Theodor W. Adorno’s governing procedure in Aesthetic Theory is to reconstruct the terms and concepts of traditional aesthetics and the philosophy of art through the actuality of artistic modernism in its various guises. The necessity of this procedure turns on the recognition that modernist art has become a stand-in for the now-wrecked authority of living nature. Adorno contends that “natural beauty,” as elaborated by Immanuel Kant, is the recognition of that now-lost experience of nature, and that art beauty must be thereby interpreted as becoming the reconstructed afterimage of natural beauty. The article tracks the development of this thought from Kant’s account of “wild beauties” through Adorno’s chapter “Natural Beauty” to its actualization in Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty.

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