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Modernism and Realism in Dani Cavallaro's "The Aesthetics"

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Expression and Imitation are one of the three concepts that I have selected to discuss its importance in the text and my justification of why. Expression and Imitation are two concepts that have dictated theories about the Aesthetics in the realm of Western Philosophy (Cavallaro 157). The Artistic mythologies of Expression and Imitation are important in this text as we begin to understand the different perspectives artists and writers speculated about the ideas of Expression and Imitation, whether they believed that “…expression postulates that a work of art expresses its creator’s individual emotions” (Cavallaro 157) or according to Plato “sees imitation, or mimesis, as the measure of art’s baseness rather than its greatness” (158). This brings me to my second concept – Realism, realism is important in this text as we start unpacking the different context and mythologies of realism influenced by the world surrounding them.

Realism has been identified as a concept and method closely associated with Imitation, Cavallaro acknowledges realism and its continual praise as vital growth throughout the history of art and aesthetics (158) yet Western philosophers had a contrasting attitude towards this, including Plato. Plato was one of many who was outspoken about the idea of art and aesthetics. Plato’s artistic form through dialogue and playwright assisted his ideas around this topic. In the Republic, Plato discusses “…art is said to imitate the forms of nature and since nature is already a second-rate copy of the Pure Forms or Ideas, it is automatically relegated to the conditions of a shadow of a shadow” (Cavallaro 158) more specifically according to Cavallaro a “copy of a copy” (158).

Aristotle had an opposing opinion on this, instead of Aristotle states “… art does not imitate the particulars of nature but actually represents general and universal characteristics” (Cavallaro 158). The philosopher (Aristotle) believed that “catharsis” (159) had the ability to promote human’s emotions to those who in particular who had unfortunate circumstances in life. This way society could see the real issues in the world around them and “[to] achieve a deeper understanding of the world” (Cavallaro 159). In the Renaissance period, realism had more of an influence on the “political climate and ideological priorities” (Cavallaro 159). Cavallaro continues to characterized realism as a “material ideological dimension” (159) this compliments the ideas of Realism being used over centuries.

Realism technique details in paintings were used for higher social classes and used as a presentation in households and gardens of the accomplished to promote their worth and wealth. This brings me to my third chosen concept, imagination. It is crucial to understand imagination in this text as we establish the diverse approaches in specific eras such as The Ancient Greeks, The Western Culture, The late 17th and 18th century and the Romantic Period. Philosopher Aristotle had an optimistic outlook on Imagination he had the confidence that when using Imagination with effective control it can develop an advantage to “…help us grasp fundamental truth” (Cavallaro 160).

Ancient Greeks viewed Imagination Phantasia “to suggest that mental images are not just delusions … a form of illumination” (Cavallaro 159). Yet in The Western Culture and in the late 17th and 18th century voiced an opposing opinion, they described phantasms as something that only exists in their imagination and imagination only. During the late 17th and 18th century they continue to label imagination as “Superstition, ignorance and prejudice” (Cavallaro 160). It wasn’t until the Romantic Period where Imagination had been categorized as a beneficial method because of the Kant and German Idealism. Kant explores the aesthetics judgments through his three attributes, where he explains how individuals have a natural way of behaving towards beauty and how it is subjective but universal. We are able to see, through the shifting ideas of imagination that Artists and philosophers had tenacious opinions and judgment about Imagination and other aesthetics and how their ideas had an influential impact on Art and the Avant-Garde Movement.

Throughout the chapter “The Aesthetic” by Dani Cavallaro I found the concepts of Modernism one of the most difficult concepts to understand. Cavallaro begins to introduce Modernism by stating movements embraced by Modernism “Symbolism, Impressionism… Fauvism, Cubism, Post-impressionism, Futurism, Constructivism, Imagism and Vorticism” (Cavallaro 163). However, Cavallaro does expand on a few of these movements I was able to gain a general understanding of Cubism and its aim “Cubist works aim at depicting as many of the possible shapes of an object within one image” (Cavallaro 164). This although did not deepen my understanding of how each one of these movements had a significant role during the time. Furthermore, the ambitions of modernism were repeatedly mentioned throughout the text where they were used as a contrast of what Post-Modernism stood for “Modernism nonetheless trusts art’s ability to offer epiphanic insights into reality and the human condition. Postmodernism, by contrast, does not rely on the possibility of unearthing profound truths” (Cavallaro 164). It was challenging for me to identify the cultural and social influences had on these movements. I had difficulties understanding the role these influential movements had during the period towards World War 1. My lack of understanding in this area meant that I was unable to differentiate the aim each movement had or how these movements are associated with each other. Post-Modernism was my second concept that I found difficult understanding.

My inadequacy to grasp the main idea of Post-Modernism meant that I was unable to depict the overall objective Cavallaro addressed in the text. Because of my lack of understanding of modernism, it impacted on my ability to understand post-modernism. It was challenging for me to understand the diverse attitudes towards Postmodernism as Cavallaro mentions Jean-Francois Lyotard and his reference to `new presentation’ and also Fredric Jameson and his criticism towards postmodernism “Fredric Jameson criticizes Postmodernism comparing the postmodern subject to a schizophrenic patient doomed to live in a perpetual present devoid of historical depth” (Cavallaro 165). In general, this affected my understanding of the overall judgment of Postmodernism where Cavallaro considers the several notions relating to postmodernism “Some welcome Postmodernism as a liberating phenomenon…emphasis on multicity, pluri-culturalism and difference as an imaginative repudiation of traditional ideas of stability and uniformity” (Cavallaro 165). Cavallaro continues to discuss, towards the end of the text where she associates postmodernism with the concept expressed by Madan Sarup. My inability to understand lead me to be unable to make the connections between postmodernism with this concept.

Throughout the chapter “The Aesthetics” by Dani Cavallaro, Cavallaro discusses several perspectives many philosophers attained or stated the main idea that circulated Aesthetics at the time being. The question I Pose to Dani Cavallaro is “Which ideologies are you personally more likely to agree with? “. This raises my curiosity as I am interested to know the author’s perspective on some of the concepts she raises throughout the reading. With only reading about Western philosophers or other popular judgments made during certain periods about Art and aesthetics I am curious to hear from someone else who has a great and deep understanding about Art Aesthetics and its history, in this case, Dani Cavallero.

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