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ALARMS AND DIVERSIONS FOR THE THINKING PERSON

Forum File

Saturday, November 16, 2013 - 12:01 am

The reading list

“Arthur Danto, the art critic for the Nation who died last month in New York … came to his realization about the end of art one day in New York City in the mid 1960s. Danto was himself painting in those days. He was also, as he readily admitted later, something of a snob and aesthete. One evening in the late spring of 1964, he stumbled into the Stable Gallery on 74th Street. At the Stable Gallery, Danto came face to face with Andy Warhol's Brillo Boxes. That's the sculpture where Warhol took some paint and some cheap wood and made a few Brillo Boxes that look exactly like Brillo boxes. That's to say, if you saw Warhol's Brillo Boxes on the ground outside of a deli in midtown you would simply think that a delivery person was moving Brillo boxes into the store. There is nothing in the Brillo Boxes to suggest anything but Brillo boxes.

“Danto was struck and confused by Brillo Boxes. Over time, he worked out a full-blown theory to deal with them. The theory boils down to this: There is no way, visually, to know that Brillo Boxes is a work of art. So, the Brillo Boxes mark the moment when art became philosophy. You cannot look at the Brillo Boxes without asking the question, 'What makes this art?'

“When art became philosophical in the late spring of 1964, it crossed an invisible line. With the Brillo Boxes, there is no clear demarcation between art and reality. If the Brillo Boxes can look just like Brillo boxes, and can still be art, then anything can be art.”

From the “Miraculousness of the Commonplace” at nplusonemag.com

A quiz

If it were a country, it would be the 40th largest in the world, after Chile and Zambia. Where is it?

Wisdom of the ages

“The question isn't who is going to let me; it's who is going to stop me.” — Ayn Rand

Current wisdom

“We need to look at ourselves. We have to examine everything internally. This is so appalling to me. I know I'm capable of overreacting. I want to get everybody's feedback because we all know the football locker room is a different workplace than most of us are accustomed to. I don't want to make any excuses.” — Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross on bullying accusations made by one of his players, tackle Jonathan Martin.

Quiz answer

Texas.

Today in history

On this date in 1914, the Federal Reserve System formally opened.

WHOOPS: Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865, not Nov. 9 as this column stated last Saturday.

Snob words

en bloc (ahn BLAWK), adv. – as a whole, as in: “The members of the audience left the council meeting en bloc when the council president launched into his silly speech.”

Now you know

During the past 400 years, nearly a quarter of a million people have been killed as a direct result of volcanic eruptions.