Harsh Poetry and Art’s Address: Romare Bearden and Hans‑Georg Gadamer in Conversation
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This essay centers on Romare Bearden’s art, methodology, and thinking about art, and likewise explores his attempt to harmonize personal aesthetic goals with sociopolitical concerns. Following an investigation of Bearden’s work and thought, we turn to Hans‑Georg Gadamer’s reflections on art and our experience (Erfahrung) of art. As the essay unfolds, we see how Bearden’s approach to art and the artworks themselves resonate with Gadamer’s critique of aesthetic consciousness and his contention that artworks address us. An important component of Gadamer’s account is his emphasis on the spectator’s active yet non‑mastering role in the event of art’s address – an event that implicates the spectator and has the potential to transform him or her. As we shall see Gadamer’s notion of aesthetic experience sharply contrasts with modern, subjectivizing aesthetics, as it requires not only active participatory engagement, but it also brings about a transformed “vision” and understanding of one’s self, others, and the world. In closing, we return to Bearden in order to explore how his art unearths a crucial activity of our being‑in‑the‑world. I call this activity “un‑fabricating one’s world” and discuss how it expands and enriches Gadamer’s account.
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