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Art Criticism Instructions

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  • 1. Art Appreciation<br />Art Criticism: How to Critique Artde Beaufort<br />In preparation for our museum visit, we need to develop a critical strategy for talking about the art that we will be viewing. Although we may think of art as a primarily subjective experience, there are ways that we can develop a shared language to understand how the piece works formally(visually), how we personally experience the piece, and how it intersects with the world at large. <br />For each stage in the analysis write a separate section/paragraph with at least 5-6 sentences each. Please type your criticism and attach an image of the work that you have found on the museum web-site. Please do not photograph the works.<br />The strategy we are using first outlined by Edmund Feldman in the 1960’s, places an emphasis on your active participation in the process of criticism.<br />Description<br />Before we make any evaluations or interpretations, we must look at the work with the most objectivity possible. Use the Visual Elements we’ve discussed to identify formal characteristics and qualities of the work to make a description. You must also record the title, artist(s), medium, dimensions, and date. Think of this step as if you were describing the work to someone over the phone who had not seen it. Please do not use loaded or opinionated words such as “ugly” or “awesome”, but try and remain factual and impartial.<br />Some questions to consider:<br />•What is the subject of the work?<br />•What media is the work executed in?<br />•What is the size/scale ?<br />Visual Elements:<br />•Line, Implied Line<br />•Shape<br />•Mass/Volume<br />•Illusion of Space<br />•Time/Motion<br />•Color Scheme<br />•Texture<br />Analysis<br />At this point you should refer to the Principles of Design that we discussed earlier. Begin to think about the relationship of formal(visual) elements, and how the work is composed and organized. We are becoming more specific here, but we are still not ready to make interpretations or guess why the artist has made certain choices.<br />Some questions to consider:<br />•How do the visual elements contribute to a mood?<br />•What is the internal relationship between the objects or subjects depicted?<br />•How does the form communicate the content?<br />Design Principles:<br />•Unity and Variety<br />•Balance<br />•Emphasis/Subordination<br />•Directional Forces<br />•Contrast<br />•Repetition and Rhythm<br />•Scale and Proportion<br />Interpretation<br />Moving beyond a discussion of the visual characteristics of the work itself, let’s now begin to examine how the work affects us. Try to identify themes and ideas that seem to be meaningful, and interpret the feelings, emotions, and other experiential associations that the work elicits. Use the three strategies of criticism we discussed. When appropriate, please use the Verbs of Communication attached on below. At this point you can feel free to use the loaded value words we avoided earlier (“ugly”, “awesome”, etc.) to describe the expressive qualities of the piece.<br />Some questions to consider:<br />•How does the work relate to the world it was made (historical context)?<br />•How does the work relate to today’s world?<br />•What does the piece remind you of, how does it make you feel?<br />•What is the MEANING of the piece? <br />Three types of criticism/interpretation:<br />•Formal Theories<br />•Sociocultural Theories<br />•Expressive Theories<br />Evaluation<br />In this final, (and sometimes optional), stage of criticism, we need to decide the degree to which the work fails or succeeds in fulfilling its purpose. Keep in mind that not all art communicates a literal “message” but often the meaning of the work is the feelings or thoughts if leaves you with and the ideas that it forces you to examine. In this sense, have you come to see the work or its subject in a new light through the process of criticism.<br />Some questions to consider:<br />Why does this work have(or not have) value? What is it that makes the work worth considering among others? What is valuable to you in a work of art? Are there things that others may value that you do not?<br />Does the piece communicate an idea or feeling well, or do you remain unmoved?<br />If it fails or succeeds in your estimation, can you point to specific remarks you noticed earlier in our criticism to emphasize your evaluation?<br />Values<br />•Personal Values<br />•Political Values<br />•Cultural Values<br />•Sub-Cultural Values<br />•Class Values<br />•National Values<br />•Religious Values<br />•Spiritual Values<br />Why Critique?<br />Why can’t we just enjoy art with out all the fuss? After all, we know what we like, and are fully entitled to our own beliefs, feelings, and judgments. The short answer is that art criticism, and the dialogue that emerges from it, open us up to a larger conversation about the human experience. By closely examining artwork through description and analysis, we come to see the formal subtleties and intricacies not just of the object in question, but within a larger field of visual experience that exists all around us. Unlike goldfish, we are aware of the “water” of flowing imagery that we swim through everyday. By interpreting the art, we begin to ask questions about the world we live in, and by doing so, we begin to forge connections between our own experiences and those of others. When we evaluate work, we examine not just what we personally value, but are examining cultural values that may shift over time. Take for example,The Birthday, by Marc Chagall, a work that was highly valued in the early days of Modernism, but was used as an example of degenerate art by the Nazi Regime, who valued militarism and authoritarian idealism more than experimentation and individualism. It’s important to ask questions not just about art-work, but about the society we live in so that we are active participants and citizens rather than passive consumers of a pre-packaged experience.<br />Critical Thinking:<br />•There are many positive and useful uses of critical thinking:<br />–Formulating a workable solution to a complex personal problem. <br />–Deliberating as a group about what course of action to take.<br />–Analyzing the assumptions and the quality of the methods used in any assessment or judgment of value.<br />•Critical thinking, in its broadest sense can be described as purposeful reflective judgment concerning what to believe or what to do.<br />•Critical thinking clarifies goals, examines assumptions, discerns hidden values, evaluates evidence, accomplishes actions, and assesses conclusions.<br />

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