Art Critism – Four Levels of Formal Analysis

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Four levels of formal analysis, which you can use to explain a work of art:

Description = Pure description of the object without value judgments, analysis, or interpretation.

It answers the question, “What do you see?” The various elements that constitute a description include:

  • Form of art whether architecture, sculpture, painting or one of the minor arts
  • Medium of work whether clay, stone, steel, paint, etc., and technique (tools used)
  • Size and scale of work (relationship to person and/or frame and/or context)
  • Elements or general shapes (architectural structural system) within the composition, including building of post-lintel construction or painting with several figures lined up in a row; identification of objects
  • Description of axis whether vertical, diagonal, horizontal, etc.
  • Description of line, including contour as soft, planar, jagged, etc.
  • Description of how line describes shape and space (volume); distinguish between lines of objects and lines of composition, e.g., thick, thin, variable, irregular, intermittent, indistinct, etc.
  • Relationships between shapes, e.g., large and small, overlapping, etc.
  • Description of color and color scheme = palette
  • Texture of surface or other comments about execution of work
  • Context of object: original location and date

Analysis = determining what the features suggest and deciding why the artist used such features to convey specific ideas.

It answers the question, “How did the artist do it?” The various elements that constitute analysis include:

  • Determination of subject matter through naming iconographic elements, e.g., historical event, allegory, mythology, etc.
  • Selection of most distinctive features or characteristics whether line, shape, color, texture, etc.
  • Analysis of the principles of design or composition, e.g., stable, repetitious, rhythmic, unified, symmetrical, harmonious, geometric, varied, chaotic, horizontal or vertically oriented, etc.
  • Discussion of how elements or structural system contribute to appearance of image or function
  • Analysis of use of light and role of color, e.g., contrasty, shadowy, illogical, warm, cool, symbolic, etc.
  • Treatment of space and landscape, both real and illusionary (including use of perspective), e.g., compact, deep, shallow, naturalistic, random
  • Portrayal of movement and how it is achieved
  • Effect of particular medium(s) used
  • Your perceptions of balance, proportion and scale (relationships of each part of the composition to the whole and to each other part) and your emotional
  • Reaction to object or monument

Interpretation = establishing the broader context for this type of art.

It answers the question, “Why did the artist create it and what does it mean. The various elements that constitute interpretation include:

  • Main idea, overall meaning of the work.
  • Interpretive Statement: Can I express what I think the artwork is about in one sentence?
  • Evidence: What evidence inside or outside the artwork supports my interpretation

Judgment: Judging a piece of work means giving it rank in relation to other works and of course considering a very important aspect of the visual arts; its originality.

Is it a good artwork?

  • ·Criteria: What criteria do I think are most appropriate for judging the artwork?
  • Evidence: What evidence inside or outside the artwork relates to each criterion?
  • Judgment: Based on the criteria and evidence, what is my judgment about the quality of the artwork?

Barrett’s Principles of Interpretation

  1.  Artworks have “aboutness” and demand interpretation.
  2. Interpretations are persuasive arguments.
  3. Some interpretations are better than others.
  4. Good interpretations of art tell more about the artwork than they tell about the critic.
  5. Feelings are guides to interpretations.
  6. There can be different, competing, and contradictory interpretations of the same artwork.
  7. Interpretations are often based on a worldview.
  8. Interpretations are not so much absolutely right, but more or less reasonable, convincing, enlightening, and informative.
  9. Interpretations can be judged by coherence, correspondence, and inclusiveness.
  10. An artwork is not necessarily about what the artist wanted it to be about.
  11. A critic ought not to be the spokesperson for the artist.
  12. Interpretations ought to present the work in its best rather than its weakest light.
  13. The objects of interpretation are artworks, not artists.
  14. All art is in part about the world in which it emerged.
  15. All art is in part about other art.
  16. No single interpretation is exhaustive of the meaning of an artwork.
  17. The meanings of an artwork may be different from its significance to the viewer. Interpretation is ultimately a communal endeavor, and the community is ultimately self- corrective.
  18. Good interpretations invite us to see for ourselves and to continue on our own

References

  • Barrett, Terry. (1994) Criticizing Art: Understanding the Contemporary. Mountain View, California: Mayfield Publishing Company.
  • Art Critism Activity

MULTIPLE INTELLIGENCES by Howard Gardner

MULTIPLE INTELLIGENCES

Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences makes people think about “IQ,” about being “smart.” The theory is changing the way some teachers teach.

When Howard Gardner’s book, Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences (Basic Books, 1983) burst on the scene, it seemed to answer many questions for experienced teachers. We all had students who didn’t fit the mold; we knew the students were bright, but they didn’t excel on tests. Gardner’s claim that there are several different kinds of intelligence gave us and others involved with teaching and learning a way of beginning to understand those students. We would look at what they could do well, instead of what they could not do.

Later Gardner books, such as The Unschooled Mind: How Children Think and How Schools Should Teach (Basic Books, 1991) and Multiple Intelligences: The Theory in Practice (Basic Books, 1993) helped us understand how multiple intelligences could help us teach and evaluate our students in new and better ways.

WHO IS HOWARD GARDNER?

Howard Gardner, Ph.D. is a professor at Harvard University and the author of many books and articles. His theory of multiple intelligences has challenged long-held assumptions about intelligence — especially about a single measure of intelligence. Dr. Gardner also co-directs Harvard’s Project Zero.Slide1.jpgSlide2.jpgSlide3.jpgSlide4.jpgSlide5.jpg

HOWARD GARDNER TALKS ABOUT AN EIGHTH INTELLIGENCE

Gardner discussed the “eighth intelligence” with Kathy Checkley, in an interview for Educational Leadership, The First Seven… and the Eighth. Gardner said, “The naturalist intelligence refers to the ability to recognize and classify plants, minerals, and animals, including rocks and grass and all variety of flora and fauna. The ability to recognize cultural artifacts like cars or sneakers may also depend on the naturalist intelligence. …(S)ome people from an early age are extremely good at recognizing and classifying artifacts. For example, we all know kids who, at 3 or 4, are better at recognizing dinosaurs than most adults.”

Gardner identified Charles Darwin as a prime example of this type of intelligence.

The naturalist intelligence meshed with Gardner’s definition of intelligence as “…the human ability to solve problems or to make something that is valued in one or more cultures.” And the naturalist intelligence met Gardner’s specific criteria:

  • “Is there a particular representation in the brain for the ability?
  • “Are there populations that are especially good or especially impaired in an intelligence?
  • “And, can an evolutionary history of the intelligence be seen in animals other than human beings?”

IMPLEMENTING GARDNER’S THEORY IN THE CLASSROOM

When asked how educators should implement the theory of multiple intelligences, Gardner says, It’s very important that a teacher take individual differences among kids very seriously … The bottom line is a deep interest in children and how their minds are different from one another, and in helping them use their minds well.”

An awareness of multiple-intelligence theory has stimulated teachers to find more ways of helping all students in their classes. Some schools do this by adapting curriculum. In “Variations on a Theme: How Teachers Interpret MI Theory,” (Educational Leadership, September 1997), Linda Campbell describes five approaches to curriculum change:

  • Lesson design. Some schools focus on lesson design. This might involve team teaching (“teachers focusing on their own intelligence strengths”), using all or several of the intelligences in their lessons, or asking student opinions about the best way to teach and learn certain topics.
  • Interdisciplinary units. Secondary schools often include interdisciplinary units.
  • Student projects. Students can learn to “initiate and manage complex projects” when they are creating student projects.
  • Assessments. Assessments are devised which allow students to show what they have learned. Sometimes this takes the form of allowing each student to devise the way he or she will be assessed, while meeting the teacher’s criteria for quality.
  • Apprenticeships. Apprenticeships can allow students to “gain mastery of a valued skill gradually, with effort and discipline over time.” Gardner feels that apprenticeships “…should take up about one-third of a student’s schooling experience.”

With an understanding of Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, teachers, school administrators, and parents can better understand the learners in their midst. They can allow students to safely explore and learn in many ways, and they can help students direct their own learning. Adults can help students understand and appreciate their strengths, and identify real-world activities that will stimulate more learning.

Instrument: Multiple Intelligences Test

REFERENCES

  1. Armstrong, Thomas. Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 1994.
  2. Armstrong, Thomas. 7 Kinds of Smart: Identifying and Developing Your Many Intelligences, New York: Plume, 1993.
  3. Armstrong, Thomas. In Their Own Way: Discovering and Encouraging Your Child’s Personal Learning Style, New York: Tarcher/Putnam, 1987.
  4. Armstrong, Thomas, “Utopian Schools,” Mothering, Winter, 1996.
  5. Armstrong, Thomas. “Multiple Intelligences: Seven Ways to Approach Curriculum,” Educational Leadership, November, 1994.
  6. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, Multiple Intelliaences CD-ROM, and Multiple Intelligences Video Series; 1250 N. Pitt St., Alexandria, VA 22314-1453 (800-933-2723).
  7. Gardner, Howard. Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. New York: Basic,1983
  8. Gardner, Howard. Multiple Intelligences: The Theory in Practice. New York: Basic, 1993.
  9. Gardner, Howard. Intelligence Reframed:  Multiple Intelligences for the 21st Century.  New York:  Basic, 2000.
  10. National Professional Resources, 25 South Regent St., Port Chester, NY 10573, 914-937-8879. Producer of several videos on MI including, Howard Gardner, “How Are Kids Smart?” Jo Gusman, “MI and the Second Language Learner”, and Thomas Armstrong, Multiple Intelligences: Discovering the Giftedness in All”.
  11. New City School, Celebrating Multiple Intelligences ( 5209 Waterman Ave., St. Louis, MO 63108).
  12. Skylight Publications, 200 E. Wood St., Suite 250, Palatine, IL 60067 (div. Simon and Schuster). Publisher of many MI materials.
  13. Zephyr Press, PO Box 66006, Tucson, AZ 85728 (602-322-5090). Publisher of many MI materials.