2. Part One - Contemporary Art · 2.a. Project 1: Art and Ideas

Exercise 3 – Reading About Art

Reading About Art

Art history: The Basics Extract
– Make notes on further research points
– Notes on parts particularly meaningful
– Look up new words /create glossary


What is Art and what is art history?

–         Research one day closer to Paradise incident (interesting insight into subjectivity of art)

–         Research Gombrich


So what is art?

–         Art is something artists do. Wide verity of examples – Ceramics, construction, performance art, photomontage. All have aesthetic status but are disparate (different) objects, practices and processes. The label ‘art’ connects them.

–         Research Fernie (1995:326)

–         Art Categories –

Craft Based (traditional): Painting, drawing, sculpture.

Functional (decorative): Ceramics, jewellery, textiles, needlework, glass.

Contemporary (Difficult to categorise): Wide verity of media – eg. Ceramics, embroidery – loose boundary between functional design still primarily for display

–         Research Grayson Perry (contemporary ceramics)

–         Research Tracey Emin (contemporary embroidery)

–         Art also includes activities which produce work with aesthetic value – film, performance, architecture.

–         Research Bauhaus aesthetic of the 1930’s (integrated fine art, design, craft and architecture)

–         Contemporary definitions of art are not medium specific or restrictive of nature or aesthetic value.

–         The institutional theory of art recognises that art can be a term designated by the artist and institutions of the art world rather than an external process of validation.

–         This creates an expansive framework for art but could be considered to be so broad as to be virtually meaningless.

–         Buy ‘Art History: The Basics’ for further reading

–         All definitions of art are mediated through culture, history and language.


The Classical concept or ‘Art’

–         Art ad craft has the longest history in western context.

–         No word in Greek for ‘art’ or ‘artist’ but the word ‘techne’ denoted skill or craft and ‘technites’ craftsman.

–         Research Sorbom

–         In classical world, crafts such as statues and mosaics had practical, public and ceremonial roles judged on technical standard and how it fulfilled social and civic roles expected from craft

–         Main role was belief that representation should be in the most life like and realistic way.

–         The western tradition of art originated from Greek and Roman practices.

–         In Europe and N. American culture, assumptions of art were linked to origins and development of the academic subject.

–         Central importance were the social institutions (academies and museums) est. late 16th century.

–         These establishments defined idea of what art should look like and should do.

–         To label something as ‘art’ implies an evaluative judgement about the piece.

–         Meaning and attributions of art are particular to different contexts, societies and periods.


Fine Art as an exclusive category

–         Avant-Garde artists began to make work that questioned primacy of the durable and hegemonic categorisations of fine art and what they signified.

–         Look at work from Paul Cezanne (1839-1906) Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) and Georges Braque (1882-1963)

–         Bryson (1990) underlined the importance of still life as a genre to the birth of modernism.

–         Overseas trade, colonisation and imperialism stimulated interest in tribal masks, carvings, fabrics and fetish objects which, with the indigenous cultures they represented, contributed to widespread interest in non-western art and artefacts.

–         Research Braque, Andre Derain, Ernst Kirchner, Henri Matisse, Picasso and Maurice De Vlaminck

–         ^^^ popularised primitivism.


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