Addressing the important and timely question of what it is to know something as an artwork, this volume explores the relationship between works of art and the concepts, evaluations, descriptions, and explanations, that we use to account for them. Lucian Krukowski proposes that the origin, meaning, value, and even ending of an artwork can best be understood by examining the interplay between its "concrete and theoretic aspects": i.e., the thesis that what an artwork says or shows includes what is said or shown about it. In Krukowski's view, this relationship is highly volatile, with artworks achieving and relinquishing both status and value as their stylistic alliances with other works prosper or wane over time.
Krukowski, a professional philosopher and a working painter, brings special insight to a number of key issues in this debate, focusing primarily on modern and avant-garde art. He discusses both the European and the American versions of abstract and nonobjective art through the Hegelian concept of historical progress and the Kantian concept of formal autonomy, and he examines Theodor Adorno's attempt to reconcile "radical form" and "social criticism" in the concept of twelve-tone music. He then explores a distinction between "art" and "non-art" by questioning whether there are things we "ought not" appreciate.
The later chapters, responding to the writings of Joseph Margolis, Arthur Danto, and George Dickie, provide a comprehensive theory on the ontology of art.