The Search for a Democratic Aesthetics

Robert Rauschenberg, Walker Evans, William Carlos Williams

If democracy were an artwork, what would it look like? – Starting from this question and examining the work of three crucial figures from 20th-century American painting, photography, and poetry, this monograph proposes a specific way of conceptualizing the link between democracy and aesthetics. The book argues that a democratic aesthetics can be properly understood by interpreting a number of formal features of artworks as metaphors for particular key elements of democracy as it is framed in important strands of democratic theory. For example, a certain kind of loose collage composition can be seen to stand in a metaphorical relationship with the structure of a pluralist democratic polity. Systematically developed, this account helps better to understand the democratic quality of individual artworks, and also makes plausible how aesthetics can contribute to the discourse of democratic theory.

Heinz Ickstadt in: Journal of American Studies, 47.3 (2013), E78

Grzegorz Kość in: Polish Journal for American Studies, Vol. 7 (2013), 212ff