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1 Burnside Art- Theory and Criticism

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What Happened to Art Criticism?


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ISBN13: 9780972819633
ISBN10: 0972819630
Condition: Standard
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Art criticism was once passionate, polemical, and judgmental; now critics are more often interested in ambiguity, neutrality, and nuanced description. And while art criticism is ubiquitous in newspapers, magazines, and exhibition brochures, it is also virtually absent from academic writing. How is it that even as criticism drifts away from academia, it becomes more academic? How is it that sifting through a countless array of colorful periodicals and catalogs makes criticism seem to slip even further from our grasp? In this pamphlet, James Elkins surveys the last fifty years of art criticism, proposing some interesting explanations for these startling changes.

"In What Happened to Art Criticism?, art historian James Elkins sounds the alarm about the perilous state of that craft, which he believes is 'In worldwide crisis . . . dissolving into the background clutter of ephemeral cultural criticism' even as more and more people are doing it. 'It's dying, but it's everywhere . . . massively produced, and massively ignored.' Those who pay attention to other sorts of criticism may recognize the problems Elkins describes: 'Local judgments are preferred to wider ones, and recently judgments themselves have even come to seem inappropriate. In their place critics proffer informal opinions or transitory thoughts, and they shy from strong commitments.' What he'd like to see more of: ambitious judgment, reflection about judgment itself, and 'criticism important enough to count as history, and vice versa.' Amen to that."—Jennifer Howard, Washington Post Book World

Table of Contents

1. Art Criticism: Writing Without Readers

2. How Unified is Art Criticism?

    The Catalog Essay

    The Academic Treatise

    Cultural Criticism

    The Conservative Harangue

    The Philosophers Essay

    Descriptive Art Criticism

    Poetic Art Criticism

3. Seven Unworkable Cures

4. Envoi: Whats Good


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abiq, October 14, 2006 (view all comments by abiq)
I just finished James Elkins' "What Happened to Art Criticism?" This very short book, under 100 pages, serves as both a map to the current critical writing world and as a refresher on recent art criticism history.

Elkins' breaks the current trends in art critical writing into seven styles: the catalog essay, the academic treatise, cultural criticism, the conservative harangue, the philosopher's essay, descriptive art criticism, and poetic criticism.

He goes on to describe these different styles of writing and relates them to major critics.

He also reveals each styles popularity with critics themselves, based on a Columbia University Study. What do critics like to write?

I will leave the first two places a mystery for you to discover when you read the book, but the third most popular style, shockingly to me was "poetic criticism"
the goal of which was not so much to reveal things about the art but rather to
create "a piece of writing with literary value."

I guess my egotistical self always hoped that art criticism should be in service to viewer or the artist or to truth or something rather than Writing for writings sake.
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Product Details

Elkins, James
Prickly Paradigm Press
Chicago, Ill.
Art criticism
Criticism -- Theory.
Art-Theory and Criticism
Edition Description:
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Publication Date:
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7 x 4.5 in

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Related Subjects

» Arts and Entertainment » Art » General
» Arts and Entertainment » Art » History and Criticism
» Arts and Entertainment » Art » Theory and Criticism

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