Thursday, September 06, 2012

Kronish House, by Richard & Dion Neutra

image
Painting by Carrie Graber

The appeal of modernism can be easily felt in this striking image of Richard Neutra’s Kronish House. The dynamism is much more evident in the perspective than it is in the plan, however.

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21 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The appeal of modernism can easily be felt in this striking image of Richard Neutra’s Kronish House. The dynamism is much more evident in the perspective than it is in the plan, however."

What?!!!

I thought that Modernism was pure evil, meaningless drivel, ugliness for the sake of being ugly, an attempt to destroy man's consciousness, and an attack on all values and everything!!! And you're promoting it as having "appeal" and "dynamism"?

Have you turned evil on us, Cresswell?

9/06/2012 07:21:00 am  
Blogger Peter Cresswell said...

Frankly, I think you've been reading someone else.

9/06/2012 10:42:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Really?! I could have sworn that I've seen you throwing Randian fits over Modernism.

9/06/2012 12:45:00 pm  
Anonymous Richard McGrath said...

Anon may have been thinking of post-modernism, perhaps?

9/07/2012 06:19:00 pm  
Anonymous Richard McGrath said...

My favourite Neutra design was for the same Kaufmans who also had contracted Frank Lloyd Wright to design Fallingwater.

A slideshow of the restored Kaufman house by Neutra is available here: http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2007/10/30/arts/20071031_KAUFMAN_SLIDESHOW_10.html

9/07/2012 06:37:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Anon may have been thinking of post-modernism, perhaps?"

No, I was thinking of Peter's many past rants against Modern art. And I think Peter knows what I'm talking about, which is why he has now taken to deleting my posts (he deleted my last one which brought up the Randian fits that he has thrown over Modern art).

9/08/2012 03:37:00 am  
Blogger Peter Cresswell said...

Ah, I see the confusion: it's the difference between modern art and modern architecture. They share an adjective, but little else.

PS: I reserve the right delete anything posted anonymously, especially if it's bollocks or unimaginatively insulating.

9/10/2012 12:04:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Ah, I see the confusion: it's the difference between modern art and modern architecture. They share an adjective, but little else."

Do you mean that, like Rand, you've convinced yourself that you can find deep aesthetic meaning in the abstract relationships of the non-figurative forms of architecture, but that it is impossible for there to be any meaning in the exact same abstract relationships of the non-mimetic forms of Modern sculptures?

"PS: I reserve the right delete anything posted anonymously, especially if it's bollocks or unimaginatively insulating."

I didn't say anything that was "insulating." I don't even know how to say something that is "insulating."

Btw, did you know that at the end of her life, Rand is said to have had second thoughts on architecture qualifying as an art form, and apparently she decided that it was primarily utilitarian and therefore not art? If that's true, then your continuing to promote it as a valid art form would probably qualify as some sort of vicious attack on man's proper method of cognition, no?

9/11/2012 08:31:00 am  
Blogger Peter Cresswell said...

@Anonymous: I've convinced myself of nothing of the sort. What I am convinced of is that the real meaning of architecture is not in the walls, floors and string courses of a building, but in the space contained within it and how it is articulated.

As Lao Tse observed, the essence of a tea cup is not in the cup itself but in the space it contains that makes it useful. So too with architecture.

Yes, I've heard the rumour you cite about Rand's change of mind, peddled by a couple of alleged aestheticians who never understood either architecture or Rand's aesthetics--despite writing a book purporting to
talk about it.

I don't say it couldn't be true, and I've asked them and those who would know about its veracity, but at this stage it's a rumour without evidence.

In any case, while interesting it certainly wouldn't change my own view.


(Why not leave a name, instead of posting like an anonymous coward. it might diminish your snottiness, and allow us to have a decent conversation. Or would you prefer to be insulated from decent conversation?)

9/11/2012 10:46:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"As Lao Tse observed, the essence of a tea cup is not in the cup itself but in the space it contains that makes it useful. So too with architecture."

The issue is not what makes tea cups or architecture "useful," but what makes them ART. The Objectivist Esthetics holds that a work of art must serve only the purpose of contemplation, and, therefore, that utilitarian objects cannot qualify as art. Rand's view was that combining utility with a work of art interfered with the artwork's function.

"Yes, I've heard the rumour you cite about Rand's change of mind, peddled by a couple of alleged aestheticians who never understood either architecture or Rand's aesthetics--despite writing a book purporting to talk about it."

Why do you call them "alleged aestheticians"? They know more about art and aesthetics than you ever will. Besides, there's nothing to be angry with them about. In rejecting architecture, they're only applying Rand's criteria. Your anger should be directed at Rand, since she's the one who made the assertion that utilitarian objects could not be art, and she's also the one who asserted that architecture "does not re-create reality." So, the "alleged aestheticians" are accepting Rand's criteria where you're the one who is rejecting it. They're only recognizing that something which "does not re-create reality" cannot qualify as something which "re-creates reality."

"I don't say it couldn't be true, and I've asked them and those who would know about its veracity, but at this stage it's a rumour without evidence."

This looks like it's more than just a rumor without evidence:
http://www.aristos.org/whatart/ch10a.htm

9/12/2012 08:27:00 am  
Blogger Peter Cresswell said...

@Anonymous: A rumour without evidence is exactly what it is.

In any case, it's irrelevant to the substantive questions you're now asking:

1. can a utilitarian object be art.

My short answer: yes. My longer answer: yes, if certain standards are met. My even longer answer: they acquire meaning through the metaphysic value judgements made about their use. (My answer explained in more depth in the comments thread in the link supplied in my last comment.)

2. Does architecture recreate reality? Short answer: of course it does; if architecture doesn't then nothing does. (For greater depth, I refer you again to that article and comments thread to which I linked above.)

So, why do I call Torres & Kamhi alleged aestheticians? I call them alleged aestheticians because as I and artist Michael Newberry have been at pains to explain, they don't even understand the first things about the arts they purport to talk about, nor the Objectivist aesthetics on which they claim to be masters. They don't understand Metaphysical Value Judgements in painting (Google Michael Newberry Metaphysical Value Judgements), they don't begin to understand what architecture is all about, and they refuse to refer to the novel on architecture to which Rand refers readers on the subject with the dismissal that they don't value fiction. So much for painting, architecture and literature then, for them.

They can't see it, so as far as they're concerned it isn't so. And what they CAN see is very little.

These aren't aestheticians, they're morons.

"They know more about art and aesthetics than you ever will." Thanks for that. The opinion of someone too scared to put his name to his opinions.

9/12/2012 11:05:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"A rumour without evidence is exactly what it is."

What would qualify as evidence to you? Only what you want to hear?

"1. can a utilitarian object be art. My short answer: yes"

Rand's answer was "no." Why are you not calling her a "moron" and saying that she wasn't an aesthetician, like you do with Torres and Kamhi? Why are you so angry with them rather than with Rand?

"My even longer answer: they acquire meaning through the metaphysic value judgements made about their use."

The same can be said of any object, and therefore anything can be art by your reasoning. Show me any object, from a urinal to a random stone to a building to an abstract painting and I can use your method of "detecting" Metaphysical Value Judgments in it.

"2. Does architecture recreate reality? Short answer: of course it does; if architecture doesn't then nothing does."

Then why did Rand say that architecture doesn't re-create reality? She said so because her concept of "re-create reality" was mimesis-dependent: She required art to present an objectively identifiable likeness of things in reality. Architecture doesn't do that. Architecture is abstract. Just like abstract painting, it's means is relational and too indirect to qualify as a "re-creation of reality" in the way that Rand meant.

"They don't understand Metaphysical Value Judgements in painting (Google Michael Newberry Metaphysical Value Judgements)"

I'm aware of Newberry's opinions. He gives his subjective interpretations of works of art and calls them objective judgments. He seems to believe that any Randian idea, no matter how shallow or wrongheaded, that pops into his head when looking at a work of art is the act of "detecting" Metaphysical Value Judgments.

I would suggest that you read Kamhi's brief JARS response to Newberry: http://www.aristos.org/editors/jars-mmk.pdf Page 461. She offers a great critique of his "facile" and "simplistic" methods, most notably as applied to Munch's The Scream. The painting is not about the universe being unknowable. It's about compassion. That is the "metaphysical value" being expressed, you ridiculous Randian parrots.

"...and they refuse to refer to the novel on architecture to which Rand refers readers on the subject..."

The Fountainhead doesn't address the questions that Torres and Kamhi ask. It doesn't do anything towards fixing Rand's contradictions.

"They can't see it, so as far as they're concerned it isn't so. And what they CAN see is very little."

I agree with you there. They can't see. But the same is true of you, and of most Objectivists: whatever YOU can't see, you claim that it doesn't exist, and that those who see it are lying or delusional. That's the entire Objectivist argument against abstract art: "We can't see anything it it, so there's nothing in it, and it's therefore not art!" It's a bunch of aesthetically-challenged twits who have arbitrarily adopted their own aesthetic blindnesses and ineptitudes as the universal standard for all mankind.

"These aren't aestheticians, they're morons."

You should look up "Dunning-Kruger Effect."

9/13/2012 07:33:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you have access to Choice TV, there was a programme on yesterday (it will be repeated during the week - it might be on at 10am today) called Living With The Future about modernist homes in the UK.

It looked at the modernist house of the partners of Norman Foster's firm. Looked similar to this neutra one but I hated it. Cold and unfriendly.

Programme's a bit gushy and lightweight but it is not the kind of thing often on.

inisder

9/13/2012 09:39:00 am  
Blogger Peter Cresswell said...

Anonymous 07:33 (who by now should have had the grace to put a name to his/her comments, if only to avoid confusion):

"What would qualify as evidence to you?" I would need actual evidence, not speculation. Harry Binswanger, whom the alleged aestheticians cite as the basis for their speculation, is not some long-lost medieval monk about whose views and historical knowledge one can only speculate, he is alive and well and available by all forms of electronic communication. Why did they just not contact him and ask outright rather than concocting their fantasy? That they didn't even bother speaks volumes about their methodology.

Fact is, the speculation about Rand's final thoughts on architecture are just that, speculation, and if at odds with her published views should be ignored until proven.

In any case, as I said above, those views are irrelevant to the substantive question, about which, even in her published views, I would argue that by excluding utilitarian objects from the realm of art, and by positing that architecture does not recreate reality, she was being "insufficiently Randian."

I answer those specific objections in the article and comments thread to which I linked above.

But the crux of it is that the essence of architecture is space, useable space, in which inhabitants
are presented selected aspects, selected re-creations, of reality chosen according to the metaphysical value judgements of the architect.

The space and its use, and how and in what context it is used and presented, are the key. I explain why in the sort of depth such an answer demands in the article and comments thread to which I linked above.

But you ask, why can't a stone, a urinal, a vase be art? Because outside their use in an architectural ensemble, there's insufficient complexity possible in such objects to convey sufficient meaning--insufficient scope, depth and complexity to convey an artist's metaphysical value judgements. Rather like a sentence in a poem, these objects need a greater architectural context so that they might perhaps form part of an artwork--just as a sentence in a poem or novel might--or not.

I explain in more detail in the article and comments thread to which I linked above.

Yes, I've read Michelle Kamhi's response to Michael. If "facile" is to be applied to anything in that response, it is the understanding of painting, or lack thereof, she demonstrates both there and in her book.

I make no judgement of her knowledge in other fields, but it's apparent she wouldn't know a metaphysical value judgement in either painting or architecture if she fell over one--even if, as Newberry did for her, it was presented to her on a plate.

[cont...]

9/13/2012 10:22:00 am  
Blogger Peter Cresswell said...

[Part 2/2]

You say, "The Fountainhead doesn't address the questions that Torres and Kamhi ask. It doesn't do anything towards fixing Rand's contradictions."

Well, yes, it does. Not explicitly, I'll grant you. But it's there. And it's telling too that the alleged aestheticians sniffily dismissed altogether referring to the book, despite Rand's explicit instruction to seek her thoughts on architecture there rather than try to guess them. Dismissed by them airily because it was only a work of fiction, before they then headed off to make up the speculative fiction that Rand had repudiated what she had explicitly written.

This, repudiating literature as an unsuitable source for conveying meaning, was said by folk setting themselves up as aestheticians, qualified to talk about literature.

As I said, they're not aestheticians, they're morons. I say that because like many other artists and enthusiasts for Rand's aesthetics, we had hoped from their work and their book to see a substantive contribution to the field. Those hopes were dashed on a first reading when it was apparent they just hadn't put in the field work. And my disrespect for them has grown every time I see their responses to substantive criticism, which is not to respond but to circle the wagons--or ignore.

Now I have to say once again, that if you're serious about this discussion, I think you would find it helpful to follow the link I provide above to where I and Newberry argue these points in more detail in both my article and the comments thread, and digest the discussion. Not to command, but to invite, because all the questions you're asking are addressed there in much greater detail than I can do here.

"You should look up "Dunning-Kruger Effect."

And you should look up "unsolicited opinions from folk too cowardly even to leave their name." Because for one thing, when you say "I agree" or "I disagree," without credentials the semantic value of such a statement is zero.

And for another thing, it's just basic courtesy.

9/13/2012 10:22:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Why did they just not contact him and ask outright rather than concocting their fantasy? That they didn't even bother speaks volumes about their methodology."

Perhaps they did contact Binsanger, but were shunned because he saw their questions as those of evil "enemies of Ayn Rand" who are not to be "sanctioned" or associated with in any way. After all, shunning is the most common tactic that Objectivists use to handle potent criticism.

"Fact is, the speculation about Rand's final thoughts on architecture are just that, speculation, and if at odds with her published views should be ignored until proven."

Her own published views are at odds with her other published views! So which should be ignored? Should we selectively and arbitrarily ignore her definition and criteria of art, as she sometimes did? When it comes to architecture, that's what you arbitrarily choose to do, where Kamhi and Torres choose to consistently apply her definition and criteria (while arbitrarily choosing to not apply it to other art forms of their liking). You and they are two sides of the same silly coin.

"I would argue that by excluding utilitarian objects from the realm of art, and by positing that architecture does not recreate reality, she was being 'insufficiently Randian.'"

In other words, you know better than Rand did what she meant by "re-create reality"?

Sorry, but no, Rand was quite aware of what she meant. Her view was that both abstract art and architecture do not re-create reality by her meaning of the term. As I said earlier, by "re-create reality," she meant that a work of art must create an objectively identifiable likeness of things in reality; in other words art must be a simulation of reality. Your approach to architecture is in direct conflict with her theory since it does not result in a simulation but a realization.

"But you ask, why can't a stone, a urinal, a vase be art? Because outside their use in an architectural ensemble, there's insufficient complexity
possible in such objects to convey sufficient meaning--insufficient scope, depth and complexity to convey an artist's metaphysical value judgements."

So, your half-baked theory now is that a painting of a vase or a stone has sufficient scope, depth and complexity to convey metaphysical value-judgments, but the stone or vase itself does not?

By what means have you come to these conclusions of yours about how much complexity is sufficient for conveying meaning? It appears that all you've done is to take your own inability to find meaning in something and to then declare that it has no meaning, without considering the possibility that just you (and those who might share your limitations) are unable to find meaning where others are perfectly capable of finding it.

Not only that, but you appear to have decided that whatever meaning that you imagine that you find in a work of art is the one true meaning that the artwork "conveys," as opposed to the meaning that you've merely inferred. In effect, you've arbitrarily appointed yourself and your tastes and subjective interpretations to be the universal standard and limit for all mankind. No one must be acknowledged to have capacities beyond yours! Anyone who claims to exceed your ability to find meaning is deemed a liar or fraud. That's not very objective or scientific. It's rather silly and childish, actually.

Cont...

9/14/2012 07:51:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Rather like a sentence in a poem, these objects need a greater architectural context so that they might perhaps form part of an artwork--just as a sentence in a poem or novel might--or not."

No. The fact that YOU may need more information in order to find meaning in a work of art does not mean that the same is true of everyone. I have no idea where you got the idea that you're especially sensitive and qualified to recognize meaning in works of art. From what I've seen, you're actually quite bad at it. Remember, you're the person who thought that AC/DC's You Shook Me All Night Long was about rage! And then you very stubbornly tried to defend that stupid position rather than admit to your obvious mistake.

"Yes, I've read Michelle Kamhi's response to Michael. If "facile" is to be applied to anything in that response, it is the understanding of painting, or lack thereof, she demonstrates both there and in her book."

So now you imagine that you know more about painting than Kamhi does? Hilarious.

"I make no judgement of her knowledge in other fields, but it's apparent she wouldn't know a metaphysical value judgement in either painting or architecture if she fell over one--even if, as Newberry did for her, it was presented to her on a plate.

So, you agree with Newberry that Munch's "metaphysical value-judgment" was that life is unknowable and that the universe is unintelligible? How did you verify that judgment? It just popped into your and Newberry's Randian heads, and therefore it's right? No need to think or to do any further?

"Dismissed by them airily because it was only a work of fiction, before they then headed off to make up the speculative fiction that Rand had repudiated what she had explicitly written."

You don't seem to grasp why a work of fiction isn't a valid replacement for a proper philosphical explication. Here, this might help: Imagine if I were to write a fictional piece about people responding to objects which you think do not qualify as works of art (because you insist that they cannot convey any meaning), and all of the fictional people find the same deep and complex meaning in the art. What would your reaction be if I were to refer you to such a work of fiction when arguing that the art forms in question should qualify as art? Get it now?

"This, repudiating literature as an unsuitable source for conveying meaning, was said by folk setting themselves up as aestheticians, qualified to talk about literature."

No, I think it just means that you're probably blinded by your anger and that you're not bright enough to understand why fictional accounts of fictional people responding to fictional objects are not a valid replacement for actually demonstrating in reality whether people can or cannot successfully apply Rand's stated aesthetic criteria and actually identify specific "artists' meanings" in works of archtiecture without relying on "outside considerations."

"As I said, they're not aestheticians, they're morons."

I think that you're just angry that they pointed out some of the glaringly obvious flaws in Rand's Esthetics that you weren't critical enough to catch, and that they're much more educated on the subject of aesthetics than you are. You appear to have gotten most of your "knowledge" of aesthetics from Rand, and you seem to have a very strong need to believe in the superiority of your own intellect, despite all evidence to the contrary.

9/14/2012 07:59:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Peter, would you mind giving us an example of your aesthetic expertise in action, your pure objectivity, and your amazingly deep knowledge of the art of painting by giving us your objective aesthetic assessment of this painting?

http://www.michaelnewberry.com/art/fig/pw/LJE.jpg

Is it great, mediocre or bad? Does it exhibit technical mastery or the lack of it? Is it genius-level work, or is it closer to student-level work?

Thanks.

9/14/2012 10:02:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Peter,
Last night I re-read Michael Newberry's online essay on detecting metaphysical value-judgments in paintings, and then I paged through my copy of The Fountainhead and found Rand's descriptions of Roark's fictional buildings ("...It seemed to spread over the ground like arms outstretched...It seemed to lift the earth, and its few vertical shafts pulled the sky down...), and, with Newberry's and Rand's words fresh in my mind, I decided to see how well I could apply their methods myself. So I chose an entity to observe, to describe its physical characteristics in gushingly romanticized terms, and to then translate what meanings those characteristics add up to. Here goes:

It is long and thin with the slightest of gentle curves. Its length in proportion to its width suggests a serene confidence of purpose, a flowing forward toward an unseen horizon, like a river or railroad track. The slightness of its curved path seems to suggest an awareness and an accounting for of the curvature of the Earth -- that this form's motion has a vision which exceeds its immediate environment, and that it knows more about where it is heading, and why, than we do. It doesn't hide its secrets from us, but merely doesn't have time to stop and share them. It is as if it is unintentionally teasing us, pulling us in and inviting us along to discover its mission, or to inspire missions of our own. Its color is that of gray-brown steel, but with faint violet freckles which burst and sparkle in joyous, passionate reds and golds when touched by the sun's brightest rays. One can almost hear laughter in the sparkles

Its meaning is therefore that existence is wonderful, and that mankind can not only choose his own path, but that he can do so with confidence, deep purpose and immense joy. It represents the pure joy of living. It communicates a glorious, sunlit vision of man and existence.

There. Now, would you care to guess what the entity is? Is it a work of art since I've successfully used the Randian and Newberrian method of objectively "detecting" the "metaphysical value-judgments" that it "conveys"?

9/15/2012 06:56:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Helloooo?

Am I being shunned?

9/20/2012 11:46:00 am  
Anonymous Carrie Graber said...

Greetings. I am the artist who painted the Kronish Residence above.

This has been a fascinating discussion. I think there's a lot of crossover between representational, abstract, and nonrepresentational art. All paintings and photographs are, in a way, abstractions of our perceptions of reality-- nothing occupying space is ever two-dimensional, and nothing freezes in time. Cubism is an attempt to acknowledge an object from all sides. Most of us have two eyes; reality moves and shifts, so what IS an identifiable reflection then? And how does one reflect a thought or emotion?

I've read a bit of Rand, and if she does assert that art is purely contemplative and should not include utility, then design is not art. And, of course, I'd disagree with her. If contemplation and utility are mutually exclusive, this dismisses the value of aesthetic pleasure entirely, and its value as being conducive to thought. The function of a painting (or a sculpture, chair, architectural structure, etc.) are all combined to reflect and re-frame reality. We can't ignore physiological, biological, and psychological responses to light, color, shape, tactile, and atmospheric pleasures. If a giant field of yellow on a canvas assists a space in becoming pleasurable to its inhabitant, then it is valuable. (And a pleasant mind is much more capable of contemplation.) In other words, I'm concerned that an important step is missing in some of the definitions I read-- impression.

Art is not only a catalyst but a thoroughfare for contemplation. A nonrepresentational canvas can be just as valid as a literal illustration or editorial piece. Impressionism sought to go half way with the viewer, and encourage them to complete the rest in their minds. Impressionists painted the atmosphere-- literally the air-- in between themselves and their subjects. Dadaism questioned context. Coffee cups, urinals, can they be art simply by being placed in a museum? Does context change definition? It was visual philosophy. Of course it makes you contemplate.

I've been an artist for a long time... met folks form all over the world. I'm convinced that some people are not wired to see INTO art. There are thresholds. It's been explained to me by a friend (who ironically works at ARI) that he just doesn't want to "do the work" when looking at art. He's very literal, and wants something to inspire him to be triumphant/heroic. Something that very much reflects his vision of reality. He also largely abhors abstract! And that's fine. The value of abstract and nonrepresentational shouldn't be dismissed simply because it's not perceived though.

On Neutra: I'm good friends with Dion, and am grateful to have time with him to discuss the importance of his father's work. Richard loved planning-- for projects and for the future. People who hate "concrete and glass boxes" have, largely, not been IN them. His designs were tailored for the resident's sensibilities and for the dweller, not for the sidewalker. They were relatively inexpensive and easy to maintain. This home was, of course, to be razed. The situation drew worldwide attention. It was purchased last-minute and is being restored/remodeled by Marmol Radziner. You probably know that Ayn lived at the Von Sternberg House.

Thanks for the read. Speaking of NAMES, -Carrie Graber

11/02/2012 07:39:00 am  

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