Steven Weiner, Computer Specialist and Aesthetic Realism associate, writes:
Is there a solid, objective means of distinguishing what is truly beautiful from that which isn’t? Likewise, how can we tell the difference between a discontent in ourselves that does our lives good and one that weakens us? For the urgent and logical answers to these questions, read “Beauty & Dissatisfaction,” the current issue of The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known.
The commentary by Ellen Reiss begins:
Dear Unknown Friends:
We are proud to reprint here two reviews written by Eli Siegel. One is of 1937; the other, of 1926, when he was 24 years old. Accompanying them is part of a paper by Michael Palmer, from a recent Aesthetic Realism public seminar titled “A Man’s Dissatisfaction—What Makes It Right or Wrong?”
The Big Critical Question
The 1937 review, of Benjamin Botkin’s The American Play-Party Song, appeared in New Masses, and in the third paragraph Mr. Siegel explains what the “play-party song” is. Both reviews contain some of his early work as a critic. He was, with ever-increasing clarity, coming to the answer to the centuries-old critical question: What is beauty—what is the criterion for art? In 1941 he would begin to teach Aesthetic Realism, which has the answer in its foundation principle: “All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves.”
The criterion given in that landmark principle is at once terrifically discriminating and terrifically inclusive. For example, in the 1937 review he speaks about poetry. The review was published in a periodical associated with the left; and I can think of no person who was more progressive than Eli Siegel. But at times in the ’20s and ’30s he angered various “progressive” persons because he said that a poem’s seeming to be for “the people” had nothing to do with whether it was true art or not. He is the critic who saw that what makes for poetry is this, and only this: the writer has seen a subject with such accuracy and fullness, with such a oneness of feeling and exactitude, that the words “take on a music, which is the poetic music.” And this musical structure which is a poem corresponds to the structure of reality itself: it is a oneness of opposites, such as freedom and order, strength and delicacy, motion and rest.
In fact, Mr. Siegel showed that all true art is for justice, which includes economic justice, that all art is completely progressive—because authentic art is always just to the object dealt with and to the world itself.
I have said many times that Eli Siegel was the greatest of critics, and have given reasons. One reason is that the Aesthetic Realism principle I quoted is true for art of every kind—whether the work seems bold or decorous, rough or polished…. >>Read more