Abstract Expressionism: (mid 1940s – 1960s) known for active and free application of paint to canvas and nonrepresentaional design. Very strong attachment to self-expression.
Aesthetics: The branch of philosophy concerned with beliefs & theories about the value, meaning and interpretations of art and beauty.
Agency: The capacity to make choices and meaning.
Antecedent: A thing or event that existed before or precedes.
Appropriation: To “borrow”. Creating a new work by taking a pre-existing image from another context and combining it with a new one.
Assemblage: The three-dimensional counterpart to collage. Assemblage involves the transformation of non-art objects and materials into sculpture through constructing techniques such as glueing, welding, lashing, nailing etc.
Avant-garde: Being regarded as ahead of one’s time. The “advance guard”.
Biedermeier Aesthetic: Connotes ridicule. A “Biedermeier” is one who is drawn to art that “looks like what it is” and is easy to think of as technically “good”.
Binary Oppositions: Oppositional categories such as east/west, male/female, good/bad, positive/negative
Bricolage: (in art or literature) Construction or creation from a diverse range of available things. The practice of working with whatever is available.
Collage: From the French verb meaning “to glue”. To collage is to attach papers or objects to a two-dimensional surface.
Conceptual Art: A style of art that focuses on the idea, or concept over material object. As an attempt to counter the increased commercialism of the art world, conceptual art presents ideas rather than art works that can be bought and sold.
Connotation: The associated, suggested or secondary meaning of a word or expression.
Context: Experience or information that influences the perspective (point of view) of the artist or viewer.
Cubism: (1908 –1918) Movement that broke away from conventional perspective and representation opening the way for modern abstract art. Placed emphasis on geometrical shapes and structure as opposed to traditional representation.
Dada: (1915 –1923) Movement that reacted against traditional cultural aesthetic values by emphasizing irrationality. From French word meaning “hobby horse”. Randomness and chance were often used as methods for production.
Deconstruction: Analysis, or “taking apart” a work of art. Breaking it down in search of meaning.
Reconstruction: Assembling pieces of information from a work of art in a way that provides meaning for the individual.
Degenerate Art Exhibition/Entarte Kunst: (1937) Nazi Germany. 650 works of art confiscated from 32 German museums were exhibited to show the types of work that was deemed degenerate, which applied to anything incompatible with Nazi ideology or propaganda. Simultaneously taking place was an exhibit of “Great German Art”, which had official approval. These works were traditional in manner and exalted the blood and soil values of racial purity, militarism, and obedience.
Denotation: The specific association or meaning of a word or expression.
Denouement: The final resolution of a plot, drama or novel.
Detourné: The rearranging of popular sign-systems in order to produce new meanings. This ranges from reinserting your own language in the thought/speech bubbles of popular comic strips to re-articulating popular advertising to produce an underlying message as in Culture Jamming.
Dérive: A short meandering walk determined by one’s desires. Letting the components of the city or environment naturally guide you in an uninhibited way.
Flânuer: A person who undertakes a dérive.
Diaspora: Community or group of people (ethnicity, culture or nation, etc.) located outside of their homeland.
Epistemology: The branch of philosophy that studies the nature of knowledge.
Eraser: A drawing tool as opposed to an eradication device.
Ethnocentricity: Belief in the superiority of one’s own ethnic group.
Ethnography: Study of the dynamics of human social phenomena.
Expressionism: (1905 – 1925) More of a style than a movement. Originated in Germany. Artists were/are interested in portraying the essence of a subject. Tendency to distort reality for emotional effect.
Fauve: (1903 –1908) Translates to “wild beasts”. Known for Impressionism’s interest in imagery from everyday life and Expressionism’s emotional force and high-key color. Use of color incorporated violently contrasting, nondescriptive color.
Futurism: (1909 –1929) Movement originating in Italy which attempted to vividly depict the energetic and dynamic quality of contemporary life as influenced by the motion and force of modern machinery.
Haptic: Of or relating to the sense of touch, in particular relating to the perception and manipulation of objects using the senses of touch.
Hegemony: Refers to the idea that dominant ideologic meanings are objects of struggle and tension with other ideologies.
High Art: Art that is perceived to represent the epitome of artistic achievement for the culturally elite. In opposition to the art of mass culture which may be referred to as Low Art.
Ideology: Shared beliefs, values and opinions that determine the way an individual or group thinks, acts and understands the world. Refers to how various concepts and beliefs appear to be natural, inevitable aspects of everyday life.
Impressionism: (1860 – 1880) Movement originating in France. Artists were interested in portraying the beauty of everyday life as opposed to idealized beauty. Characteristics include ordinary subject matter, qualities of light changing over time, visable brush strokes and painting “en plein air” (outdoors). Emphasis was on overall effect rather than details.
Low Art: Art that is perceived to represent the mass culture. Appeals to popular taste such as the decorative or applied arts.
Linear: Ordered in a single line progression. One stage must come before or after another in an established hierarchy.
Non-linear: No set hierarchy or order. Web-like in nature. Any experience can lead to another valid experience.
Metanarrative: The overarching story or storyline that gives context, meaning, and purpose to all of life. A metanarrative is the “big picture” or all-encompassing theme that unites all smaller themes and individual stories. Sometimes referred to as a Grand Narrative.
Mimesis: Representation or imitation of the real world in art and literature.
Modernism: (1860’s – 1970’s) Not a movement, but an aesthetic. Artists rejected the idea that they should be painting representations of historical events as opposed to portraying contemporary life. Embraced the idea of the avant-garde and the “new” as being progressive and desirable. Strived for originality and purity. Tended to be ethnocentric and based on linear patterns of thought. Faith in technological progress. Form was often stressed over content.
Multiculturalism: Opposite of ethnocentricity. Demands that art from non-European cultures be considered on their own terms as opposed to being viewed as primitive.
Nihilism: Total rejection of value statements or moral judgements. Destructiveness toward the world at large and/or oneself.
Palimpsestic: A manuscript or piece of writing material on which the original has been effaced to make room for later writing but of which traces remain. Figurative: something reused or altered but still bearing visible traces of its earlier form.
Palimpsestuous: An interaction between layers of underlying text and the resulting product consisting of layers.
Pentimento: an image that has, at some point, been painted over, and, usually because of age, some of the original painting starts to show.
Paradigm: An example that serves as a model. A prevailing theoretical framework or view.
Pastiche: Art that openly imitates work or style of other artists.
Pluralism: Doctrine that promotes the coexistence of various cultural, ethnic and religious groups. Belief that no single group is superior to others.
Pop: (1950s –1960s) Stands for popular art. Interest in consumer objects and poular culture. Incorporated imagery representing commonplace objects, celebrities, comic books, and product labels. Represented a playful and ironic approach to art and life.
Postmodernism: (1970’s – the present) An aesthetic that embraces the traditional, formal, even classical approaches to art making as well as going beyond art, form, and meaning altogether into the anarchic, outrageous or transitory. In opposition to ethnocentrism and elitism. Tends to blur the lines between “high art” and “low art”. Based on non-linear thinking patterns where things are not hierarchical. Life consists of differences, not binary polarities. Open to multiple interpretations and meanings for works of art. Pastiche and appropriation are not out of the ordinary. Content and dialogue are often celebrated.
Readymades: Adding a title to an unaltered, mass-produced object or combination of objects to present as “high art”.
Reactionary: Opposing progressive trends or wishing to return to a former, outmoded state.
Semiotics: Study of signs. Concerned with ways things (objects, words, gestures) produce/communicate meaning. Content is determined by the context of the sender and receiver of the message.
Studium: Act of basic acknowledgement.
Punctum: Something that has a profound affect on you.
Sous Rature: (under-erasure) In which the written word is crossed out rather than erased.
Structuralism: Places language at the center of the world view. Aims at discovering an objective reality, and searches for truth. We do not create language; language creates us. Seeks to explain our social existance and culture through systems and structures. Reality lies in language.
Post Structuralism: Argues that truth and objective reality are not accessible. The quest for objective meaning and universal structures is not realistic. Meaning is contingent and unstable. Absolutes are constructs and truth is created rather than existing in itself.
Surrealism: (1924 –1945) Movement that attempted to integrate the unconscious dream world with the world of the senses. Often used precise realism in depicting oddly juxtaposed objects.
Tactile: Perceptible by touch or apparently so.
Visual Culture: All manifestations of cultural life that are significant for their visual features. Includes concepts such as representation, ideology, social power & constructed knowledge. Think high art + low art + ethnography.
Vitaly Komar & Alexander Melamid: “The Most Wanted Painting” – Two artists who created a series of paintings based on market research aimed at identifying what people thought “good” paintings should look like.
Zeitgeist: “Spirit of the time”. Refers to characteristics of a period or moment.