Re: A comment

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Posted by Tom Cole on January 25, 1999 at 09:46:55:

In Reply to: Re: A comment posted by R. John Howe on January 24, 1999 at 22:05:30:

: Dear Tom et al -

: Thanks for your comment. It is my impression that you are recognized as one of the more experienced and knowledgeable folks in our collector/dealer community. More, although your personal responses to great rugs might have their visceral aspects, you have on occasion shared some thoughts in writing cogent enough to be seen as having a not inconsiderable intellectual content.

: It seems frequently the case that when one tries to access Chris Alexander's aesthetics that one encouters difficulty. That is part of what Mr. Salingaros is attempting here, to make that difficulty less so. I would only ask these questions. Did you attempt to use these rules and find that experience unsatisfying in some way or do you reject the experiment at the outset?

: It seems to me that the question of aesthetic quality is so central to our collecting/studying/dealing experience that it is important to be self-conscious of the ground we stand on when we speak of it. If it is strictly a matter of individual subjectivity, there would seem little reason for any of us ever to talk to any of the rest of us much about it since there would not be much shared experience to talk about. But I doubt that your position is that extreme and I expect that you, like most of us, assume that some communcation about aesthetic quality is possible.

: This is merely an effort to take a pair of formalists at their word about their view of aesthetics and to make some aesthetic judgments in terms of the rules they recommend. They are saying some quite radical things. They believe that they can demonstrate that human aesthetic judgments are largely "hard-wired."

: It may well be that after applying their rules we will find their theory unsatisfactory in one or more senses but won't we be on better ground to have tried it concretely and to know on the basis of that experience rather specifically what its virtues and defects might be?

: I would argue that it is a bit too easy to say that this exercise is too difficult, perhaps too myopic without trying. (I would not claim that all of these rules are easily undestood on their face. I am having trouble grasping some of them myself as I do the work of this salon.)

: Regards,

: John Howe

John- I thank you for your compliments regarding my stature within the rug community as well as recognizing that some of my writings have not been without some intellectual content. Yes, I feel I am able to understand the criterion of the checklist, but to tell you all truthfully and without exaggeration, I rarely if ever ask myself such questions or examine in such minute detail of observation or thought the particular qualities of a rug which stimulate my eye.

We often speak of people with a good eye or a "lead eye". What does that mean? Instinctually drawn to something 'beautiful'? I am not sure, but I cannot engage in such a dissection of art; to me it either "has it" or doesn't. And all rug "experts" do not necessarily agree with me, nor do the vast majority of collectors for that matter.

Part of what makes a rug desireable/beautiful for me has to do with the less than precise or scientific term of "movement". Is my eye entertained? Does the rug move? I often describe a great rug as one that "dances", put it up on the wall and watch it dance. Why it does that is the result of a sum of factors including, obviously, the use of color and space.

Some of the pieces in the Alexander collection are absolutely fabulous, but I judge them so for different reasons, not all of which have to do with movement. As I recall from the 1990 ICOC exhibition in SF, the mystery and power of some of these stately and grand fragments intrigue the imagination as well, a glimpse of the past, of history itself. Not sure that feeling was included in the checklist which is much too coldly clinical for my sentient response to visual stimuli.

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