Tony’s Response to Use and Contemplation

I recall a professor in an early sculpture studio reminding us that “we cannot critique what does not exist” during a critique in which a student began to talk about what he wanted to do instead of what he did do. While at the time I took this as a reference to the fact that the piece was obviously not finished in time for critique, I later realized that execution is more important to me than the initial concept.

Octavio Paz talks about art not being simply a concept, but a thing of the senses,” (404) I find the next line much more compelling in which Paz humorously attacks both half-formed speculative concepts as well as the stale realm of still-life painting. “Speculation centered on a pseudo-concept is even more boring than contemplation of a still-life.” (404) Would Paz propose that art objects are referred to as works of art because work is required? The execution is integral not only of the art object, but also of the commercial product and the craft object. It is this execution that fully develops the concept and changes it into a thing of the senses. In design, unexecuted concepts seem of little consequence when held against the rubric and definition of industrial design of the “mutual benefit of both manufacturer and consumer.” (IDSA.org) Who do these unexecuted concepts benefit? What good is the concept of the hammer to the blacksmith?

Paz compares the way Jackson Pollock worked to the transubstantiation of bread and wine into the body and blood in Christianity. (403) This is an interesting parallel, one that I cannot say I have considered before now. What if paint and canvas, through the process of the artist, do actually transubstantiate into the work of art? In Christianity, transubstantiation refers to the belief that bread is not representative of flesh, but that it becomes the flesh, it art the work is not representative of the concept, but the two are linked and united. I think the answer to this question relates to Paz’s assertion of pseudo-concept, in that the concept itself isn’t even fully formed until it is realized physically. Paz mentions that “things are pleasing because they are useful and beautiful,” (405) additionally, I wonder if they can be either if they are not first things.

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