Visual Art and the Rhythm of Experience

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The concept of rhythm is frequently used by art historians, critics, and philosophers as a way of describing central features of visual art. Since rhythm is generally considered to be a temporal phenomenon associated with music, it is far from clear how visual art, composed of fixed lines, figures, and color, can be associated with rhythmicity. Linked to a temporal ordering or structure in music, the notion of rhythm in visual art leads to a claim that the aesthetic aspect of a painting does not consist in, or emerge from, its spatial structures, but rather its temporal ordering of the visual field. Recently this account of rhythm in visual art has been criticized by philosopher Jason Gaiger, who argues that visual art does not comprise movement and therefore cannot be associated with a temporal rhythm. Through a discussion of temporality and rhythm in Edmund Husserl, Erwin Straus, and Henri Maldiney, this article maintains that rhythmicity is a central aspect of experiences with visual art. It is shown that the phenomenological account of rhythm in the experience of visual art is fundamentally linked to a different notion of time.
Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)281-293
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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