Emptied of feeling

The work discussed in the previous post gave a good example of how orthogonals enable feeling. But in modern times, one of the advantages of geometry is how it can allow the negation of feeling. That’s an advantage because it’s only apparent; in actuality familiar feelings are given no purchase, leaving a space for new ones—the best kind, in art. I saw this clearly once while looking at a work by Smithson.


Robert Smithson, Nonsite (Essen Soil and Mirrors) 1969

There was a little flicker of feeling, which didn’t last long. It seemed then that the important thing was that disappearance. It also seemed that “feeling” was a trope for aesthetic experience entirely. Those who think that Smithson’s work is just in the head, that he was a thinker more than an artist, and that includes friends whom I respect, miss the point that the aesthetic experiences that we find comfortingly familiar have to disappear, and that this is not a theoretical point. They also may not be over familiar with the disappearance of aesthetic experience in color field painting, or rather it’s sublimation into conceptuality, something that deserves to be pondered. However, if geometric forms themselves evoke familiar feelings, they’re better avoided.

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