Archive for October, 2009

“Acts of Individual Talent”

October 2, 2009
Triangulation Series 225

Triangulation Scroll Series Nº 225, 49 x 68 inches; oil on canvas; 2008

Origins of Modern Western Aesthetics

The concept of Aesthetics comes to us out of a wide variety of different traditions: from those of the West, the Chinese, the Japanese, the African, the Polynesian, and so forth. The Western traditions, of course, have different qualities from the others with regards to origins, to evaluative criteria, either in opposing or defending approaches to the making of art.

From its beginnings Western aesthetic theory has developed in parallel with art criticism. The concept, however, of Aesthetics, but not the word, was first talked about by Joseph Addison (1672–1719), in a series of essays in The Spectator in 1712, as a “pleasure that is derived from the imagination.” Thus, pleasure forms the basis that will serve as the foundation of modern aesthetics. Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten (1714–62) most likely read Addison, and he sought to define Aesthetics as a science of that which is sensed or imagined in his master’s thesis Aesthetica, 2 Vol. (1750-58) at the Royal Prussian University in Halle. He coined the word for the German language; Aesthetics is derived from the New Latin aesthetica (the feminine adjective), and it is related to the Greek aesthetikos/aestheta (perceptible things) and related to the verb aesthetai (to perceive). Immanuel Kant (1724–1804), however, took issue with aesthetics as a science. Nonetheless, the term remained controversial, and it was not until much later in the 19th century when it was finally accepted in academic circles.

Aesthetics is a specific valuation theory, or a distinct convention of what beauty is. It is an individualizing characteristic or a particular taste for, or an approach to, what is of interest to the intellect or pleasing to the senses: both visual or auditory (as in literature, the plastic arts, architecture, and music). By extension, the term Aesthetics may be applied to many varieties of human behavior–toilette, cosmetology, interior design, and so forth.

For the avant-garde Aesthetics and Originality can be at odds with established social or political norms. Aesthetics, as valuation, is normative. Art criticism is the way in which the norms are established. Art criticism is transmitted both to collectors and to institutions (e.g., museums, in the case of the plastic arts and the market place, in the case of music and architecture).

Although art criticism dates from antiquity, analyses of visual aesthetics or the plastic arts began as a journalistic effort. The art critic and the artist became mutually dependent, and what had once been new and refreshing by the closing of the 20th century, became academic, routine, and repetitive. Contemporarily, Harold Bloom (1930–2019) expressed that art criticism had become confused with questions of social justice and politics, and was no longer about the art product itself.

Nothing, however, is really new; the concept of Aesthetics itself, as a means of expression, may be said to be a dominant force dating as far back to the origins of human cave paintings. At the turn of the 21st century, there no longer seems to exist an adherence to one current aesthetic or approach; art criticism now appears to evoke a wide variety of tendencies of the formal, moral, social, and spiritual.

In the following excerpt, “Confessions of an ever emerging visual artist” from a YouTube and WordPress-audio-visual Manifesto entitled “Metaphors of Silence” (2010), I have given my own point of view[1], [2]:

The usage which the visual arts serve is a complex demonstration of varying dimensions whose expression seeks not to explain meaning but to express its intent; to bring about a clearly independent act of interpretation, over which the artist exerts no control as creator. From this, arises the sublimity of the psychological condition that is partly visual delight and partly passion that renews and nourishes a spirit of partnership with the medium. The intent expresses one is what one perceives: i.e., it is a quality of energy and a temperament independent of the intellect, separate from the craft itself, and apart from the residue of the images.

[1] Manifesto: Metaphors of Silence (

[2] Autobiographical Statement: Ricardo Morin – Art – Paintings and Watercolors (


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