Formalism (art)

In art history, formalism is the study of art by analyzing and comparing form and style. Its discussion also includes the way objects are made and their purely visual or material aspects. In painting, formalism emphasizes compositional elements such as color, line, shape, texture, and other perceptual aspects rather than content, meaning, or the historical and social context. At its extreme, formalism in art history posits that everything necessary to comprehending a work of art is contained within the work of art. The context of the work, including the reason for its creation, the historical background, and the life of the artist, that is, its conceptual aspect is considered to be external to the artistic medium itself, and therefore of secondary importance.

History

The historical origin of the modern form of the question of aesthetic formalism is usually dated to Immanuel Kant and the writing of his third Critique where Kant states: "Every form of the objects of sense is either figure (Gestalt) or play (Spiel). In the latter case it is either play of figures or the mere play of sensations. The charm (Reiz) of colors... may be added, but the delineations (Zeichnung) in the... composition (Komposition)... constitute the proper object of the pure judgment of taste."[1] The philosopher Donald Crawford has summarized Kant's position stating: "Thus, for Kant, form consists of the spatial... organization of elements: figure, shape, or delineation... In the parts of the Critique of Judgment in which form is emphasized as the essential aspect of beauty, Kant is consistently a pure formalist."[2]

Contemporary definition

Nick Zangwill has defined formalism in art as referring to those properties "that are determined solely by sensory or physical properties—so long as the physical properties in question are not relations to other things and other times."[3] The philosopher and architect Branko Mitrovic has defined formalism in art and architecture as "the doctrine that states that the aesthetic qualities of works of visual art derive from the visual and spatial properties."[4]

According to the observation that works of art can in general contain formal properties and nonformal properties, the philosopher Nick Zangwill has delineated three types of formalism as they are encountered at the turn of the 21st century. First, Zangwill identifies extreme formalists who think "that all works of art are purely formal works—where a work is purely formal if all its aesthetic properties are formal aesthetic properties," then he defines anti-formalist thinkers as those who "think that no works of art have formal aesthetic properties."[5] The third type which Zangwill identifies as representing the transition of the philosophy of aesthetics into the 21st century is that of moderate formalism, where its principal exponents defend the principle "that all the aesthetic properties of works of art in a select class are formal, and second, that although many works of art outside that class have nonformal aesthetic properties, many of those works also have important formal aesthetic properties that must not be ignored."[5]

The philosopher Michalle Gal has offered a moderate version of formalism, entitled "Deep Formalism", which is a symbolic formalism based on philosophical aestheticism. The artwork is defined by her as deep form: "a form steeped in content that cannot be extracted from it. Artistic content, since it has no existence or sense apart from the form, cannot actually be referred to, other than speculatively. The content seals the form in an opaque, non-reflective, productive symbol."[6] Here she introduces a broad concept of symbol, an opaque-productive symbol: one that is not transparent to preconceived or pre-determined referents and meanings, but rather produces new ones.

Uses in art history

A formal analysis is an academic method in art history and criticism for analyzing works of art: "In order to perceive style, and understand it, art historians use 'formal analysis'. This means they describe things very carefully. These descriptions, which may include subjective vocabulary, are always accompanied by illustrations, so that there can be no doubt about what exists objectively".[7]

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ Kant. Critique of Judgment. Section 14.8.
  2. ^ Donald Crawford, Kant's Aesthetic Theory (Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1974), p. 100.
  3. ^ Nick Zangwill, The Metaphysics of Beauty (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2001), p. 56, ISBN 0801438209.
  4. ^ Branko Mitrović, Philosophy for architects (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, [2011]), p. 51.
  5. ^ a b Zangwill 2001, p. 84.
  6. ^ Gal, Michalle (2015). Aestheticism: Deep Formalism and the Emergence of Modernist Aesthetics. Peter Lang AG. p. 14. doi:10.3726/978-3-0351-0787-6. ISBN 9783035199925.
  7. ^ Review by: Clemency Chase Coggins of The Uses of Style in Archaeology edited by Margaret W. Conkey and Christine A. Hastorf, p. 233, Journal of Field Archaeology, Vol. 19, No. 2 (Summer, 1992), pp. 232–34, Maney Publishing, JSTOR

Sources

  • Bell, Clive. Art. London: 1914.
  • Denis, Maurice. 'Definition of Neo-Traditionism.' Art and Criticism. August 1890.
  • Greenberg, Clement. 'Towards a Newer Laocoon.' Partisan Review. 1940.

External links

Bob Law

Bob Law (22 January 1934 – 17 April 2004) was a founding father of British Minimalism concerning painting and sculpture. A prolific artist throughout his lifetime, Law struggled with ideas surrounding the legitimacy and significance of abstract art.

Classificatory disputes about art

Art historians and philosophers of art have long had classificatory disputes about art regarding whether a particular cultural form or piece of work should be classified as art. Disputes about what does and does not count as art continue to occur today.

Clement Greenberg

Clement Greenberg (), occasionally writing under the pseudonym K. Hardesh (January 16, 1909 – May 7, 1994), was an American essayist known mainly as an influential visual art critic closely associated with American Modern art of the mid-20th century and a Formalist aesthetician. In particular, he is best remembered for his promotion of the abstract expressionist movement and was among the first published critics to praise the work of painter Jackson Pollock.

Formalism

Formalism may refer to:

Form (disambiguation)

Formal (disambiguation)

Legal formalism, legal positivist view that the substantive justice of a law is a question for the legislature rather than the judiciary

Mathematical formalism

Formalism (linguistics)

Scientific formalism

Formalism (philosophy), that there is no transcendent meaning to a discipline other than the literal content created by a practitioner

Religious formalism, an emphasis on the ritual and observance of religion, rather than its meaning.

Formalism (mathematics), that statements of mathematics and logic can be thought of as statements about the consequences of certain string manipulation rules.

Formalism (art), that a work's artistic value is entirely determined by its form

Formalism (music)

Formalist film theory, focused on the formal, or technical, elements of a film

Formalism (literature)

New Formalism (architecture), a mid-20th century architectural style, sometimes abbreviated to Formalism

Russian formalism, school of literary criticism in Russia from the 1910s to the 1930s

Formalism (music)

In music theory and especially in the branch of study called the aesthetics of music, formalism is the concept that a composition's meaning is entirely determined by its form.

Formalist film theory

Formalist film theory is a theory of film study that is focused on the formal, or technical, elements of a film: i.e., the lighting, scoring, sound and set design, use of color, shot composition, and editing. This approach was proposed by Hugo Münsterberg, Rudolf Arnheim, Sergei Eisenstein, and Béla Balázs. Today, it is a major theory of film study.

Geometric abstraction

Geometric abstraction is a form of abstract art based on the use of geometric forms sometimes, though not always, placed in non-illusionistic space and combined into non-objective (non-representational) compositions. Although the genre was popularized by avant-garde artists in the early twentieth century, similar motifs have been used in art since ancient times.

Glossary of philosophy

A glossary of terms used in philosophy.

Hard-edge painting

Hard-edge painting is painting in which abrupt transitions are found between color areas. Color areas are often of one unvarying color. The Hard-edge painting style is related to Geometric abstraction, Op Art, Post-painterly Abstraction, and Color Field painting.

Harry Seidler

Harry Seidler, AC OBE (25 June 1923 – 9 March 2006) was an Austrian-born Australian architect who is considered to be one of the leading exponents of Modernism's methodology in Australia and the first architect to fully express the principles of the Bauhaus in Australia.

Seidler designed more than 180 buildings and he received much recognition for his contribution to the architecture of Australia. Seidler consistently won architectural awards every decade throughout his Australian career of almost 58 years across the varied categories – his residential work from 1950, his commercial work from 1964, and his public commissions from the 1970s. He was a controversial figure throughout his long career as he regularly publicly criticised planning authorities and the planning system in Sydney.

Index of aesthetics articles

This is an alphabetical index of articles about aesthetics.

John Levee

John Levee (April 10, 1924 - January 18, 2017) was an American abstract expressionist painter who had worked in Paris since 1949. His father was M. C. Levee.

Lise Vogel

Lise Vogel is a feminist sociologist and art historian from the United States. An influential Marxist-feminist theoretician, she is recognised for being one of the main founders of the Social Reproduction Theory. She also participated in the civil rights and the women's liberation movements in organisations such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in Mississippi and Bread & Roses in Boston. In her earlier career as an art historian, she was one of the first to try to develop a feminist perspective on Art History.

Lyrical abstraction

Lyrical abstraction is either of two related but distinct trends in Post-war Modernist painting:

European Abstraction Lyrique born in Paris, the French art critic Jean José Marchand being credited with coining its name in 1947, considered as a component of (Tachisme) when the name of this movement was coined in 1951 by Pierre Guéguen and Charles Estienne the author of L'Art à Paris 1945–1966, and American Lyrical Abstraction a movement described by Larry Aldrich (the founder of the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield Connecticut) in 1969.A third definition is the usage as a descriptive term. It is a descriptive term characterizing a type of abstract painting related to Abstract Expressionism; in use since the 1940s. Many well known abstract expressionist painters like Arshile Gorky seen in context have been characterized as doing a type of painting described as lyrical abstraction.

Minimalism

In visual arts, music, and other mediums, minimalism is an art movement that began in post–World War II Western art, most strongly with American visual arts in the 1960s and early 1970s. Prominent artists associated with minimalism include Donald Judd, John McCracken, Agnes Martin, Dan Flavin, Robert Morris, Anne Truitt, and Frank Stella. It derives from the reductive aspects of modernism and is often interpreted as a reaction against abstract expressionism and a bridge to postminimal art practices.

Minimalism in music often features repetition and gradual variation, such as the works of La Monte Young, Terry Riley, Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Julius Eastman, and John Adams. The term minimalist often colloquially refers to anything that is spare or stripped to its essentials. It has accordingly been used to describe the plays and novels of Samuel Beckett, the films of Robert Bresson, the stories of Raymond Carver, and the automobile designs of Colin Chapman.

Norman Carlberg

Norman K. Carlberg (November 6, 1928 – November 11, 2018) is an American sculptor and printmaker. He is noted as an exemplar of the modular constructivist style.

Serial art

Serial art is an art movement in which uniform elements or objects were assembled in accordance with strict modular principles. The composition of serial art is a systematic process.

Walter Darby Bannard

Walter Darby Bannard (September 23, 1934 – October 2, 2016) was an American abstract painter.

Yve-Alain Bois

Yve-Alain Bois (born April 16, 1952) is a professor of Art History at the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey.

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