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Art theory : a very short introduction by…
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Art theory : a very short introduction (edition 2003)

by Cynthia A. Freeland

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5021032,914 (3.69)2
In today's art world many strange, even shocking, things qualify as art. In this Very Short Introduction Cynthia Freeland explains why innovation and controversy are valued in the arts, weaving together philosophy and art theory with many fascinating examples.She discusses blood, beauty, culture, money, museums, sex, and politics, clarifying contemporary and historical accounts of the nature, function, and interpretation of the arts. Freeland also propels us into the future by surveying cutting-edge web sites, alongside the latest research on the brain'srole in perceiving art.This clear, provocative book engages with the big debates surrounding our responses to art and is an invaluable introduction to anyone interested in thinking about art.… (more)
Member:Cath.Blaauwendraad
Title:Art theory : a very short introduction
Authors:Cynthia A. Freeland
Info:Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2003.
Collections:Your library
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Art Theory: A Very Short Introduction by Cynthia Freeland

  1. 00
    Het sublieme het einde van de schoonheid en een nieuw begin by Hans den Hartog Jager (freetrader)
    freetrader: It covers the same ground mainly, but not mentioning the sublime however. Slightly more 'scholarly'. OK. Den Hartog Jager's book is a better read.
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A most accessible short introduction to not only art theory but also the philosophy of art and aesthetics, Cynthia Freeland’s approach is to provide historical and cultural context for the frequently asked question: “But is it art?” As a way of sharing some of the book’s content, below are several highlights:

In the chapter Blood and Beauty we are introduced to modern artists who use blood, piss and other bodily fluids to produce their artwork. The general public finds such works disgusting, as Andres Serrano’s Piss Christ made with the artist’s own urine and a wooden crucifix.

An expert art critic defends Serrano’s work citing 1) how the artist expertly employed a sophisticated but difficult process of photography (the work’s formal, material properties), 2) the artist is Catholic and part Honduran, part Afro-Cuban, with long traditions of blood and bodily fluids as part of religious rituals (the work’s content), and 3) how Serrano is part of a long Spanish tradition with artists such as Francisco Goya painting violent bloody scenes (this art is part of a tradition).

The author counters how we are now living in a modern secular world and the community of museumgoers is much different than a community of, say, medieval Catholics or the ancient Mayan culture. Personally, I agree – people today visit a museum or gallery to see something really worth seeing, works that are visually striking, imaginative and part of a rich artistic tradition; they don’t go to museums to be disgusted, insulted or degraded. So when people witness cans of shit and the like in an art museum and hear the work justified by such reasons noted above, they say: “Yeah, yeah, yeah . . . but is it art, really?”


People today visit a museum or gallery to see something really worth seeing, works that are visually striking, imaginative and part of a rich artistic tradition.

Arthur Danto is cited as saying how in our modern world a work of art is an object that embodies a meaning. Thus, if in some way the art world sees meaning in an artist’s work, then that work is a work of art. Such a pluralist view helps us understand why artwork featuring piss and excrement or Andy Warhol Brillo Boxes or Damien Hirst’s dead shark are now accepted as art. Meanwhile, the average museumgoer listens to such theories and says: “Yeah, yeah, yeah . . . but is it art, really?


Performance artist Milo Moire walks through a gallery nude holding a baby – her performance is her art. But many people ask: “Yeah, yeah yeah . . . but it is art, really?

In 1974, an American anthropologist encouraged members of a western Mexican tribe to stick with their own traditional symbols and not include such western images as Mickey Mouse and Automobiles. Over the last forty years this has become a real issue – the modern art collector wants “traditional” art from traditional tribespeople but those tribespeople frequently love to incorporate the modern world into their art. One of my favorite examples: a New Guinea shaman was leading a lively tribe ritual encircled by many Westerners with their cameras. The shaman was wearing a black Oakland Raiders T-shirt. Westerners asks if he could take off the T-shirt so they could photo a traditional ritual. The shaman refused as he was very proud of his Raiders T-shirt. Go black and silver!


New Guinea tribesman marching as part of an elaborate ritual. Notice the guy on the right with baseball cap, basketball shorts and white sneakers. Like it or not, we are now in one global world culture. Some might ask: “Yeah, yeah, yeah . . . but is it authentic traditional art, really?”

Although many museums have attempted to reach out to a wider audience, the typical profile of a museumgoer remains a person college educated and among the higher income brackets. Some cities and communities have moved beyond the confines of museums, displaying public art for all to see.


I’m proud to say my own city of Philadelphia is the city of murals, with nearly 4,000 - yes, that’s FOUR THOUSAND - murals throughout the city, created on the walls of commercial buildings or residences throughout the city, including all neighborhoods. A great way to make art a part of everybody’s everyday life.

Cynthia Freeland touches a number of other subjects that have triggered much debate over the last years and are even more pressing in our current world, topics such as gender and art in the digital age. Again, such an accessible and enjoyable book to read for anybody interested in the world of art. ( )
  Glenn_Russell | Nov 13, 2018 |

A most accessible short introduction to not only art theory but also the philosophy of art and aesthetics, Cynthia Freeland’s approach is to provide historical and cultural context for the frequently asked question: “But is it art?” As a way of sharing some of the book’s content, below are several highlights:

In the chapter “Blood and Beauty” we are introduced to modern artists who use blood, piss and other bodily fluids to produce their artwork. The general public finds such works disgusting, as Andres Serrano’s ‘Piss Christ’ made with the artist’s own urine and a wooden crucifix.

An expert art critic defends Serrano’s work citing 1) how the artist expertly employed a sophisticated but difficult process of photography (the work’s formal, material properties), 2) the artist is Catholic and part Honduran, part Afro-Cuban, with long traditions of blood and bodily fluids as part of religious rituals (the work’s content), and 3) how Serrano is part of a long Spanish tradition with artists such as Francisco Goya painting violent bloody scenes (this art is part of a tradition).

The author counters how we are now living in a modern secular world and the community of museumgoers is much different than a community of, say, medieval Catholics or the ancient Mayan culture. Personally, I agree – people today visit a museum or gallery to see something really worth seeing, works that are visually striking, imaginative and part of a rich artistic tradition; they don’t go to museums to be disgusted, insulted or degraded. So when people witness cans of shit and the like in an art museum and hear the work justified by such reasons noted above, they say: “Yeah, yeah, yeah . . . but is it art, really?”


People today visit a museum or gallery to see something really worth seeing, works that are visually striking, imaginative and part of a rich artistic tradition.

Arthur Danto is cited as saying how in our modern world a work of art is an object that embodies a meaning. Thus, if in some way the art world sees meaning in an artist’s work, then that work is a work of art. Such a pluralist view helps us understand why artwork featuring piss and excrement or Andy Warhol Brillo Boxes or Damien Hirst’s dead shark are now accepted as art. Meanwhile, the average museumgoer listens to such theories and says: “Yeah, yeah, yeah . . . but is it art, really?


Performance artist Milo Moire walks through a gallery nude holding a baby – her performance is her art. But many people ask: “Yeah, yeah yeah . . . but it is art, really?

In 1974, an American anthropologist encouraged members of a western Mexican tribe to stick with their own traditional symbols and not include such western images as Mickey Mouse and Automobiles. Over the last forty years this has become a real issue – the modern art collector wants “traditional” art from traditional tribespeople but those tribespeople frequently love to incorporate the modern world into their art. One of my favorite examples: a New Guinea shaman was leading a lively tribe ritual encircled by many Westerners with their cameras. The shaman was wearing a black Oakland Raiders T-shirt. Westerners asks if he could take off the T-shirt so they could photo a traditional ritual. The shaman refused as he was very proud of his Raiders T-shirt. Go black and silver!


New Guinea tribesman marching as part of an elaborate ritual. Notice the guy on the right with baseball cap, basketball shorts and white sneakers. Like it or not, we are now in one global world culture. Some might ask: “Yeah, yeah, yeah . . . but is it authentic traditional art, really?”

Although many museums have attempted to reach out to a wider audience, the typical profile of a museumgoer remains a person college educated and among the higher income brackets. Some cities and communities have moved beyond the confines of museums, displaying public art for all to see.


I’m proud to say my own city of Philadelphia is the city of murals, with nearly 4,000 - yes, that’s FOUR THOUSAND - murals throughout the city, created on the walls of commercial buildings or residences throughout the city, including all neighborhoods. A great way to make art a part of everybody’s everyday life.

Cynthia Freeland touches a number of other subjects that have triggered much debate over the last years and are even more pressing in our current world, topics such as gender and art in the digital age. Again, such an accessible and enjoyable book to read for anybody interested in the world of art. ( )
  GlennRussell | Feb 16, 2017 |
Questioned art evaluated
  SHCG | Nov 1, 2016 |
Cynthia Freeland, Chair of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Houston, came out with But is it Art? in 2001. It’s an excellent introduction to various theories of art, particularly for an abject layman like me. In it, Professor Freeland expounds on competing and converging beliefs held by critics and philosophers, and she does so in a logical, concise, and accessible way. The book is a slim one, bolstered by References, Further Reading and an Index, like any scholarly book will.

However, as I say, the body of this book contains no stuffy jargon, no obfuscating phrases; its points are painstakingly made, and highly accessible to the average adult reader. Her own preferences and beliefs are no mystery, but she handles the presentation of competing thought processes with commendable fairness and even-handedness.

You will get a very convincing and non-judging assessment of some of the more shocking art which has been presented in the last 25 years. You will encounter deep discussions on such thinkers as John Dewey, Arthur Danto, the anthropologist Richard Anderson, Marshall McLuhan, and Jean Baudrillard, among numerous others.

This book is required in an aesthetics course at a local university. I have taken copious notes from it, but won’t bore you with them. Suffice it to say, I found this brief, direct, and accessible book a commendable starting point in discussing art. The flow of the ideas reach other media besides graphic art, but those media are its main focus.

http://bassoprofundo1.blogspot.com/2015/04/but-is-it-art-by-cynthia-freeland.htm... ( )
  LukeS | Apr 29, 2015 |
signed copy by the author, Cynthia Freeland
  50worth | Feb 14, 2015 |
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To Herbert Garelick
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This is a book about what art is, what it means, and why we value it — a book on topics in the field loosely called art theory.
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These are, in fact, the same work: first published by Oxford U. P. as But Is It Art?, it was reissued as an Oxford Very Short Introduction with the title Art Theory.
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