction of a systematic doubt of the presumably self-evident objectivity of its ground—the doubt is designed to counteract the self-evidence—issuing in a phenomenological reduction of art, which, while it complicates the occupation of creating it with a preoccupation with its origin—at times the two exist in ironic interrelation, as in Duchamp—forces “the entrance” to a radical consciousness of art, to a critical consciousness of its foundation;2 (3) the reviewing, under the auspices of the phenomenological epoché of artistic intention as “that ultimate originality which, once apparent, apodictically masters the will” to create art.3 The naiveté of the Dadas, the frustrations of Max Kozloff in his essay on “Critical Schizophrenia and the Intentionalist Method,” and the hybris of Barnett Newman will serve as exemplars of each stage.

A brief word about phenomenology: it is premised on the intuition that all that is given is “intended,” i.e., constituted, if not exclusively, by consciousness. Its aim is to uncover the constitutive consciousness of any phenomenon by transcending, through doubt, the “natural attitude” to it, which takes its experience naively and unquestioningly. Such doubt, epitomized by the epochê or phenomenological reduction, renders intuitable the characteristic constitutive consciousness as the meaning of the experience of the phenomenon.4 Put another way, epoché grounds the transcendence which “guarantees a style of consciousness” which, in turn, guarantees a meaning to experience.5 Ultimately, “phenomenological disconnexion” or transcendental doubt is the self-reflexive activity of consciousness in pursuit of its own style of being, i.e., subjectivity in pursuit of its own essence.6 The short-term justification for the phenomenological method of suspending naive involvement with things, or doubting the matter-of-factness, the face value, of their givenness, so as to take consciousness of them as a field of investigation in its own right, as a “region of Being” which can be formally known, is its analytic power in ontological uncovering, its value as the medium for the revelation of existential import, as in Heidegger’s Being and Time. It is in this sense the climax of a tradition of thinking about method formally beginning with the Platonic theory of contemplation, given new import by Cartesian doubt and the Copernican Revolution of Kant, and self-conscious sophistication and epitomization in Husserl’s theory of intuition. The long-term justification for the phenomenological method is essentially humanistic: “The attempt to doubt everything has its place in the realm of our perfect freedom.”7

Modernist art, from the time “Manet’s paintings became the first Modernist ones by virtue of the frankness with which they declared the surfaces on which they were painted,”8 i.e., from the time Manet turned our attention from the world of his art to the consciousness of his method, has an unwitting phenomenological import. Greenberg’s sense of modernism as art’s self-critical reduction of its medium to essentials is a first formulation of this import. It stops short of recognizing that art’s attempt at self-definition—as impossible from within art as from without it9—implies its uncertainty about the nature of its own ground, i.e., its self-reflexive awareness of its own doubtfulness. Greenberg’s concentration on what is “unique to the nature of its medium” obscures the full import of this uncertainty by conceiving it to be an essentially quixotic quest for utopian purity, in the same sense in which modernist science is, from a phenomenological point of view, an impossible pursuit of precision.10 Greenberg’s quest for the grail of self-certainty fails not simply because it is false from the start, but because it is facile in its method. It handicaps the uncovering of uncertainty as a necessary if not sufficient condition for creation by giving art a historically readymade goal. In practice, purification of the medium amounts to an infinite regress of artistic form, until artistic form becomes tautologously self-identical with the artistic object. So long as this tendency toward a tautologous self-definition of art is in force, the artistic object can be said to exist in a novel mode of natural givenness. The naiveté with which it is taken to be simply its own form amounts to a taboo to thinking about it, to reflecting on its ground rather than assuming, as Frank Stella puts it, that “what you see is what you see.”11 Thinking about it is to move from perceiving it to conceiving it, and not, as Stella thinks, categorically conceiving it in terms of the “old,” “humanistic values,”12 i.e., deliberately interpreting it in terms of an obsolete Weltanschauung. On the contrary, it is to reflect on it more radically than in any way. Greenberg and Stella can conceive, in a way which shows that their own approach is preconceived and obsolete. For, truly to think about the artistic object is to recognize that even to conceive it exclusively in terms of perceived forms is to put a naively a priori value on it. Thinking about the artistic object means to recognize that the immediate objectivity of its forms no more exhausts its meaning than the tendentious subjectivity which attributes values to it exhausts its experiential impact. Thinking about the artistic object means to recognize that no values can be assumed to be exclusively essential to art, i.e., to constitute it in and of themselves. Thinking about the artistic object means to take it without presuppositions, to doubt any kind of matter-of-fact meaning attributed to it, including properties without which it is thought to be incapable of existing.

Only such a thoroughgoing transcendence of conventional interpretative and formalist grounding of art can uncover the essential uncertainty with which it views itself. Modernist self-doubt, obscured as much by a humanist as a purist approach to art, is perhaps most obscured by a historical approach_ For its combination of positivism with a doctrine of historical necessity precludes from the beginning, as absurd and gratuitous, any, as Duchamp puts it, “philosophical outlook” on art, any “notion of freedom” that might be found in it.13 However, no matter how much art regards itself as, in one way or another, “the kind of experience . . . not to be obtained from any other kind of activity,” an experience privileged to be “valuable [only] in its own right,” it can never be self-validating, not only for reasons essential to its self-constitution, but because whatever it is ontologically, it is ontically constitutive of the life-world, like any other human experience. Thus, Greenberg falsely defines modernist art, for art per se is never sufficient unto itself, i.e., it is unable to sustain stylistic uniqueness, and because Greenberg almost entirely ignores the issue of its world-signification. It may be that modernist art is not as conscious of its condition in the world as traditional art, nor as certain as to how it wishes to be experienced in general, let alone as to how it becomes constitutive of individual experience. This may explain the compulsive, not to speak of defensive, quality in its need to define itself, but such unconsciousness, or perhaps refusal of consciousness, if made into another presupposition explaining its stylistic involutedness, becomes another means of hindering the uncovering of its ultimate uncertainty.

Correlate with this immanent uncertainty, Steinberg has uncovered the uncertainty—the “plight”—of art’s public, much as, as will be shown in the amplification of the second stage of the phenomenological approach, Kozloff has uncovered the uncertainty of art critics: “the shock of discomfort, or the bewilderment or the anger or the boredom which some people always feel, and all people sometimes feel, when confronted with an unfamiliar new style.”14 Steinberg mitigates this plight by showing that the implicit involvement of modernist art in the life-world can be made explicit by an investigation of values. However, in doing so Steinberg resists his own inclination to believe that the “destruction of values” he finds in modernist art is arbitrary. He acknowledges his inclination in his assertion that the reasons for the destruction are “rarely made clear,” but then he all too quickly and categorically—and conventionally and fashionably—finds a reason why “modern art always projects itself into a twilight zone where no values are fixed” in “anxiety.” But Steinberg takes such anxiety less as an existential structure, in the manner of Heidegger, than as a novel source of vital artistic experience. As the last pages of Steinberg’s essay make clear, Cézanne’s anxiety, as Picasso conceived it, is a blessing in disguise, for it energizes the viewer as well as the artist. Steinberg demonstrates that anxiety can be as useful a source of creativity for the critic as it is for the artist. How such anxiety might be constitutive of modernist self-doubt is uncertain in Steinberg, other than the fact that it makes the self-doubt self-evident.

In Greenberg and Steinberg what originate as investigatory gambits into modernist art culminate in elitist experiences of, respectively, its formal properties and value implications. Modernist self-doubt—particularly pervasive in its avant-garde disguise of confidence15—is recognized but resolved, suffered but rationalized. There is a facile air about the way this is done in Greenberg and Steinberg—about the way purity and crisis of values are spoken of—which leads one to suspect that they are ritually avoiding16 some aspect of it, in particular, the resentment, or as Max Scheler calls it, the ressentiment which is the most powerful manifestation of modernist self-doubt. It is this ressentiment, to be discussed in the context of our analysis of Kozloff’s response to it, that has forced the discussion of the possibility of art in recent esthetics. Since its inception, the New York School has been grounded on gesture, the fine art/popular culture continuum, information theory, and now the photograph’s view of reality, and to the extent that art seems inaccessible at its root, if only through the sheer variety of grounds on which it is postulated, its existence per se becomes suspect, consciousness of it is tinged with doubt of its reality. This doubt need not have as its basis any desire to regress to an earlier sense of art, only a sense of immediate confusion as to the approach to contemporaneous art. No doubt experientially such variety and confusion indicate vitality and richness of possibilities. But from the perspective of a consciousness determined to be clear to itself, and so to be free in the face of things, including artistic objects, the variety is simply incoherence, naively pluralistic. This pluralism, which assumes that every artist, if not artistic object, has his own position, objectifies if not fetishizes uncertainty about the nature of the ground of art. From a Marxist point of view, the mutual exclusiveness of positions permeating the artistic plurality17 indicates decadent bankruptcy, the loss of all dialectical direction. To conceive of plurality as comprehensiveness—to accept a totality without a unifying logic—and to use forced naiveté and deliberate indifference—there is not much to choose between the two—to disguise the assertion that unity is unnecessary, is for the Marxist to postulate the arbitrariness of art, an arbitrariness which is not grounded subjectively, as for Steinberg, on anxiety, but objectively on bourgeois false consciousness of art, viz., its use “to flatten and harmonize (irreconcilable social) opposites.”18 In any case, the naiveté and indifference cannot be tolerated by the critic, giving way, as in Steinberg and Kozloff, to “anxiety,” to an ambiguous “death wish” toward artists. The apparent arbitrariness of art, this side effect of ressentiment increases the more art tries to be an autonomous form and is fought by a search for sincerity, in and of itself thought to be capable of transcending consciousness of uncertainty, if only by refusing to take the arbitrariness at face value, but rather as a sign of “need.” The need for a self-grounding of art becomes self-evident, if not self-evidently realizable.

The problem does not stop there for the Marxist, who conceives what Alloway calls the art “network”19 to be a system for the distribution of bourgeois art commodities, modeled on a general capitalistic system in that it is class-oriented and its goods relatively limited in number, compensated for by their technical reproduction through the mass media, i.e., turned into an inferior product and marketed to less privileged classes in lieu of proper ownership. Thus, artistic plurality is an idealistic way of speaking of bourgeois commodities, disguising an ideology based on the principle of the “self-confirmation of the [art] commodity and its value.”20 The ontological way of taking contemporary pluralism simply confirms the successful integration of recently produced artistic objects into the commodity market. The “plight” of the critic and public is no more than the lingering uncertainty of the consumer about the inherent value of the contemporary art commodity, an uncertainty conditioned by the fact that the supposedly inherent value which art must have if it is to be marketed successfully is usually determined by its appropriation through false consciousness, e.g., by being regarded as “universal,” and so its achieving longevity, rather than, as in the case of most other commodities, the work which made them and their immediate use.

An argument can also be made for the opposite point of view. It can be held that the currently high value of gestural painting as a commodity, shown by the recent sale of Jackson Pollock’s Blue Poles, 1952, to the National Gallery of Australia for $2,000,000, has to do with the obviously extensive amount of work that has been put into it. Traces of the painter’s process—his work—become important even at the most.elementary stage of acceptance of the work, as in the anecdote relating Jasper Johns’ response to a woman who had questioned the validity as art of his “Ballantine beer cans” (Painted Bronze, 1960) recently sold at auction for $90,000. Johns answered that he had worked hard on them, which made the woman happy to accept them as artistic objects. Similarly, the apparent slowness with which the photo-Realists work, producing about eight to nine pictures a year, helps the public to accept them as artists. The amount of work, conceived in a Hegelian if not strictly Marxian sense, which an artist puts into a work becomes crucial if not ultimate in the determination of its commodity value.

However, from a phenomenological point of view, the art network’s confirmation of the artistic object in its commodity value is another demonstration of modernist self-doubt and the modern spectator’s self-doubt. So eager is he to overcome self-doubt in all its manifestations—and what better way than to give an ideological answer to it?—that he fetishizes the doubtful artistic object into a readily consumable commodity. Simply by conceiving it as a commodity he guarantees its certainty of being as well as its eventual appropriation. However, this bourgeois way of understanding the doubtful artistic object is the supremely arbitrary approach to it, and is indicative in the last analysis of a complete uncertainty about the nature of the artistic object. This uncertainty is so consummate it can as little be disguised as the creation of the art commodity for consumption can be denied. When the artistic object is explicitly declared or subtly allowed to be taken as the bourgeois commodity par excellence, then its inadequacy as art has become innate. The more completely it is taken as a commodity the less completely can it be taken as art, whatever that might mean. It has been so fetishized in compensation for the uncertainty with which it is experienced, as well as the gratuitousness with which it is thought to be grounded, that to preserve some sense of its significance a false essence is willingly if not willfully attributed to it. But this essence, its commodity value, i.e., its value as consumable, is more easily transcended, if only because more obvious, than its form or its anxiety. For while they are terms in which art is to be conceived, however ambiguously, to conceive of art as the supreme commodity is to possess it so unequivocally, to experience it so completely as an ordinary object in a daily mode of being, that one is forced to doubt this kind of (bourgeois) experience of it, this kind of riskless taking of it, if one is to recognize its existence as art in any sense of the term.

I. The Natural Attitude to Artistic Intention

An illustration of the natural attitude to artistic intention, presupposing its self evidence of meaning, can be found in Philip Lieder’s writing.

The authority of Rosenberg’s position rests on its fidelity to the intentions of the artists,and it is perhaps because so many artists felt that his essay did indeed express their intentions, and that so much of the interested public at the time felt that the essay had caught the sense of what the artists were about that it has become so much more well-known than the essay which is in many senses its antagonist, Clement Greenberg’s 1955 “ ‘American-Type’ Painting.” Underlying Greenberg’s essay is a rather different set of assumptions. The intentions of the artist have little enough to do with the situation in which they find themselves. Whatever their reasons for making paintings, they must begin with the state of abstract art as they find it. The future may or may not understand the “zeitgeist” of the 1940s and the ’50s as Harold Rosenberg does, but it will certainly understand the main directions of 20th-century painting and the success or failure of the New York School, as any school, will depend on its relations to this direction.21

Apart from the issues raised by the comparison, for Leider the nature of. the intentions of the artists“ is as transparent as ”the situation in which they find themselves." These concepts are used in an implicitly Platonic way by Rosenberg and Greenberg, functioning formally to make given art intelligible. Both concept are assumed a priori, and from them these critics deduce artistic objects and preform artistic experience. These concepts do not emerge from the open horizon of artistic experience, but from settled attitudes toward the artist and art history. Briefly Rosenberg assumes that one can become an artist if one intends to be, and Greenberg assumes that art history has a linear clarity which forces every artistic objet into place, or discards as insignificant those that do not conform to this clarity.

Doubt about the validity of artistic intention as a source of art is exemplified by some artists themselves. Kaprow, for instance, explaining his use of the word “happenings,” remarks:

It was merely a neutral word that was part of a title of one of my projected ideas in 1958–59. . . . It conveys not only a neutral meaning of “event” or “occurrence,” but it implies something unforeseen, something casual, perhaps—unintended, undirected.22

This unintentional intention has a narcissistic flavor, Kaprow refusing as it were to signify the meaning of his intention so that it cannot be appropriated. His intention, self-styled casualness, assumes his monadic insularity, and disguises not only his lack of artistic direction, but his refusal of it for the sake of his own self-sufficiency. The Dadas were perhaps expert disclaimers of artistic intention in order to appear impervious, impenetrable. Gabrielle Buffet-Picabia insists, if somewhat one-sidedly, that Dada performances

were intended as nothing more than somewhat subversive amusements. I insist on the perfect gratuitousness of the “demonstrations,” which learned historians have represented as conscious and meaningful—in actual fact these demonstrations issued spontaneously from the most trivial circumstances and gestures.23

This refusal, on ideological grounds, of consciousness and meaning makes use of a mythical spontaneity,a soi-disant irrationality, to obscure its deliberateness. There is no doubt that the Dadas made contact with a primordial irrationality, but there is some doubt that they were able to exploit its possibilities. Ostensibly, the Dada aim is to preserve vitality by remaining immediate, by intending nothing more than what can be immediately demonstrated. However, the quasi-innocence of this attitude is as unself-enlightened as the bourgeois solemnity it is designed to counter- act. Its lack of seriousness is as matter-of-fact as bourgeois seriousness, which it may subvert, but which it cannot replace, for it lacks any self-knowledge on which to as art, whatever that might mean. It has been so fetishized in compensation for the ground a new attitude, a presumably freer and more human intentionality.

The Dadas, from our point of view, were not fighting the bourgeois, but the inevitable appropriation of artistic intention once it makes itself manifest in artistic objects. They refuse to work at art so as to keep their artistic intention inviolate. They demonstrate spontaneously so as not to objectify deliberately, hoping thereby to preserve the experienced intensity of their intentions. But the demonstrations themselves become works, separating from the artist’s experience of his own intentions, the naiveté with which he takes them, their naturalness to him. Buffet-Picabia, by insisting that others take the Dadas as they take themselves, is unwittingly insisting that others become artists, demonstrate their intentions without making them works in a world. Demonstrating with the Dadas, they will presumably discover their own spontaneity, cleansing their consciousness of its commitments to a serious, objectified world.

However, this spontaneity is self-ignorant to the extent it assumes that its manifestations can never be comprehended. The moment they appear, they acquire reality, however perplexing. However much it outruns its demonstration, the refusal to understand that artistic intention is still knowable the moment it demonstrates masks a deeper refusal to recognize the uncertainty of its ground, correlate with the uncertainty of its objectification. That is, a refusal to be pinned down to any specific intention. Dadaist spontaneity is simply the exteriorization of this subjective uncertainty, the objectification of the groundlessness or uncertainty of ground or simply refusal to ground art. In Dadaism, artistic intention is unclear to itself, and so perpetually spontaneous, demonstrating, rather than working deliberately to control its inevitable objectification. However, Dadaism does not understand its own uncertainty, which is why it insists on the gratuitousness of its spontaneity and the triviality of its occasion, why it argues for an objective rather than subjective irrationality. It is also why the Dadaists succumbed to Surrealism, why Breton rather than Tzara carried the day. For the inevitable effect of unconsciousness of the ground of activity, of one’s refusal to investigate one’s involvements, to give them a meaning, is not any to dissipate the intention that grounded them, but to preconceive this intention. Breton dogmatically grounded Dadaist spontaneity on a Surrealist version of the unconscious, making the unconscious as autocratic spontaneity was antiauthoritarian, as self-righteous and self-important as Dadaist spontaneity was casual and whimsical. The unconscious could be so dogmatically rigid because Dadaist spontaneity had never understood itself as a disguise of uncertainty. By ideologizing spontaneity the Dadas prepared the way for the Surrealists who knew unconscious intention not only unequivocally but tyrannically.

The Dadas and Surrealist; comprehended the nature of artistic intention only enough to keep themselves “creative,” i.e., the ground, whether spontaneity or the unconscious, was taken for granted by them so long as it could keep them “demonstrating.” As Goldwater remarks, Dadaist nihilism was more instrumental than fundamental,24 or as Arp wrote, its spirit of negation was designed to ferment the future,25 to gain entry into the promised land of creativity.26 Its aim was, in a sense, conventional: to find a contemporary justification for creativity, rather than rely on traditional justifications. In this sense it cannot be said to be an investigation into the inherent nature of artistic intention, but simply another example of the anxious solipsism of artists concerned only to remain productively potent, perhaps most typified by Duchamp, whose notion that anything is art if an artist sufficiency. The Dadas were perhaps expert disclaimers of artistic intention in order says it is27 avoids such an investigation altogether. While Duchamp seemed intensely aware of the doubtfulness of the whole artistic experience and specifically of the uncertainty of the ground of art, epitomized in his willingness to accept the judgment of history as to the value of given works,28 in effect he offers an updated, more sophisticated version of a traditional conception of artistic intention, viz., creation ex nihilo. Much as Michelangelo’s Adam awaits God’s touch to be awakened to consciousness of his own life, so ordinary objects await Duchamp’s attitude to them to be awakened to the fact that they are art. While substance must be given spirit by the divine’ artist, the conception of creation ex nihilo is ultimately arbitrary, for it postulates no reason why the artist has spirit other than the assumption that he is divine. God seems to have created the world only to admire His handiwork, and Duchamp seems to have created art only to admire his intention to do so. But where God’s creation issued in a world, Duchamp’s issued narcissistically in his own attitude.

Thus, the Dadas circle back naively to artistic intention as the origin of art, postulating it as a necessary and almost sufficient condition for art. But they tell us nothing about it, simply pointing to it, to create a novel non finito. They “demonstrate” it but do not deliberately incarnate it, assuming thereby that it keeps its “integrity,” and is never irrecoverable from its “objects.” For the Dadas, artistic intention—the naive impulse to be artistic—is immortal and unconscious, while its objectification is immediate and transient. Any attempt to render it immortal, to work at it consciously, is for the Dadas to conceive art in a bourgeois way. Their desperate desire not to be bourgeois is the clue to the edge of uncertainty which taints and taunts their intentions, a clue which unfortunately they could not follow. In effect, they could not read the handwriting they themselves wrote on the wall in the temple of art.

II. The Epoché of Modernist Art

Max Kozloff, in his essay on “Critical Schizophrenia and the intentionalist Method,” attempts to follow the clue to the bitter end, to read the handwriting on the wall.29 Unfortunately, in the end the believes its message is mistaken, and so misses the import of the fact that it exists in the first place. Unlike St. John who wrote the Apocalypse, Kozloff does not think that the message he, as an art critic, is forced to swallow by the “divine” works of art which communicate it, is finally all that bitter. Kozloff’s importance to us lies in his more powerful grasp of artistic intention than the Dadas, although he fails to become fully conscious of it. Also, he is important because he is conscious of the uncertainty of modernist artistic intention, and because he ultimately does not know what to make of it. After attempting to formulate an intentionalist method, he regresses, as he acknowledges, to the conventional methods of formalist and evocative criticism. His failure is at the core of his value to us, but what is most important about his essay is its articulation of the experience of modernist art which in the first place led him to attempt to come to grips with, let alone become aware of, its intentions.

Kozloff’s experience has two aspects, on the one hand having to do with the’ character of contemporary criticism (mid-’60s), which, to say the least, he finds ambiguous; and on the other hand the state of contemporary art, which he finds “provocative.” As to contemporary criticism, there seem to be “two streams: on one hand, faithfulness to the optical data, a fidelity both descriptive and analytic and on the other, of evocative or poetic judgment, chafing to find ‘content’s sometimes cued by visual fact, but not necessarily.” Despite their mutual exclusiveness (an indication of their elitist or what Kozloff calls their moralistic character) they both have an “inability to see the ‘otherness’ of the work—that is, its distinctness as a product separate from their own systems or ideologies.” This became troublesome when a “new art—Pop, and its various equivalents in abstraction,” appeared, for the new style made it clear that “the then-going critical apparatus,” equipped to analyze Abstract Expressionist art, was inadequate, or severely limited in its approach to the new art. But more directly to the point of Kozloff’s search for an intentionalist method is his assertion:

that the important relation in a work of art is not between two or more forms on a surface, but between itself as a complex event and the spectator. A paradox of abstractionist theory is that it imposes “apartness” on the work of art rather than allowing us to discover it personally for ourselves.

Frank Stella’s work points up a further paradox of this “apartness”: “But Stella demonstrates, I think, that the more reductionist the visual material, the more conceptual is its nature. Far from becoming physically provocative it becomes rhetorically provocative.” However, Kozloff finds that his own rhetoric falls short of comprehending the conceptual aspects of such reductionist work, not because they are inherently difficult, but because they are protected, as it were, or almost hidden by what Kozloff calls a “Warholistic” attitude. Not only is this attitude designed to throw the critic off the scent of the art, but to invalidate any critical or conceptual approach to it, indeed, perhaps any deliberate and systematic approach to art. Warholism wishes to mute the full experiential implications of artistic experience, to prevent the uncovering or at least neutralize any deeper implications, any implications beyond the art itself. Above all, it ’insists that art be taken impersonally, in a sense trivializing the interaction between the art and the spectator. Warholism can be said to make the relationship between art and spectator as artificially naive as Dadaism made the attitude to artistic intention artificially naive. Kozloff identifies this “pervasive habit of painters and sculptors of suppressing moral values inherent in objects and sensations” with “anti humanism,” and admits the inadequacy of conventional “art commentary,” attuned to the artist’s irrationality, to handle this new irrationalism. “If there was once a discomfort before all the immeasurable, intangible aspects of art, there is now an equal displeasure or reluctance to deal with an artistic dialectic that demands logical examination.”

Kozloff comes to his abortive attempt to develop a “new (intentionalist) method in criticism” by way of response to the “antihumanist development” and “aggression by artists.” The “intransigent avant-garde” can be overcome not by an esthetically reactionary criticism which attempts to restore the traditional distinction between beauty and ugliness, long ago obscured if not obviated by modernism, but by a moralistically revolutionary criticism which attempts to restore the existential distinction between “the indifferent and committed,” which has been blurred by Warholism. To recover this distinction— falsified by Kozloff from the start by being regarded as equivalent to the distinction between “good and bad,” i.e., by being conceived not in terms of an existential search for an authentic artistic project but in terms of daily judgments of quality and value—Kozloff argues that: “what we are able to say about the processes and intentions of that work as they affect our experiences or change our world is more relevant, perhaps in the end more important, than our judgment of that work.” This “dialectic” with artistic intention is: “the only natural (and perhaps the inevitable)—defense of the critic against the relatively amoral strategy of the artist.”

Kozloff, however, has no clear way of determining “the processes and intentions,” i.e., the implicit “moral” implications, of the work, and he is fully aware of the methodological objections to the search for intention, codified under the rubric “intentional fallacy,” offered by Wimsatt and Beardsley in The Verbal Icon. He undertakes the search for intention more on emotional than intellectual grounds, partly accounting for his inability to understand the logic of intentionality: “the literary critics do not have an intransigent avant-garde and are not faced with a new kind of antihuman ism in their field.” Kozloff’s formulation of intentionality is, to say the least, hesitant, and to say the most, totally inadequate. Kozloff acknowledges this, at the time of the reprinting of the essay in his anthology. He not only blames himself for disposing of “the notion of ‘intention’ too readily in view of its weighty position” in his essay, but dismisses it completely. He blames his failure to make much of the concept on its inherent difficulties rather than on himself: “One rarely has the proper amount of ‘evidence’—it is either too much or too little—to be satisfied with, or even to be at ease with, intentionalism as part of a critical method.” For whatever reason, Kozloff does well to dismiss his intentionalist method, for it amounts, as he writes, to no spore than a way of “superseding formalist and evocative criticism, while feeling free to take advantage of both,” and “in fact, becoming a compound of both.” It is thus nothing in itself, but a bastard born of conventional methods. The furthest Kozloff goes toward an independent statement—of formalist and evocative methods—of an intentionalist method is the following:

Essentially, though, what one does is to examine the physical execution of a work and all its complexities as they lead to some awareness of the organizing concept. And this in turn is based upon a visual response that constantly tests itself. The most useful way of seeing how this operates is by observing or examining perennial oppositions within works of art. How, for instance, does one determine whether what one sees are contrasts, deliberate oppositions, dramatic tensions, clever paradoxes, or just plain inconsistencies and contradictions? To ask this question—and I do not see how it can be avoided—is to inquire of intention.

Kozloff’s question is to the point, but he finds no way of answering it, of determining intention, because he asks it of the work and not of himself. He expects the work to tell him whether “what one sees are contrasts, deliberate oppositions, dramatic tensions, clever paradoxes, or just plain inconsistencies and contradictions,” but the import of Warholism is that the modernist work affords, in and of itself, no clues which could make such a distinction clear, and make it binding. This is because, as Kozloff notes, it is essentially a distinction between the committed and the indifferent, the deliberate and the arbitrary. The critic himself must make the distinction by determining his own commitment to the work, or more simply, because the “contrasts, deliberate oppositions, dramatic tensions, clever paradoxes, or just plain inconsistencies and contradictions” are part of “what one [he] sees.” They are part of his style of seeing and his consciousness of art, signifying his intention toward it. Thus, the critic must become conscious of his own consciousness of art if he is to determine the commitment of its own consciousness of itself. Kozloff, in fact, is not searching for the work’s “organizing concept” but his own, as Sontag puts it, “organizing sensibility.”“ The issue is not that the critic is threatened by Warholism as a critic, but that he is threatened, through his sensibility, as a self-identifiable integral human being. The Warhol work is amoral because it makes no appeal to a preconceived sensibility, and so to a sedimented identity—it makes no appeal to the spectator’s own sense of his intentions. Kozloff is left in the lurch by Warhol works because, in fact, they have no clear ”organizing concept or integrity," i.e., they exist precisely in terms of the uncertainties and ambiguities of Kozloff’s question. Thus, they not only put the immediate burden of the work on the critic, but they force him back on himself, necessitate his becoming conscious of his attitude to the work, and perhaps of his fundamental attitude to art per se.

Kozloff errs in thinking Warholism amoral. It puts the spectator in the most “moral” position imaginable for him, one in which he can no longer take for granted that he is seeing and attending to “art” let alone that there is a unique logic—an unequivocal “organizing concept”—to its execution. It is possible that the Warhol artist is amoral toward himself in creating such a work, much as the Dadaist can be said to be amoral toward himself in insisting that he is creating no work. That is, both avoid confrontation with their own sensibility, both blind themselves to their own intentionality, perhaps their own uncertainty, by their deliberate indifference to the implications of their own “demonstrations.” But the Warhol artist does the critic a moral and existential favor by radically forcing him back upon himself by way of forcing him back upon his intentional consciousness of art, by way of forcing him to determine what attitudes he brings to his seeing. Kozloff cannot sustain this radicality for long: he recommits himself to the standbys of everyday art criticism, viz., formalist and evocative methods. That is, he regresses to superficial self-consciousness and superficial consciousness of art, no longer taking either intentionally. At face value the work’s form is indicative of its intention, and at face valuethe poetry evoked by the work adequately summarizes the dialectic between it and himself, between its “processes and intentions” and his own. In practice, historical awareness is essential to both methods, for history is the objective substitute for radical intentionality. In essence, Kozloff becomes as amoral as Warhol ism, because he refuses the search for his own intentionality, puts aside the self-encounter that the Warhol work provoked.

Formalist and evocative criticism can be justified, but not in any terms Kozloff offers. The formalist method of descriptive analysis is ultimately comprehensible not positivistically but in the context of an investigation of the “social physiognomy” of the work, as Adorno has shown.31 The evocative method is ultimately comprehensible not as poetry but in the context of an investigation of the analogues which constitute the unreal object which the work is,32 as well as in the context of an investigation of the kind of world implicitly projected by the work, as Sartre has shown.33 Both methods investigate the work’s world-signification, i.e., comprehend its intentionality as a kind of being-in-the-world. Kozloff does not touch upon this crucial intentionalist dimension to formalist and evocative criticism, which is in fact their core, but naively conceives them to be in effect the objective and subjective sides of the same artistic experience.

One reason Kozloff cannot formulate a truly intentionalist method is that he is obsessed with the artist’s antihumanism; it becomes a stumbling block to any methodological originality. Kozloff does not recognize it as a form of ressentiment, nor does he realize that his own struggle with it, and eventual retreat to conventional criticism, is part of his attempt to transcend his own tendency toward ressentiment, in response to the artist’s. Kozloff’s avoidance of the temptation to ressentiment is successful to the extent that he does not devalue his “artistic dialectic,” i.e., his consciousness of the work’s effect on him, his consciousness of taking it in a personal way. Ressentiment is the result of the apparently permanent uncertainty of the ground of personal being, individual uncertainty about raison d’être. The sufferer of such uncertainty can become perversely dependent on those who do not experience it, who possess not only self-certainty, but the clarity of values and definiteness of intention—determinate style of consciousness—which are consequent upon it. The “perversity” shows itself in the projection of antithetical values, specifically created not only to make uncertainty more tolerable but to undermine certainty, to subvert firmness and rationality, to destroy self-possession.

Ressentiment was uncovered by Nietzsche, and examined extensively by Scheler, in part to disprove Nietzsche’s demonstration of Christian ressentiment. For Nietzsche, ressentiment triumphs when it produces values of its own rather than perversely attacking the values of others. It completely inverts life-values, declaring: “impotence, inability to retaliate, is to become ‘goodness’; timorous lowliness becomes ‘humility’; submission to those whom one hates is ‘obedience’ (obedience toward one of whom they say that he decrees this submission,—they call him God.”34

As Scheler says,

Ressentiment is a self-poisoning of the mind which has quite definite causes and consequences. It is a lasting mental attitude, caused by the systematic repression of certain emotions and affects which, as such, are normal components of human nature. Their repression leads to the constant tendency to indulge in certain kinds of value delusions and corresponding value judgments. The emotions and affects primarily concerned are revenge, hatred; malice, envy, the impulse to detract, and spite.

Finally, Scheler remarks that “thirst for revenge is the most important source of ressentiment.” There is one aspect of Scheler’s analysis of ressentiment which is particularly appropriate to the antihuman ism Kozloff detects in artists. Scheler notes: “Through its very origin, ressentiment is therefore chiefly confined to those who serve and are dominated at the moment, who fruitlessly resent the sting of authority.” The critic, against whom Kozloff feels Warholism is specifically directed, is the authority—symbol of the art “network”—the artist most tangibly encounters. He is the more or less direct—immediate—agent of the authority which has the power to judge and value the artist’s work. Today, he seems to have the power the patron once had—to validate the artist—and as such he becomes a symbol of social fatality. Scheler again is helpful in comprehending the artist’s amoralism toward the critic:

We must add the fact that revenge tends to be transformed into ressentiment the more it is directed against lasting situations which are felt to be “injurious” but beyond one’s control—in other words, the more the injury is experienced as a destiny. This will be most pronounced when a person or group feels that the very fact and quality of its existence is a matter which calls for revenge.

Without a doubt one element in the artist’s antihumanism—his inhuman attitude to the critic is that he “feels that the very fact and quality” of his existence is determined by the critic, as the prophet, if not more, of the historian and the art “network.” His revenge—Warholism—is in effect to become countercritical:

The more a permanent social pressure is felt to be a “fatality,” the less it can free forces for the practical transformation of these conditions, and the more it will lead to indiscriminate criticism without any positive aims. This peculiar kind of “ressentiment criticism” is characterized by the fact that improvements in the conditions criticized cause no satisfaction—they merely cause discontent, for they destroy the growing pleasure afforded by invective and negation.

Ressentiment criticism in art formally began with the Dadas, and despite the increase in receptivity to and acclaim for art, despite the expansion of its public through the mass media, ressentiment criticism has accelerated violently in Warholism. Ressentiment criticism in art has two basic forms, both experienced by Kozloff: (1) the artist refuses to organize a work according to a basic concept, allowing it to clearly and distinctly manifest the concept, at least after analysis—put simply, the artist refuses to make his work self-consistent or of a piece; and (2) the artist refuses to allow the critic to organize his sensibility with respect to the work, as well as in any way to “correspond” to it, i.e., the artist does not simply refuse to allow the critic to respond to and appropriate the work, intellectually or by other means, but, more radically and ad hominem, refuses to allow the critic any personal pleasure from the work, making experience of it instead painful and discomforting, as Steinberg and Kozloff have complained. This double refusal, of principle and of pleasure, removes the most conventionally elementary objective and subjective underpinnings from artistic experience. The artist’s revenge is complete to the extent that he confuses the critic about the nature of art and his (the critic’s) own nature, i.e., to the extent that both become uncertain and so undermined. Thus, the artist creates invective and negation, as in Conceptual art—that is work enough. He has foiled the “fatality” of the art “network” with the fatality of his symbolic negation of it, epitomized by his “sacrifice” of the critic. In transcending it by purifying it he may have transcended—eliminated—himself, or at least any ultimate need for himself in the “network.” In purging himself, apart from what might happen to the art “network,” what has he left of his artistic intention? Barnett Newman will give us the answer.

However, before turning to Newman, one must note that the critic’s defense against Warholism and ressentiment criticism of art is (1) to become, ironically, its reputable propagandist to the extent that he becomes its elitist censor, earning for it social acceptance as “anti-art”;35 or (2) to use it to the advantage of his own sensibility by means of a “negative dialectic” wherein the artist’s negativity is assimilated by the critic as a weapon in his own struggle against false consciousness, which attempts to blur social conflict. This blends opposites into trivial contrasts, thus effecting an illusion of social harmony.36 If the critic, like Adorno, turns to art for a marginal freedom, acknowledging that freedom begins in sensibility,37 then the artist’s negativity, which intends to unify society ironically by leveling it through the creation of a universal uncertainty, can be reconceived by the critic as a personal if last-ditch symbol of what the artist’s negativity might once have been, viz., refusal of social reconciliation, of false consciousness. Sartre cited such refusal in his refusal of the Nobel Prize,38 and Adorno has attacked Lukacs’ “extorted reconciliation.” In attacking the critic the artist shows his naiveté, his inability to see beyond the demands of his presumably imperious creativity. He can no longer encompass the larger object of his criticism, and he no longer can use his criticism to his human—but rather only to his dubiously artistic—advantage. He does not comprehend his negativity as potential if not actual freedom, as Sartre and Adorno do, and as a truly personal critic can: he does not understand it as grounding his relationship to the world in general as well as the art “network” in particular.

Thus, what the artist cannot do, the critic must: the modernist critic must become conscious of his intentionality in and for itself, not simply as it relates to art. He must achieve a more open horizon of life within art, and a more autonomous attitude to society. He must not, in the end, reduce Warholism to another wrinkle in the art game, another artistic strategy, as Kozloff reactionarily does. Instead, he must understand that it affords an unexpected opportunity for a more telling consciousness, and that perhaps it indicates art’s own call to be rescued from itself for the sake of life. The critic must explore Warholism’s hermetic amoralism by appropriating its negativity for his personal freedom, using it to clear the ground of his consciousness and uncover his humanity.

III. Apodictic Artistic Intentionality

Barnett Newman was certain of the ground of his art, as is evidenced by the ontological status he gives artistic intention and the ontic character he attributes to artistic objects. Artistic intention stands to artistic objects for him as for Heidegger Being stands to the beings that reveal it. Thus, Newman can unequivocally assert that “the artist’s intention is what gives a specific thing form,”40 and again, “the question of clarity is one of intention.”41 The apodictic character of artistic intention for Newman is all the more evident in its qualification as a “feeling of exaltation,”42 for such a feeling is for Newman an essence in and for itself, what Husserl calls an “invariant general style” of consciousness,43 and as such absolute. This essence exists disguised in ordinary beauty, from which Newman believes it can be recovered by abstraction. Newman is unquestionably phenomenological in his approach to art, for he transcends to its essential intentionality by doubting its objects, he qualifies its essence by suspending involvement with its manifestations. Thus, the “sense of exaltation” which is obscured by “perfect form” can be recovered from it by doubting its validity, its ability to ground itself, much as, in general for Newman, the “ecstasy” of “ideal sensibility” is recoverable from the “objective rhetoric” of “perfect statement.” Essential exaltation must be recovered from existing beauty and essential ecstasy from objective form in order that the formless form which is the proper object of sensibility become manifest in and for itself, i.e., as a phenomenon, integral so far as it is intuitable, and the ultimate reality in artistic experience. Through his abstraction Newman declares its original unity of being, its unity for consciousness and its unity as consciousness. It exists as the artist’s “metaphysics (his exaltation)” rather than as the artistic object’s “geometry (perfection).”

This exchange of priorities, with artistic intention usurping the ultimacy traditionally reserved for the artistic object, with the facticity of art replaced in significance by the intention to art, is archetypically phenomenological. What Newman calls “the sublime” is in fact a form of epoché, the phenomenological reduction which suspends involvement with the familiar “things” of art to unmask their transcendental determination, i.e., to uncover the consciousness which helps constitute their characteristic givenness, which shapes our experience of them. The characteristic “exaltation” or “ecstasy” of this consciousness for Newman, its specific existence as transcendent feeling, and its power of reconceiving spontaneity as ego, conforms to Husserl’s conception of the transcendental ego as projecting its self-possession into experience, which becomes meaningful or shaped to the extent it is transcendentally “felt.”44 Newman is even more profoundly phenomenological: the character he attributes to the “perfect statements” of art corresponds to the character Husserl attributes to “fictions,” viz., to serve as the basic method of uncovering original intentionality.45

Hans Hofmann makes a distinction between “form in a physical sense” and “form in an aesthetical sense” which resembles Newman’s distinction between “geometry” and “metaphysics” or “statement” and “ecstasy,” a distinction which in fact can be shown to dominate the thinking of many modernist artists: “We must always distinguish between form in a physical sense (nature) and form in an aesthetical sense (the form of the work itself as a creation of the mind).46 Newman shows a profounder penetration of artistic intention, for he understands “form in an aesthetical sense” to transcend the aesthetic and become pure exaltation of being, an ecstasy which uses “the mind” as its will. Also, Newman’s sublime epoché reveals intentionality, symbolized by the formless form, apart from the form of the work, i.e., apart from any exclusively artistic experience, or rather, artistic experience is conceived by Newman as so peculiarly exalted a state of consciousness that it discovers essential human intentionality, or at least the human tie to the infinite, in its purity, without any need to finitize itself in form.

Where Kozloff observes amoralistic artistic intention, Newman can be said to overmoralize artistic intention. Absolute artistic intention becomes a partisan position for Newman, no doubt essential if it is to lose its hermetic appeal and become the basis for experiencable art, i.e., ground a particular product, yet at the same time it becomes so dogmatically self-revelatory for Newman that it seems to stifle its own possibilities for experiential involvement. In effect, it tends to become irresolutely inwardly dialectical. “The question that now arises is how, if we are living in a time without a legend or mythos that can be called sublime, if we refuse to admit any exaltation in pure relations, if we refuse to live in the abstract, how can we be creating a sublime art?” Abstractly, Newman’s problem is how the “natural desire for the exalted,” for “absolute emotions,” is to be embodied in pictures which, despite the fact that their nature is self-contradictory—they are experienced facts as well as symbols of an exalted consciousness—nonetheless contain and directly communicate the “sublime message.” The paradox of this position can superficially be blamed on the times, which lack “a legend or mythos that can be called sublime.” But in the last analysis Newman has no desire to embody his sense of the sublime—his exaltation and ecstasy—in artistic objects, on the metaphysical ground that any such embodiment loses as much as it gains. It ultimately spoils; as Newman notes, Renaissance, Baroque, and Impressionist forms inevitably lost their evocative power, their numinous communication. They dutifully became beautiful and of merely historical value, losing the immediacy of the abstract, the inspiration to absolute emotion. They became, in effect, conventionally artistic, matter-of-fact in their implications to the extent they were formally appreciated as art. Newman had no wish to lose his strong sense of the sublime for the sake of inventing a beautiful artistic form, no wish to lose his possession of the infinite for the sake of an uncertain possession of form. His disbelief in the durability, let alone the adequacy, of forms—to do what they are supposed to do—has nothing to do with self-doubt as an artist but rather with the philosophical recognition that any experiential embodiment of absolute ecstasy is inherently self-contradictory and self-destructive. In a sense, for Newman as for any mystic the desire to communicate his ecstasy in obvious form is a sign of its weakness, of its inability to unite with its proper object, or else, what is correlate, a sign that the familiar finite world is too much with him, so that the infinite cannot become a familiar. The world’s demand for artistic objects as proof of the power of the ecstasy is a demand to abort and misuse it. The world’s constant demand for explanation, rationalization, justification usurps the power of exaltation it asks after.

In a sense, Newman is closeted in his consciousness of the sublime, but not as much as Warholism is in its amoralism. Newman’s consciousness of the sublime is not a subtle form of ressentiment criticism of art. Rather, he has uncovered the independent power of ecstasy, the self-validating quality of sublimity; it is not dependent, as Warholism is, on moralistic critics. It is not designed to counter their existence with the subtler existence of the artist. It does not refute their finite authority with the artist’s “infinite” authority. While it is true that in some of his works, e.g., Who’s Afraid Of Red, Yellow And Blue I, 1966, Newman is responding to the authority of other artists, in this case Mondrian, he rarely responds to the authority of critics, and in no case does his response have the peculiar involuted, self-poisoning quality of ressentiment. His artistic intention always remains pure in the sense that it is always concerned to be in terms of itself, to be sublime, even if superficially through the agency of another artist’s style, rather than to be in terms of the other. Newman’s separation of his “desire . . . to express his relation to the Absolute” from “the fetish of quality” takes quality not as an artistic fatality but as obscuring artistic intention. As such, critical attention to quality avoids coming to grips with the artist’s subjectivity. If Newman thought that the fetishizing of quality was a fatality which could not be transcended, then his exaltation is a Pyrrhic victory over it. But Newman believes that objective quality is, in fact, transcended by the sublime feelings that emerge in the course of the artistic experience—if it is allowed to run its course, and not sidetracked into poetry of perception.

In general, Newman uncovers the prereflective root of artistic intention, its existence beyond itself in a sense of the sublime. Ironically, Newman’s attempt to determine with certainty the ground of his art has moved beyond art, even beyond the question of a purely artistic intention, toward the question of human intentionality in general, toward a radical consciousness of the meaning of existence. This is no failure, but an unexpected boon, for it implies that if art were to ground itself solely on other art, on “influences,” if it were to be only a matter of the evolution of style, then it would never be “original” to human existence, it would never be part of human freedom. Art’s paradox is that it never can be self-grounding: what it regards as self-grounding turns out to be either its reexperiencing of its history or, as with Newman, its penetration to the ground of being in general. It is either a revolutionary discovery of the authentic subject or it is a reactionary discovery of its own objectivity. Unless artistic experience implies experience of this subject, its suggested presence, as well as experience of artistic objects, then the ground and human significance of art remain uncertain. Artistic intention is most itself when it is not itself: when it can be located neither altogether in the artist nor in artistic objects, but only transcendentally, in a consummate sense of being, the origin of whatever meaning the artist and his works have. Artistic intention is always self-transcending, and as such grounding itself in the possibilities of human existence.

Concluding Comment

In a sense, the naive attitude to artistic intention represented by the Dadas, the moralistic approach to it represented by Kozloff and in a complementary way by Warholism, and the transcendental attitude to it represented by Newman, are all defensive. They are all approaches hoping to protect the phenomenon they wish to comprehend. They are defensive against “the diffusion of art in society and the greatly accelerated interest in art by the layman,” for this seems a source of false consciousness of art. It can lead to the assumption that the popularity of art is a sign of reconciliation between society and individual, an end to Adorno’s “wounded consciousness,”47 for art conventionally is the sign of individuality. What Marcuse naively describes as the social utopianism of art48 seems to be realized in its popularity, and seems to falsify the true nature of art as “the permanent antagonist.” The interest in artistic intention, in the possibility of art, in the esoteric character of its self-evidence, whatever it is phenomenologically, is an effort to undermine the popularity of art, to show that it plays art false, to reassert the irreconcilability of art with society, despite its essential existence in it. Conceived as “transcendental illusion,”49 even Newman’s sense of the sublime is seen as a refusal to accept the self-evident conditions of being-in-the-world.

The esthetic interest in artistic intention, the fetishizing it as of value in and for itself as Newman does, the whole phenomenological approach to it, the artist’s feeling that it must be carefully preserved as a precious, possibly limited reserve of creativity, are all ways out of the ironies which attend art’s appearance in the world, ironies partly the result of taste and partly generated by the necessities of art’s immediate situation, its need to exhibit itself to the world to complete itself. This way out can qualify itself in terms of Steinberg’s anxiety or Newman’s ecstasy.50 But the essential point is that consciousness of artistic intention implies a search for a greater fundamentality and freedom than hitherto had been thought of as fundamental and free. This necessarily involves presupposing the uncertainty of the ground of art, and thus its irreconcilability with social reality, its refusal to submit to false consciousness. The doubtfulness of art, which modernism has discovered, will always be countered by transcendental doubt of this doubt, and so long as this itself is countered by a recognition that it leads beyond art, then art’s role in freedom, in the refusal of reconciliation with the self-evident naturalness of the given world, the status quo, becomes clear. Art first gives the freedom to be conscious of what is usually taken unconsciously; art first gives the freedom to make unfamiliar what is usually taken familiarly. As such, the uncertainty of its ground is a necessity of this freedom; its unclarity about its intentions will always permit it to project itself beyond the permissibly given.



1. Edmund Husserl, Der Krisis der europaïschen Wissenschaften und die Transzendentale Phänomenologie, The Hague, 1962, p. 202.

2. Ibid.,p. 260.

3. Ibid., p. 202.

4. Edmund Husserl, Ideas, New York, 1952, p. 196.

5. Ibid., pp. 110–111. See also Donald B. Kuspit, “Parmenidean Tendencies in the Epoché,” The Review of Metaphysics, XVIII, 1965, p. 757.

6. Ibid., p. 113.

7. Ibid., p. 107.

8. Clement Greenberg, “Modernist Painting,” The New Art, ed. Gregory Battcock, New York, 1966, pp. 103–110. All of Greenberg’s quotations are from this source.

9. The impossibility of a logically successful definition of art has been demonstrated by Morris Weitz, “The Role of Theory in Aesthetics,” Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, XV, 1956, pp. 27–35.

10. Husserl, Der Krisis, sections 14, 16, and 56.

11. Quoted in William S. Rubin, Frank Stella, New York, 1970, p. 42.

12. Ibid., p. 41. In response to Stella and other antihumanists, one ought to note H. A. Enno van Gelder’s distinction, in The Two Reformations in the Sixteenth Century, The Hague, 1961, between the humanist revolution as an unending search for self-enlightenment, and humanist reformism as a response to specific social conditions. The latter is inevitably limited to a given world, but the former is inherently human.

13. Lucy R. Lippard, ed., Dadas on Art, Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1971, p. 141. Duchamp is a primitive phenomenologist, able to understand the human and artistic need to transcend a matter-of-fact attitude to things, but not able to do so systematically and with an integral intentionality.

14. Leo Steinberg, “Contemporary Art and the Plight of its Public,” The New Art, ed. Gregory Battcock, New York, 1966, pp. 27–47. All of Steinberg’s quotations are from this source.

15. Renato Poggioli, The Theory of the Avant-Garde, New York, 1971, pp. 61–74, says as much in his discussion of avant-garde nihilism, agonism, and futurism.

16. The concept of ritual avoidance is developed by Harry Stack Sullivan, The Interpersonal Theory of Psychiatry, New York, 1953, pp. 307–308.

17. This situation is a reductio ad absurdum of the belief in the irreducible uniqueness of the artistic object. Although, as T.W. Adorno remarks in “Die Kunst und die Kunste,” Ohne Leitbild; Parva Aesthetica, Frankfurt am Main, 1967, p. 180, “Dialektik verketzern sie a Is sophistische Hexerei, ohne der Moglichkeit ihres fundamentum in re gem Raum zu gewahren,” a plurality which insists on the irreducible facticity of the things which constitute it loses all dialectical possibility, i.e., loses its logical fundamentum.

18. T.W. Adorno, “Ideen zur Musiksoziologie,” Klangfiguren, Frankfurt am Main, 1959, p. 13. On the same page, Adorno describes how false consciousness operates within the artistic object itself, making it “comfortable” and “popular.” The “Verflachung und Harmonisierung von Gegensätzen” operates in terms of “der Nivellierung der Widerspruche zu blossen Bestandteilen einer verdinglichten Form, die von ihren Kontrasten ‘ausgefullt’ wird.” False consciousness, the consciousness of all objects as commodities, with the assumption that commodity-value is self-justifying and what Paul Valery, in “Honoré Daumier,” Degas, Manet, Morisot, New York, 1960, pp. 159–160, calls “the cult of caution,” of “everything, in fact, that can protect man from risk,” characterize the bourgeois.

19. Lawrence Alloway, “Network: The Art World Described as a System,” Artforum, September, 1972, pp. 28–32.

20. Adorno, “Ideen zur Musiksoziologie,” p. 20.

21. Philip Leider, “The New York School in Los Angeles,” Artforum, September, 1965, pp. 5–6.

22 Allan Kaprow, “A Statement,” Happenings, An Illustrated Anthology, ed. Michael Kirby, New York, 1966, p. 47.

23. Lippard, pp. 3–4.

24. Ibid., p. 1.

25. Ibid., p. 35.

26. Ibid., p. 37.

27. Ibid., p. 139.

28. Marcel Duchamp, “The Creative Act,” The New Art, ed. Gregory Battcock, New York, 1966, p. 24.

29. Max Kozloff, “Critical Schizophrenia and the Intentionalist Method,” Renderings, New York, 1969, pp. 301–312. All of Kozloff’s quotations are from this source.

30. Susan Sontag, “Non-Writing and the Art Scene,” The New Art, ed. Gregory Battcock, New York, 1966, p. 158.

31. Adorno, pp. 13–14, in the context of his discussion of music as ideology, when he argues for the necessity of an “ausgefuhrte technische und physiognomische Analyse, welche noch formale Momente als solche des im Zusammen hang konstituierten musikalischen Sinnes, oder seiner Absenz, benennt und von ihm auf Gesellschaftliches schliesst.” Adorno notes that “der gesellschaftlichen Dechiffrierung von Musik verweigern sich jener positivistisch handgreiflichen Verifizierbarkeit.” For a further discussion of Adorno’s method “of speculative understanding, of phenomenalist ordering through provisional or even ‘mimetic’ conjectures about material which is not clear or—a key point—whose integral clarity can be perceived but not clearly articulated, which positivist criteria of meaningfulness (Sinnkriteria) would deny,” see the anonymous discussion of Adorno’s esthetics in the Times Literary Supplement, March 9, 1973, pp. 253–255.

32. Robert Denoon Cumming, ed., The Philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre, New York, 1966, pp. 91–93.

33. Ibid., pp. 373–377.

34. Quoted by Max Scheler, Ressentiment, New York, 1961, p. 45. All of Scheler’s quotations are from this source.

35. T. W. Adorno describes this situation well in “Kulturkritik und Gesellschaft,” Prismen, Frankfurt am Main, 1955, pp. 8–9.

36. Adorno’s attack on “falsche Versohnung” is particularly intense in “Ideen zur Musiksoziologie,” pp. 30–31.

37. Freedom, as Sartre says in Cumming, p. 494, “is a word that lends itself to numerous interpretations.” It can mean both “abstract freedom” and “a more concrete freedom—the right to have more than one pair of shoes and to eat when hungry.” Perhaps the most abstract freedom that exists is the philosopher’s, “based,” as Husserl says, “on the spirit of autonomy,” and involving “scientific responsibility to oneself.” As Husserl says, “A true philosopher cannot be other than free: the essential nature of philosophy is the most radical autonomy.” (Quoted by Kuspit, pp. 749–750.) Adorno locates freedom in the “mature human being,” where it is connected, as Kurt Oppens notes, in “Zu den musikalischen Schriften Theodor W. Adornos,” Über Theodor W. Adorno, Frankfurt am Main, 1968, p. 10, with “einem avancierten Humanismus,” and still retains “den alten Kantisch-Hegelschen Kiang,” manifesting itself through a dialectical working through of existence. Sensibility becomes a method of maturity for Adorno; how this is so, and how art can combine both abstract and concrete freedom, personal autonomy and social concern, is stated perhaps most clearly by Luis Buñuel, in The New York Times Magazine, March 11, 1973, p. 93: “In any society, the artist has a responsibility. His effectiveness is certainly limited and a writer or painter cannot change the world. But they can keep an essential margin of nonconformity alive. Thanks to them, the powerful can never affirm that everyone agrees with their acts. That small difference is very important. When power feels itself totally justified and approved, it immediately destroys whatever freedoms we have left, and that is fascism. Basically I agree with Engels: An artist describes real social relationships with the purpose of destroying the conventional ideas about those relationships, undermining bourgeois optimism and forcing the public to doubt the tenets of the established order. The final sense of my films is this: to repeat, over and over again, in case anyone forgets it or believes the contrary, that we do not live in the best of all possible worlds.”

38. Cumming, pp. 493–494.

39. T. W. Adorno, “Erpresste Versohnung,” Noten zur Literatur II, Frankfurt am Main, 1961, pp. 152–187.

40. Quoted in Modern Artists in America, First Series, New York, 1951, p. 18.

41. Ibid., p. 19.

42. Barnett B. Newman, “The Sublime is Now,” Tiger’s Eye, I, 1948, pp. 51-53. All subsequent Newman quotations are from this source.

43. Husserl, Der Krisis, p. 29.

44. Husserl, Ideas, p. 121.

45. For a discussion of Husserl’s position on the relationship between fiction and phenomenology see Donald B. Kuspit, “Fiction and Phenomenology,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, XXIX, 1968, pp. 16-33.

46. Barbara Rose, ed., Readings in American Art Since 1900, New York, 1968, p. 148.

47. As discussed in Minima Moralia, Reflexionen aus dem beschädigten Leben, Frankfurt am Main, 1964.

48. Herbert Marcuse, One-Dimensional Man, London, 1964, pp. 238–239.

49. Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, 8353: “We therefore take the subjective necessity of our concepts, which is to the advantage of the understanding, for an objective necessity in the determination of things in themselves.”

50. This echoes Blankenburg’s contrast of Heidegger’s use of anxiety and its implication of finitude with Binswanger’s use of love and its implication of infinity as alternate, if not mutually exclusive existential structures. Wolfgang Blankenburg, “The Cognitive Aspects of Love,” Facets of Eros, Phenomenological Essays, ed. F. J. Smith and Erling Eng, The Hague, 1972, pp. 27–34.