Art: The Basic Debate

Has the artist any obligation to weigh human values or to communicate through his art a vision of spiritual truth?

That simple question, to which almost any layman would answer yes, gets a fast and furious no from many of today's esthetes. Even to ask it in arty circles is to sound like a hick or a troublemaker. Selden Rodman, who is neither, uses it to kick off one of the most provocative art books in years (The Eye of Man; Devin-Adair; $10). His own answer—affirmative—rattles the lattices of a hundred ivory towers.

Rodman's thesis,...

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