(A Critique of Pure Reason, Immanuel Kant)

A Critique of [Im]Pure Criticism

by Johnes Ruta

Essay outline: 1996.

The Ethical Criteria and Legitimate Purposes of Art Criticism

in the academy, in the forum, & and in the media

1. Ethical Methodology.

a. personal complete examination (on location) of works of art, music, or literature to be discussed.

b. preview of explanatory references by author or artist.

c. disregard of secondary source of bias or partiality.

d. secondary sources to be referred from strictly to identify quantitative components and qualitative issues.

e. discrimination of personal preferences, taste, and political or religious points of view, from analytical and aesthetic criteria.

f. qualitative analysis abstaining from impertinent or personal data, comparison by substitution, ridicule, or innuendo.

g. textural explanation of reviewer's differences with author or artist's tone of seriousness or humor.

2. To establish authenticity.

a. qualification of a work's originality of concept.

b. argumentation of an 'a priori concept.

c. verification of authorship.

d. continuity and nuance of the artist's personal style

3. To establish relevance (in order of significance).

a. context of independent creative intent.

b. context and implications to audience.

c. questions regarding relevance or images of the creative self.

d. elements of historically concurrent motif, theme, or structure

e. archetypal or subliminal aspects of images, harmonies, or patterns.

f. contexts to myth, religion, symbolism, and/or metaphor.

g. influences from, or effects upon, the stages or evolution of history.

h. contexts to posterity.

i. contexts to relativistic world-lines of space/time.

j. contexts to personal, religious, or political ideologies.

The following outline of criteria is drawn and adapted from the Table of Contents of John F.A. Taylor's "Design and Expression in the Visual Arts."

4. To appraise the qualities of technical execution.

a. surface texture

b. form

c. color (mixed & pure)

d. mass and displacement

e. balance

f. proportion

g. closure / framing

h. scale

i. possibilities and limitations of materials employed

j. material constituents

5. Emotive Qualities

a. emotional resonance

b. sensation

c. emotional impact

d. essence

e. subtlety

f. sublimation

g. volatilty

h. empathic identification

i. fantasy, reverie, and dream

j. telepathy


6. Aesthetic discernment & recognition of static and dynamic values.

a. structure

i. visual stability

ii. cognate geometric axes

iii. positive and negative light

iv. Perspective

(1) subliminal diagrammic patterns, tangents, and vortices

(2) vanishing points

(3) emergent entities

v. the proportional eye

(1) total foreground

(2) flattened panorama

(3) object significance defined by given size

vi. planar interrelations

vii. interior and recessive dimension

b. pattern & rhythm

i. progression of shapes and masses

ii. affinity or disaffinity of forms

iii. frequency and cyclic occurence(i.e. beat)

iv. intensity

v. inversion

vi. ambiguity

vii. emergent qualities

viii. capacity to absorb the attention

c. equilibrium

i. static equilibrium= symmetry

ii. dynamic equilibrium = asymmetry

iii. sense of movement

iv. energetic quanta and magnitude (power; strength; subtlety)

v. release and restraint

vi. the sensation of stillness or stoppage in time

vii. object fixation

viii. organic wholeness

ix. regularity and simplicity

x. complimentaries

d. content

i. complexity

ii. capacity

iii. constancies

iv. emotional evocation

e. color and light

i. physical light / sensed light

ii. white and spectral light

iii. consonance and dissonance

iv. shadow and depth of darkness

v. contrast

f. tonality

i. warmths

ii. hue

iii. saturation

iv. frequency separation: emotion, physicality, spirituality

v. range

vi. modality and unification

vii. harmony

7. To intuit and appraise the creative language utilized.

a. thematic qualities and issues.

b. expressive and/or impressionist qualities and nuances.

c. innovative genre, forms, syntax, or structures.

d. stylistic traditions employed for effect or for convention.

e. figurative postural representations and allusions.

f. rhetorical argumentation of central and correlary concepts.

g. depth of interactive relationships.

h. depth of inherent understanding.

I. meaning and unity.


Aristotle (c. 384-322 BC): "The Metaphysics," "Nichomachian Ethics," "Rhetoric."

Edmund Burke (1729-1797): "A Philosophical Enquiry into the Sublime and Beautiful."

Georg Wilhem Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831): "The Philosophy of Fine Art."

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804): "The Critique of Judgment."

Otto Rank (1884-1939): "Art and Artist : Creative Urge and Personality Development."

John F.A. Taylor, "Design and Expression in the Visual Arts."