PRINT April 1981

Not All Chairs Are Equal

CAN A CHAIR BE ART? On the face of it, this seems to be a simple question. But when we attempt to answer it, it becomes clear that we must deal with complex issues: hierarchies, contexts, taxonomies, definitions and even philosophies of art. This apparently simple question has no easy answer; instead, if there are answers, these would have to be formulated by the use of introductory conditional clauses. Yet even these conditional answers fan out into further complexities.

If we believe, for instance, that modernism implies a certain purification of each high-art category (i.e., that sculpture progresses to the purely sculptural, that painting moves to that which is purely painting) and if we further believe that distinctions between “high-art” non utilitarianism and the usability of applied art, “low art” or nonart are more than social conventions, in fact are distinctions to be defended

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