Meyer Schapiro and the cultural contradiction of Abstract Art

Time for a meaty quote about art, I think:

Paintings and sculptures, Schapiro pointed out, were ‘the last hand-made personal objects’ within a social order dominated by the division of labour. In a world in which the life of most individuals was subordinate to unsatisfying practical activity, ‘the object of art is, therefore, more passionately than ever before, the occasion of spontaneous or intense feeling’. Abstract art met this need best, because it refused ‘communication’ in a world in which communcation had been utterly instrumentalised and reduced to a notion of the most efficient stimulus to produce a given response. More than any other art, it corresponded to ‘the pathos of the reduction or fragility of the self within a culture that has become increasingly organized through industry, economy and the state’. Although it had no specific political message, abstract painting was the ‘domain of culture in which contradiction between the professed ideals and the actuality [of our culture] is most obvious and often becomes tragic’.1,2

  1. HEMINGWAY, Andrew (2006), ‘Meyer Schapiro: Marxism, Science and Art’ in HEMINGWAY, Andrew ed., Marxism and Art History: From William Morris to the New Left, London: Pluto Press. p.142
  2. Quotes taken from SCHAPIRO, Meyer (1957), ‘Recent Abstract Painting’, in SCHAPIRO, Meyer (1978), Modern Art: Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, New York: Braziller. pp.217–8, 222–3, 224.
Creative Commons License
Meyer Schapiro and the cultural contradiction of Abstract Art by escdotdot is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International