Tuesday, March 7, 2017

American beauty & others

American beauty resided far more in nature than i culture. Thus the intelligent American, if he or she got the chance to visit Europe, could find his taste transformed in a sort of pentecostal flash by a single monument of antiquity, as Jefferson's was by the sight of the Maison Carrée at Nimes, the Roman temple that created his conception of public architecture. One hour with the Medici Venus or the Apollo Belvedere in the Vatican could outweigh all one's past aesthetic experience, as the raw child of the new republic. One's own inexperience endowed the English or European work with a stupendous authority.

The late Robert Hughes' Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America is an interesting book. It's filled with arguments that are debatable - hence the fact that they're arguments - but well made. The Australian critic made the lectures the book is based on at an earlier stage of the culture wars: the first half of the nineties. The side he takes is that of culture.


susan said...

It's been a long time since I spent time in Europe and even that was long after Jefferson made the sojourn referred to by Robert Hughes, but the experience was unique even then. It was quite amazing to see the art and architecture of classic western culture during that last short period before hordes of tourists pretty much Disneyfied the place.

In recent decades we've witnessed the systematic destruction of America’s own national and regional cultures which have been replaced with a manufactured pseudo-culture and the revolt of many working class Americans against the concept of culture altogether. I wonder what Robert Hughes would have said about internet culture.

Ben said...

While I'm sure the experience of Europe has become homogenized, there's a value in still having the art and architecture preserved and available to the public. The latter part is something we can thank the French Revolution for. It would be nice if America were similarly respectful of its cultural heritage.

Hughes died in 2012, so Internet culture wouldn't have been completely alien to him. Facebook and Twitter were already around. But I can definitely see him being critical of the attitudes around them.