CRITICISM – 1. DEFINITION and VALUE of CRITICISM

(Appreciation of Art)

Let’s start with definitions of criticism.

Dicitonary.com’s definition: -noun 3. the act or art of analyzing and evaluating or judging the quality of a literary or artistic work, musical performance, art exhibit, dramatic production, etc.

Terry Barrett’s definition: Criticism is informed2 discourse1 about art3 to increase understanding and appreciation of art.

1discourse: communication of thought by words

2 informed: an important qualifier that distinguishes criticism from mere talk and uninformed opinion about art.

3art: all forms of art including dance, music, poetry, painting, and photography.

Now, let’s continue with discovering how criticism contributes us.

THE VALUE OF CRITICISM

We can list the value of criticisim as:

  • The value of reading good criticism is increased knowledge and appreciation of art: reading about art with which we are unfamiliar increases our knowledge.
  • An immediate advantage is that the observer’s viewing time is slowed down and measurably prolonged: most people visiting museums consider an artwork in less than five seconds. Five seconds of viewing compared to hours and hours of crafting by the artist seems woefully out of balance.
  • Critics usually consider artworks from a broader perspective than the single picture or the single show.
  • Critics put the work in a much larger context of other works by the artist, works by other artists of the day, and art of the past. They are able to do this because they see much more art than does the average viewer – they consider art for a living.
  • Critics have to argue for their positions and base their arguments on the artwork and how they understand it.
  • Viewers who consider art in the way that a critic would consider it will likely increase their own understanding and appreciation of art-that is the goal and the reward.

In order to decipher better among criticisms, we may categorize them into:

  • aesthetic criticism,
  • argumentative aesthetic criticism,
  • applied criticism,
  • theoretical criticism.

Aesthetic criticism attempts rather to ascertain an object’s aesthetic aspects as completely  as possible, to ensure that readers will experience all that can be seen in a work of art. This kind of criticism relies heavily on descriptive and interpretive thought, and aims to sustain aesthetic experience.

On the other hand, in argumentative aesthetic criticism, after making sufficient interpretive analysis, critics give their judgments based on explicitly stated criteria and standards. In this type of criticism, the critics argue in favor of their judgments and attempt to persuade others that the object is best considered in the way they have interpreted and judged it, and they are prepared to defend their conclusions.

The applied criticism is practical, immediate, and directed at the work; however, theoretical criticism is considered as more philosophical, attempting to define photography, and aiming to use photographs only as examples to clarify its arguments.

Applied criticism tends toward journalism; theoretical criticism tends toward aesthetics.  Look to the two examples of September-Eleven photographs of two photojournalists above and make a guess about content, mood, aesthetic and purpose / idea of the photographer, etc.

Susan Meiselas 8/11

Susan Meiselas 8/11

Thomas Hoepher 8/11

Thomas Hoepher 8/11

Now list the subjects, objects, aesthetic values in the photographs below. Interpret and judge them in terms of photographic technique and message of the photographer. Which one is more photojournalistic than other? Which one is a set up?

Eugene Smith 2

Eugene Smith

34. Imogen Cunningham3

Imogen Cunningham

Related Articles:

 

References / Resources:

Barrett, Terry (2006). Criticizing photographs: an introduction to understanding images. Mayfield Publishing Company, California, U.S.A.

Zambo, Debby M. (2009 Jul/August). Using Visual Literacy to Help Adolescents Understand How Images Influence Their Lives. Journal of Teaching Exceptional Children p60-67.

Fey, Cass (1999 July 28). Learning to Look: A format for looking at and talking about photographs. Center for Creative Photography.  The University of Arizona http://www.creativephotography.org

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