Stile tardo e arte prima

Per una politica del tardo modernismo

  • Jay M. Bernstein The New School for Social Research


In this essay, Jay Bernstein moves from Adorno’s notion of ‘late style’ in order to assess the artistic trajectory of post-modernist sculpture and painting. Radicalizing Adorno, Bernstein takes ‘late style’ as illustrating art’s immanent tendency to lay bare its constitutive moments: the materiality of nature, on the one hand, and its belonging to the fundamental grammar of the human condition, on the other. The first part of the essay retraces the artistic development of Isamu Noguchi, from his early works to his late sculpture. For Bernstein, the central position of stones in Noguchi’s late sculpture deconstructs the intentionality of our formative activity and lets nature surfacing as an irreducible source of meaning. The second part of the essay focuses on Bingyi’s ‘largescapes’ – the apex of modernist painting, according to Bernstein – in order to show the dynamic character of nature. The reduction of art to ‘non-art’ – to stone, to nature, to an expressivity other than human agency – ultimately discloses the possibility of a radical political discourse. The third part of the essay argues that art becomes politics if we decide to take up artistic works politically, i.e. if we decide to turn them into crucial moments of our democratic discourse. Translated by Agnese Di Riccio from Jay M. Bernstein, Late Style, First Art: the Fate and Politics of Modernism, «MLN» vol. 133/3 (2018), pp. 604-636.     


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