“Seeing comes before words. The
child looks and recognizes before it
can speak. —John Berger
Primary visual sensory
area is the occipital lobe
We construct meanings out of images
(rather than images with ﬁxed,
universal meanings)…these meanings
are speciﬁc to the individual and
informed by cultural context.
Both seeing and understanding
Duchamp believed that the
viewer completed 50% of
any art work.
Interpretation of art and visual
culture is a process.
Interpretation is a process.
It can be grounded in a method
such as psychoanalysis.
Interpretation can also be
grounded in how we naturally
(or are taught) think and
We can use
processes (based on
to view art.
E. B Feldman
• ﬁrst we observe and describe (without
judgment) description forms
• then we analyze, bring in our own outside
knowledge to better understand
• Interpretation is a provisional judgment
• Evaluation (values) assessment of work
Bloom’s Taxonomy of Cognitive Domains
Knowledge : Recall data or information.
Comprehension : Understand the meaning, translation, interpolation, and
interpretation of instructions and problems. State a problem in one's own words.
Application : Use a concept in a new situation or unprompted use of an abstraction.
Applies what was learned in the classroom into novel situations in the work place.
Analysis : Separates material or concepts into component parts so that its
organizational structure may be understood. Distinguishes between facts and
Synthesis : Builds a structure or pattern from diverse elements. Put parts together to
form a whole, with emphasis on creating a new meaning or structure.
Evaluation : Make judgments about the value of ideas or materials.
describe (without judgment) by
making lists of what you see
analyze by bringing in your own
outside knowledge to better
understand the painting
Interpret by making a provisional
Evaluate (by using your values) to
assess of work
Romantic Shit. Jaguar Shit. Deep Shit. Bull Shit. Scary Shit. These are just a
few of the works on display in Andres Serrano’s new Shit Show, an
exhibition featuring 66 photos of excrement, each piece from a different
Serrano, whose 1989 Piss Christ spurred an outraged Jesse Helms to try
to outlaw the National Endowment of the Arts from funding such
projects, Serrano recently said that he can actually see faces and tableaux
in the gooey brown piles, including the raising of the ﬂag at Iwo Jima in
the one called Heroic Shit. “My ego as an artist says I can make anything
look good, even shit”
The question is not what you look at,
but what you see.
-Henry David Thoreau
Deﬁnition: The academic study of objects
of art in their historical development and
stylistic contexts, i.e. genre, design, format,
and look….art history generally is the
research of artists and their cultural and
Origins: Giorgio Vasari’s Lives of Painters
Big Names: Vasari, Winckelmann, Kant,
Wolfﬁn, Panofsky, Shapiro, Krauss
• Formal analysis
• Stylistic analysis
• Iconographical analysis
• Theory-based analysis; i.e. Marxist,
Semiotic, Freudian, etc.
Gabriel Cornelius von Max (1889) Monkeys as the judges of art
Biographical Autobiographical Based largely
on the artist’s life using original materials such
as autobiographical papers, letters and
accounts by the artist’s contemporaries. This
approach places the meaning of the artwork
as an expression of the artists life.
Related to the Biographical and
Autobiographical, but seeks to derive
meaning from a psychological
interpretation of the artist’s life.
Inspired by the work of Sigmund
Freud, this approach puts emphasis
on the unconscious factors in a
Seeks to identify and emphasize the symbolic
meanings of speciﬁc images and details by
tracing them back to mythological, religious
and social texts as well as conventions of
This approach assumes that the
meaning and signiﬁcance of an artwork
resides not in the cultural context of
the work, or the psycho-biographical
details of the artists life but rather in
the ‘intrinsic’ features of the form
itself. Art history is seen as the
evolution of formal and stylistic
An analysis on how an artwork or an artist
supports or challenges the prevailing economic
and political ideology. Such an approach lays bare
the prevailing power structures of wealth and
class as they relate to the cultural production of
art. This includes a broader social perspective that
embraces, patronage, and the intended audience of
The action of jumping 51 fences in
different locations around the city, and
around the world. The artist will wear a
mask like disguise to remain anonymous.
Fences protect and isolate. They are a
demarcation of an area, a symbol of
possession, a 'keep off' sign and a
command to stay within an area. They
divide and unify, provide security and
project fear. Their duality is our history.
Fences and borders are reasons for war.
They represent differences, our limitation
for communication, territorial control,
and a psychological fright to people, ideas
Often related to gender studies and gay lesbian
studies. This approach maintains that
representations of men and women, as well as
notions of “masculinity” and “femininity”, are not
reﬂections of a “natural” order but are socially
constructed in different societies and eras. This
approach examines images from the perspective
of representation of women ( and men ) and the
intended viewer ( or voyeur ).
The analysis of works in terms of colonial issues of
identity, representation and “otherness”. This
approach examines the way in which colonizing
cultures distort the experience and expressions of a
colonized people, and also the ways in which
colonized cultures articulate their own sense of
identity and history in a modern or post-colonial
Meaning and interpretation are based on an
image’s ability to signify various meanings
either through embedded cultural and social
patterns (Structuralism) or through the
questioning of various implicit assumptions
(Post-Structuralism or Deconstruction). In
any case, both challenge the idea of a “true”
or “real” meaning in a work of art, and
promote the notion that meaning is always
conditional and changing.
originally painted the
Mona Lisa with a
gauzy overdress for
nursing (visible, at
right), and a tiny
outline visible about
the sitter's head)
Considered a major force in the Op Art
movement, Anuszkiewicz is concerned with
the optical changes that occur when different
high-intensity colors are applied to the same
geometric conﬁgurations. Most of his work
comprises visual investigations of formal
structural and color effects, many of them
nested square forms similar to the work of his
mentor Josef Albers.
…known for his light tunnels and light projections that
create shapes that seem to have mass and weight,
though they are created with only light.
Ligon's reputation is for creating large, text-based
paintings in which a phrase chosen from literature or
other sources is repeated over and over, eventually
dissipating into murk.
Albers is best remembered for his work as an abstract
painter and theorist. He favored a very disciplined
approach to composition. Most famous of all are the
hundreds of paintings and prints that make up the series
Homage to the Square. In this rigorous series, begun in
1949, Albers explored chromatic interactions with ﬂat
colored squares arranged concentrically.
Chuck Close often worked from photographic stills to create
paintings that appeared to be photographs. The everyday nature
of the subject matter of the paintings likewise worked to secure
the painting as a realist object…Although his later paintings
differ in method from his earlier canvases, the preliminary
process remains the same. To create his grid work copies of
photos, Close puts a grid on the photo and on the canvas and
copies cell by cell. Typically, each square within the grid is ﬁlled
with roughly executed regions of color (usually consisting of
painted rings on a contrasting background) which give the cell a
perceived 'average' hue which makes sense from a distance.