Wednesday, 12 April 2017

From The Fountainhead To The Future

From The Fountainhead To The Future and Other Essays on Art and Excellence
Alexandra York

Alexandra York’s essays in From The Fountainhead To The Future thoroughly explore the idea that good art can inspire better society.

She analyzes the repercussions of the artistic trends in different epochs of history—ancient Greece, the Roman Empire and the Renaissance—and develops a convincing view on what the postmodernist art of today portends for the future of the Western civilization.

In her Preface, York says: “The Time is ripe for philosophically inspired art to emerge from our midst like “homing” search lights beamed onto viable paths that might lead us out of our present morass into the natural sunlight of a tomorrow where people will have learned again to cherish beauty and rational values.”

In the chapter, “The State of Culture,” York says: “Art is a shortcut to philosophy. This is why the art that predominates in any given culture can be read as a barometer of that culture’s basic philosophical content. All artists are not always conscious of the values they express in their work but conscious or not, we can be very sure that their deepest, most personally held values are revealed in their art, for good or ill.”

York posits that when the present nihilism of postmodern art fades away, Western civilization will see a new renaissance of much greater philosophical and political significance than the Italian Renaissance.

In the chapter, “Romantic Realism: Visions of Values,” she points out that a “renaissance” must not be regarded as a mere “revival,” because the word means a “rebirth.” “We cannot and should not seek to repeat the past. No matter how ground-breaking was ancient Greece or how brilliant the Italian Renaissance or how progressive the Enlightenment, we must begin here and now.”

She warns that “If we fail to generate a Renaissance of the twenty-first century, then surely we shall suffer a Dark Age.”

The idea of a Twenty-first century Renaissance is further explained in the chapter, “The Legacy Lives: Embracing The Year Three thousand in Philosophy and Art.” York says that the “art produced during any epoch—from Paleolithic cave drawings to the Parthenon—is always an accurate philosophical and spiritual testament to the degree of progress or primitivism of its own time and the ideas that informed it.”

Taking this idea in mind she draws her inference about our artistic testament today and in the future. She accepts that nihilism is the dominant trend in modern art, but she feels that this artistic nihilism can pave way for a better tomorrow. “But strange as it may seem, this chaos can actually serve us, because it leaves the way out of the ruins open and obstacle-free of ossified preconceptions that might otherwise hinder our judgement.”

The analysis of Michelangelo’s David, Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker and EvAngelos Frudakis’s The Signer in the chapter, “Art As Interactive Experience,” is very interesting. York’s analysis of these timeless masterpieces reminds us of the vital role that art plays in inspiring us to develop ideas for improving the world that we inhabit.

The book ends with the chapter, “Sharing The Miracle” in which York points out that art is the most beautiful, noble and life-enriching of all human creations.

The eleven essays in York’s book are compatible with Ayn Rand's theory of romantic art, and although the use of The Fountainhead signifies the base from which her study of art on the world flows as the fountainhead of Western civilization--Ancient Greece—many readers may connect with Rand’s novel of the same name.

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