Portrait of a Collector

1980s Founders Joe Shapiro

The MCA's founding director, Joseph Randall Shapiro, discusses the nature of art.

Art, I think, can be defined and has been defined in philosophical aesthetics as, first you’ll say the creation of forms, expressive of human feeling and made perceptible. And the expression of human consciousness in a single metaphoric image, or the communication of a sense of ordered parts with the one total, all-embracing organic unity. Art deals with the life of feeling, and in a work of art you find the embodiment of a sense of life, a sense of feeling, in some objective form. See, art really is not nature. It’s a transformation nature of the formative mind. And the—I think all art really is a concept that deals primarily with these multifarious rhythms of nature, rhythms of life, that are organic, mental, and intellectual.

Really it deals with this interior life, the life of the inward self, which is objectified and where our intuitions about life and death are clarified and illuminated through the expressive form of the work of art. But what brings one to surrealism, I think is a matter of temperament. So we’ve always been predisposed for that which is the more reflective of the inner self. External reality, naturalism, it all becomes very boring to us. We’ve always been inclined towards the irrational, the enigmatic, the ambiguity, which is part of life itself. The surreal is something that we have always identified as part of that internal self.

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