Friday, April 10, 2009

Grotesque Aesthetics

"As a form, the origins of the grotesque aesthetic lie in the visual arts."___*

"The grotesque is not an expression of norms, but rather what results from the transgression of them (Dieter Petzold "Grotesque" The Oxford Encyclopedia of Children's Literature.) In recognition of the grotesque as “the slipperiest of aesthetic qualities” (Geoffrey Harpham “The Grotesque: First Principles” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism.) the flurry of nineteenth century writers addressing the grotesque did so by exploring its aesthetic, social and philosophical significance. (“An Introduction to the Grotesque: Theoretical and Theological Considerations” The Grotesque in Art and Literature: Theological Reflections Ed. Adams, James Luther and Wilson Yates.)
The word itself is rooted in the sixteenth century Italian excavation of ancient palaces, tombs and villas such as Nero’s Domus Aurea in Rome, and the discovery of a fantastical decorative style in the underground chambers called grotte. (Gordon Campbell, ed. “Grotesque" The Grove Encyclopedia of Decorative Arts.) Within the century the term had spread to France and England, where its definitive scope broadened from decorative motifs to encompass literature and even people.

"Even in its antique origin, the grotesque carried something “ominous and sinister" a world totally different from the familiar one (Kayser, Wolfgang. The Grotesque In Art and Literature. p.21). Wolfgang Kayser, in his history of the tradition quotes from Vitruvius’s On Architecture (circa 23 BC) whose commentary reveals the shock the original form presented when first employed:
"Our contemporary artists decorate the walls with monstrous forms rather than reproducing clear images of the familiar world. […] they paint fluted stems with oddly shaped leaves and volutes […] dainty flowers unrolling out of roots and topped, without rhyme or reason, by figurines. The little stems finally, support half-figures crowned by human or animal heads. Such things, however, never existed, do not now exist, and shall never come into being.""___*

"Despite some notable, but isolated, attempts in the nineteenth century to define the nature of the grotesque, it was not until the appearance in 1957 of the book by the late German critic Wolfgang Kayser, The Grotesque in Art and Literature, that the grotesque became the object of considerable aesthetic analysis and critical evaluation. Where previous ages had seen in it merely the principle of disharmony run wild, or relegated it to the cruder species of the comic, the present tendency—one which must be welcomed as a considerable step forward—is to view the grotesque as a fundamentally ambivalent thing, as a violent clash of opposites, and hence, in some of its forms at least, as an appropriate expression of the problematical nature of existence. It is no accident that the grotesque mode in art and literature tends to be prevalent in societies and eras marked by strife, radical change or disorientation. Although one runs the risk of succumbing to clichés when one regards the past forty or fifty years as just such an era convulsed by momentous social and intellectual changes, it can nevertheless be fairly said that this is an important contributing factor in the present artistic situation, where the grotesque is very much in evidence. Even a quick random sampling of what is being currently produced—with such names as Harold Pinter and Joe Orton in England, J. P. Donleavy and John Barth in the U.S.A., Samuel Beckett and Eugene Ionesco in France, Günter Grass in Germany and Friedrich Dürrenmatt in Switzerland—will attest to the extent to which the grotesque has become a favoured mode in world literature. This is not to speak of the other arts, where a similar situation prevails."___***

___*"Everything Off Balance" A Master's Thesis in American Studies at the University of Virginia, Site Author: Caleb P. Dulis

___**grotesque Inga Kim Diederich: Art History and Visual Arts, The University of Chicago, Theories of Media.

___***The Grotesque by Philip Thomson, Grotesque The World Wide Web Site

No comments:

Post a Comment