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In this text, writer Luis Vidales compares an aesthetic method grounded on spiritual causality to positivist formulations that see causality as residing in external phenomena. Vidales maintains that style (defined as technical aspects of the work of art) originates in social structure as opposed to geographical setting. As a historic example, he analyzes Egyptian art between the early Dynasty and the Theban Empire. He goes on to formulate a distinction between the collective art of undifferentiated societies (that is, societies based on religion) and the individual art of social organizations based on the notion of the “self.” The former make use of geometric compositions with rows and lines, and the latter of sinuous lines and single compositions. In closing, the author uses his method to analyze the disproportionateness innate to contemporary art, which he deems befitting to a society, like his, in a state of crisis.
This article was published in 1958, that is, twelve years after Vidales’s Tratado de estética [Treatise on Aesthetics] [see “Tratado de estética,” doc. no. 1080374]. By this time, the author had put together—and applied in two different decades—a solid system for the analysis of a wide range of artistic phenomena in Colombia and beyond. This text contains a summary of the premises and central ideas of his critical method, addressing notions he considers central, such as “style” and “social organization.”
The most important advance put forth by his methodology is the categorical opposition between the art of [what he calls] collective and individual ages. On this basis, Luis Vidales (1900–1990) assessed works according to the specific social frameworks in which they were produced. This meant a shift in criteria for evaluating art, since Vidales considered it misguided to speak of “good art” and “bad art,” but rather of art as a reflection of the society in which it was produced. In other words, a work of art is always good; when it’s not, it is simply not art. This position opened up new perspectives in Colombian aesthetics. Before methodic ideas like those presented by Vidales had been established, it was not possible to formulate complex arguments (like those found in this text) on phenomena like the difference between easel and mural painting and the role of disproportionateness in new artistic tendencies.