Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Lost edges

In our fourth class, Dick pointed out "lost edges", where the artist invites the viewer to participate by filling in missing information, such as the Mona Lisa's hairline on the right side of the painting, where the area is shadowed, leaving the dividing line indistinct. Coincidentally, he got one of his "Twice-weekly letters" from Robert Genn the same day, making the same point (though using the terms "selective focus", "hard edges", and "soft edges") with work by a contemporary artist and by Titian, who we'd also discussed that day. See Robert Genn's commentary, and the works he refers to. Dick's comment, when he forwarded Genn's letter, was
To all who paid attention in class today, you may find this quite a coincidence.
The slides illustrating Dick's lecture are here, and the day's quiz is here.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The art history game

We got an introduction to the classification of periods in art history by playing a game. We worked in pairs with a game board, where a chronology of representative works was arranged around a square. Dick showed works of art on a screen, and each pair had to agree on what period the work was from, then the whole class gave their guesses and we discussed it. After classifying about twenty works, we had a pretty strong "spatial" sense of "where" in time the various periods fall relative to each other, and what some of the general identifying characteristics are.

The chronology starts in the bottom right corner, and moves clockwise. I've followed Dick's labeling in blocking the periods out in the lists below.
  1. Nature dominated
    Greek geometric
    Greek archaic

  2. Man dominated
    Greek classic
    Greek Hellenistic

  3. God dominated
    Early Christian / Byzantine
    Late Gothic
    Early Renaissance

  4. Man dominated
    High Renaissance

  5. Science dominated
    De Stijl

  6. Science & technology dominated
    Abstract expressionism
    Pop art / Op art
What is the central concern of the art of this time? What world view is represented in this work? How does the artist understand his fate and role in the world: Man as a victim of nature? Man as a servant of God? Man imposing his will over nature? Is the art concerned with faithfully representing reality, or the significance of reality? These are some of the important questions to consider in deciding which period a work is from.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Warm-up assignment

Prior to the first meeting of the art history group, Dick asked us to write a brief comparison of the two works above. Here is how Curtis Cost responded:
Two definitions of art...

On the left, as described in Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers, art defined as a skill set developed over the course of 10,000 hours.

On the right, Analytic Cubism. Art as described in Tom Wolfe's The Painted Word, defined intellectually, explained by theory, prompting N.Y. Times Art Critic Hilton Kramer to write "These days, without a theory to go with it, I can’t see a painting."
What was your response? Please share!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Art history presentations

Dick's presentations from the last two meetings of the art history group are available now on Slideshare.net. You can view the first one above. Notice that you can also expand it to full screen. The others are also available to view or download (for a limited time). They are PDFs, so you don't need PowerPoint to view them.