Harsh Poetry and Art's Address: Romare Bearden and Hans-Georg Gadamer in Conversation

Polish Journal of Aesthetics 43:103–123 (2016)
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In this essay, I analyze Romare Bearden’s art, methodology, and thinking about art, as well as his attempt to harmonize his personal aesthetic goals with his sociopolitical concerns. I then turn to Hans-Georg Gadamer’s reflections on art and our experience (Erfahrung) of art. I show 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, make claims upon us, and even reveal truth. Lastly, I discuss Gadamer’s 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. This leads to a discussion of Gadamer’s notion of the type of self-(and world) understanding that occurs through aesthetic experience. I close by returning to Bearden in order to discuss how his art unearths a crucial feature of our being-in-the-world. I call this feature “world-unmasking” and show how it expands and enriches Gadamer’s account.
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