Form and Content
On Sunday, April 28, 1974, as the result of an article in The New York Times about a Yale University art exhibition, Tom Wolfe came to an interpretation of the nature of twentieth century art and architecture that would eventually characterize two of his books, The Painted Word (1975) and From Bauhaus to Our House. “Then and there,” Wolfe wrote in The Painted Word, “I experienced a flash known as the AHA! phenomenon, and the buried life of contemporary art was revealed to me for the first time. The fogs lifted! The clouds passed!” The thesis that Wolfe adapted in The Painted Word is that twentieth century art “has become completely literary.” Artists have conformed to the theories of art critics. Thus, painting is a reflection of the current artistic theory or philosophy, instead of philosophy or theory arising from and explaining the nature of art. In the world of art, essence precedes and determines existence and not the reverse. In From Bauhaus to Our House, Wolfe extended this view of art to the world of architecture. Thus, twentieth century architecture is a reflection of a philosophy or theory: The philosophy that explains architecture, according to Wolfe, is Marxism, and that central vision was translated into the major architectural forms of the century.
The format or structure, content, and language of Wolfe’s books are designed to support his thesis. Without pedantry, Wolfe takes his readers on a lighthearted, charming romp through the history of modern architecture. He uses wit, satire, and good humor to poke fun at and deflate the arrogance of twentieth century...
(The entire section is 675 words.)