A Relational Account of Art Criticism
Let the project of art criticism consist in the achievement of understanding. There is an imaginative entering-in, working towards grasp of the artwork’s significance. It is natural to suppose that at some point the critic’s work ceases to be an act of discovery, where the creativity inherent in criticism ceases to have critical value. Wollheim’s Criticism as Retrieval provides a way of addressing this problem: when the imaginative interrogation of an artwork extends beyond anything that could be correctly described as part of the creative process that culminated in that artwork no longer serves its critical purpose. Guided by Wittgenstein’s remarks on seeing aspects, rule-following, and aesthetics, I take issue with Wollheim’s proposal. Criticism, I claim, involves reflection on the meaning constitutive relational associations appropriate to the artwork. The critic’s claims are valid provided that the descriptions and reasons offered for appreciating the artwork transform our experience of it.