Rauschenberg hung an actual bed, incrusted with paint, on the wall, instead of painting the image of a bed on a canvas . . . Johns, on the other hand, brought the revolution full circle when he made his American flag in 1954, and now historic Ballantine ale cans in 1960 . . . the physical character of the flag as an object is asserted, even though it is painted. The important thing is that it is not a painting of a flag; the work is looked at rather than into."
And Robert Morris commenting on Johns' Ballantine ale cans (Painted Bronze, 1960) and other works of his like it points out
Johns took painting further toward a state of non-depiction than anyone else . . . That is, these works were not depictions according to past terms which had, without exception, operated within the figure-ground duality of representation. Johns took the background out of painting amd isolated the thing. The background became the wall. What was previously neutral became actual, while what was previously an image became a thing.
But is this news? Or how new is this? Plato's censorship of the arts and poetry was based on a theory of mimesis as not so much a matter of creating representations of the world and the objects in it in a separate and external way, but of presenting the subject again, of the subject' s being present again in the mimesis of it. Or think of photography which is sometimes charged with precipatating the whole crisis by removing the need for modern painting to create likenesses. If a bed is seen finally as getting "into" the art by being hung on a museum wall - I am reminded of Jimmy Durante's "everybody wants to get into the act." - think of Henri Carier-Bresson's photograph of Jean-Paul Sartre and ask yourself whether or not Sartre is "in" the picture or whether you are looking at him or "into" a picture of him and you may, just may, begin rethink the role photography played in the historical evolution of Rauschenberg's The Bed (1955), Johns' American Flag (1954) and >Ballantine Ale Cans (1960) and Andy Warhol's Brillo Box (1964), which brings me back to Danto and The Transfiguration of the Commonplace.
Back to Philosophy 113B Home Page