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The Mission of Art

by Alex Grey

Buy the book: Alex Grey. The Mission of Art

Release Date: 13 March, 2001

Edition: Paperback

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Buy the book: Alex Grey. The Mission of Art


A Transformative Art?

In The Mission of Art, Alex Grey shows that his prodigious artistic gifts are moored in intellectual depth. Grey discusses art history, aesthetics, mysticism, religion, postmodernism, and processes of art reception with equal facility. This kind of writing is a rare treat. Only a small number of American artists have articulated their ideas in writing and fewer have done so with as much skill and alacrity. Grey's writing is reminiscent of G. Albert Aurier, the French Symbolist critic who shared Grey's mystical inclinations and his views about the spiritual and moral potential of art. Grey believes that mystically inspired art can in turn inspire its viewers to transcend today's oppressive consensual values of materialism, utilitarianism, and consumerism, and become aware of more authentic spiritual realities. There are a couple of factual inaccuracies, perhaps due to exaggeration or oversight, as where Grey states that mystical art was virtually absent in late nineteenth century Europe (p.37) and that Van Gogh labored in "complete obscurity" (p.90). Many prominent artists of the late nineteenth century French Symbolist movement were deeply inspired by neo-Platonic mysticism. Though Van Gogh never achieved material success, he was well known and respected by some major artists of his time. Aurier praised Van Gogh's art in a published review shortly before the latter's death. As the world seems to plummet ever deeper into eco-devastation and strife, to continue to hold out faith in general processes of human spiritual "evolution" which are aided by art, as Grey does, appears to demand ever more credulity. In my view, one can now realistically expect mystical art only to be a source of some personal inspiration and an exemplar of humanity's highest but tragically failed ideals. Its ideals of spiritual perfection might still be realizable, or approachable, by the minority of persons and minds which are receptive to it, but it has been virtually impotent as a means of producing a generalized social-spiritual transformation. Indeed, our society seems to appropriate such art as a means of a repressive desublimation of mystical idealism. Mystical art might tend to palliate and pacify idealistic urges, lulling some viewers into complacency by its pleasant presentations of images of spiritual self-actualization, images which, as wonderful as they may be, are only shadows of real conditions of actualization. Our society allows access to these images while doing its best to restrict access to the kinds of experiences which might truly facilitate such an actualization, such as the entheogenic experiences which largely inspired Grey, and competent shamanic guidance. Nevertheless, such mystical representations of what might be more realizable in a better world may for some others highlight the differences between what is and what ought to be, inspiring greater efforts to close the gap. Mystical imagery, as a means of Bildung or of the cultivation of consciousness, is capable of helping to "magnetize" the minds of receptive viewers, helping to keep some minds freed from Plato's cave and aimed toward the light.

From Amazon.com



The Mission of Art

In The Mission of Art, Alex Grey shows that his prodigious artistic gifts are moored in intellectual depth. Grey discusses art history, aesthetics, mysticism, religion, postmodernism, and processes of art reception with equal facility. This kind of writing is a rare treat. Only a small number of American artists have articulated their ideas in writing and fewer have done so with as much skill and alacrity. Grey's writing is reminiscent of G. Albert Aurier, the French Symbolist critic who shared Grey's mystical inclinations and his views about the spiritual and moral potential of art. Grey believes that mystically inspired art can in turn inspire its viewers to transcend today's oppressive consensual values of materialism, utilitarianism, and consumerism, and become aware of more authentic spiritual realities. There are a couple of factual inaccuracies, perhaps due to exaggeration or oversight, as where Grey states that mystical art was virtually absent in late nineteenth century Europe (p.37) and that Van Gogh labored in "complete obscurity" (p.90). Many prominent artists of the late nineteenth century French Symbolist movement were deeply inspired by neo-Platonic mysticism. Though Van Gogh never achieved material success, he was well known and respected by some major artists of his time. Aurier praised Van Gogh's art in a published review shortly before the latter's death.
As the world seems to plummet ever deeper into eco-devastation and strife, to continue to hold out faith in general processes of human spiritual "evolution" which are aided by art, as Grey does, appears to demand ever more credulity. In my view, one can now realistically expect mystical art only to be a source of some personal inspiration and an exemplar of humanity's highest but tragically failed ideals. Its ideals of spiritual perfection might still be realizable, or approachable, by the minority of persons and minds which are receptive to it, but it has been virtually impotent as a means of producing a generalized social-spiritual transformation. Indeed, our society seems to appropriate such art as a means of a repressive desublimation of mystical idealism. Mystical art might tend to palliate and pacify idealistic urges, lulling some viewers into complacency by its pleasant presentations of images of spiritual self-actualization, images which, as wonderful as they may be, are only shadows of real conditions of actualization. Our society allows access to these images while doing its best to restrict access to the kinds of experiences which might truly facilitate such an actualization, such as the entheogenic experiences which largely inspired Grey, and competent shamanic guidance. Nevertheless, such mystical representations of what might be more realizable in a better world may for some others highlight the differences between what is and what ought to be, inspiring greater efforts to close the gap. Mystical imagery, as a means of Bildung or of the cultivation of consciousness, is capable of helping to "magnetize" the minds of receptive viewers, helping to keep some minds freed from Plato's cave and aimed toward the light.

From Amazon.com


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