Monday, July 27, 2009

What Do You Think of Dalí?

I have to admit that when it comes to aesthetics, Salvador Dalí's art doesn't do much for me. And honestly, I don't think I know anyone who finds Dalí's work to be aesthetically-pleasing. Most people I know have described Dalí's art as cerebral, Freudian, or just plain weird.

Don't get me wrong, I think that Salvador Dalí's art has a significant place when it comes to art history. I think it's great that most art history students are introduced to The Persistence of Memory (1931, shown above). I enjoy comparing Dalí's work to other Surrealists and seeing how it fits in the grand trajectory of art.1 I also think it's interesting to apply a Freudian interpretation to Dalí's art.

Aesthetically, though, I am drawn to the work of other Surrealists, like Miró and Magritte. Dalí really doesn't do anything for me.

I wonder about how important aesthetic was to Dalí. He obviously produced a distinct style - but I wonder if this wasn't due to aesthetic taste but more-so for emphasizing an artistic statement (or perhaps so he could better market himself as an artist and commodity).

Matthew Kieran wrote about how Dalí's film, Un Chien Andalou, is completely incoherent (which really was the purpose of the film). The film was not created to display aesthetically pleasing shots for the viewer. Kieran argues that people (or at least some people), "seem to [place] value in art images or music which are assumed to fall outside the sphere of aesthetic value because they are ugly, grotesque or incoherent and that is their very point."2

I think I agree with Kieran - Dalí seems to be valued because of the incoherence and cerebral nature of his art, not because of aesthetics.

I know that people have varying opinions on what makes something aesthetically pleasing or constitutes an aesthetic response (and Kieran even discusses this fact in hist article). In your opinion, do you think Dalí is "outside the sphere of aesthetic value?" C'mon Dalí fans, speak up and defend yourselves! There has got to be someone out there who is aesthetically drawn to Dalí's style, and I'd like to hear their reasoning.

What do you think?

1 Although Dalí was part of the Surrealist movement, he was expelled from the official group in 1934

2 Matthew Kieran, "Aesthetic Value: Beauty, Ugliness, and Incoherence," Philosophy 72, no. 281 (July, 1997): 386.