TRACING CELLULAR REDUCTION: The "Great Reduction" of Modern Art
I have discerned what may be a pattern of cellularization in the history of art. Following is a transcript of the short documentary featured above.
After the Classical period, music went from monophony in early Christian plain song, to polyphony during the high Renaissance, to cellularity in the music of composers such as Mozart and Beethoven. Have a listen to the beginning of Beethoven's 5th Symphony, paying close attention to his "riffing" on the principal motif which repeats in varying shapes and forms throughout the symphony.
Listen to Beethoven's 5th played on piano -- it's the same four strikes repeated in cells.
The same development of simplicity to complexity can be seen when comparing Byzantine icons - with their flat geometricity -- to hypercomplex Renaissance painting, after which a ferment ensued, as Mannerist elongation distorted balanced High Renaissance proportion and lead to Baroque and Rococo decadence, which was temporarily regulated and counteracted by Neoclassicism, but then lead to its logical conclusion beginning which Impressionism, which cellularized art into conspicuous brush strokes. After Impressionism, the path to ultimate reduction was trodden by successive movements such as that of the Glasgow Boys who proselytised the usage of square brush strokes, to the Post-Impressionists and Expressionists who employed broad and obvious techniques, to the Cubists who depicted bodies as aggregates of angles. The next big step in what I term the "Great Reduction" was Supremetism -- in which monochromatic canvases were deemed finished works of art. But sculpture would go even further: Minimalism reduced art down to its simplest form. For example, we have a literal cell in Tony Smith's "Die".
By the middle of the 20th century, art had been reduced and cellularized to its most physically constricted form - the cube. And that wasn't all. Art historian Arthur Danto famously posited that Andy Warhol's Brillo Boxes - which also happened to be cubes - represented the philosophical 'End of Art'.
But is it art? It is only art inasmuch as it is made by human hands. But does this validate its inclusion in the museum space? Perhaps the most direct answer to this question is to be found in the possible political motives for including such a work, so prominently, in the art industry canon: Consider the Freemasonic ashlar - which represents the rough hewn stone becoming refined - a metaphor for the perfected man -- the same ashlar concept which likely inspired the theme of Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall", and which is the obvious model for the Borg Ship in Star Trek.
In a relativist context it is impossible to determine whether or not our two cubes -- Tony Smith's "Die", and Andy Warhol's Brillo Boxes -- are or are not art. In order to answer this question, it is necessary to engage in some form of absolutist dialogue. I for one have long been concerned with the question of the validity of Modern reductionist art. I have invented my own art movement, the purpose of which is in part to deal with this issue: It is called Pulchrism, and it advocates for Beauty in the arts. My paintings which are attempts at bringing Beauty into the human experience, can be viewed at here. According to The Pulchrist Manifesto: "Beauty is given precedence over style and format. One of pulchrism’s foremost tenets is that ugliness must be categorized as separate from Beauty." Therefore by my own judgement, I would consider Tony Smith's "Die" to be art, because - as course and brutal as it may be - I believe it to be beautiful. Andy Warhol's Brillo Boxes, on the other hand, connote cheap consumerism and I am compelled therefore to deny them any status as art, because I do not find cheap consumerism to be beautiful.