It's the context, stupid...
September 9, 2009 12:14 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for examples of (probably) contemporary art history/art theory/art writing which emphasise the situatedness of artistic practice (i.e. the notion that we need to have some understanding of the social and cultural context in which an artwork functions in order to be able to make sense of it). Any suggestions?
posted by Chairboy to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The Painting of Modern Life, by T. J Clark, is absolutely outstanding, and is exactly what you're looking for.
posted by newmoistness at 12:33 PM on September 9, 2009

The concept you describe is most often categorized as Deconstruction. It was pretty heavily covered by Walter Benjamin, Jacques Derrida and Ferdinand Saussure, to name a few.

It's definitely brainiac territory. I'd suggest that good art gives just as much without a context as with, but that's a subject for another topic.
posted by Aquaman at 12:38 PM on September 9, 2009

Uh, Ferdinand de Saussure. Sorry, dude.
posted by Aquaman at 12:40 PM on September 9, 2009

Thanks for the replies so far. I take your point Aquaman, and I'm aware of Deconstruction, but I am looking specifically for examples of writing (articles or books or online) that specifically emphasise the importance of context in relation to art, rather than general movements in critical theory/philosophy. newmoistness - that looks good - I'll check it out - thanks!
posted by Chairboy at 12:46 PM on September 9, 2009

The most mind-blowing example of this that I know of is Leo Steinberg's The Sexuality of Christ in Renaissance Art and in Modern Oblivion. I won't ruin the fun of reading it, except to say that it perfectly illustrates the dangers of viewing art without taking social and cultural context into account.
posted by googly at 1:50 PM on September 9, 2009

I'm coming at this from reading within anthropology, but a few possibilities come to mind:

The Death of Authentic Primitive Art and other Tales of Progress by Shelly Errington
Primitive Art in Civilized Places by Sally Price
Destination Culture by Barbara Kirschenblatt-Gimblett (about exhibition in general, but dovetails with your interest)

As a side note, Aquaman is lumping lots of disparate but tenuously related lines of thinking under one term only to dismiss what he has sloppily defined. It's a strawman argument.
posted by umbĂș at 2:30 PM on September 9, 2009

One more: Check out The Convict and the Colonel by Richard and Sally Price.
posted by umbĂș at 6:07 PM on September 9, 2009

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