Booklist: Aesthetics, Criticism, and Theory

Booklist: Aesthetics, Criticism, and Theory


The Crisis of Criticism
Maurice Berger, editor
The New Press, 1998
ISBN: 1565844173

Book Description: Almost more than artists, art critics today form an elite class that legislates cultural tastes. The Crisis of Criticism is a collection of brilliantly argued, provocative essays that address the problematic nature of the critic’s authority and responsibilities. In it, today’s leading critics, curators, and artists address the questions at the heart of criticism. Do critics grant cultural permission or is their work merely descriptive? Is there such a thing as critical activism? How can critics bridge the gap between a sometimes hermetic art community and the public? Are critics consumer advocates, sycophants, or artists in their own right? Essayists include: Maurice Berger, Homi Bhabha, Michael Brenson, Arlene Croce, Jim Hoberman, bell hooks, Wayne Koestenbaum, Richard Martin, Joyce Carol Oates, and Sarah Rothenberg.

Key Points from the Introduction: “The strongest criticism today---the kind that offers the greatest hope for the vitality and future of the discipline---is capable of engaging, guiding, directing, and influencing culture, even stimulating new form of practice and expression. The strongest criticism uses language and rhetoric not merely for descriptive or evaluative purposes but as a means of inspiration, provocation, emotional connection, and experimentation.”

The Field of Cultural Production
Pierre Bourdieu
Columbia University Press, 1993
ISBN: 0231082878

Book Description: Bourdieu develops a highly original approach to the study of literary and artistic works, addressing many of the key issues that have preoccupied literary, art, and cultural criticism in the late 20th century: aesthetic value and judgment, the social contexts of cultural practice, the role of intellectuals and artists, and the structures of literary and artistic authority. Bourdieu elaborated a theory of the cultural field that situates artistic works within the social conditions of their production, circulation, and consumption. He analyses the structure of the cultural field itself as well as its position within the broader social structures of power.

Basic Issues in Aesthetics
Marcia Muelder Eaton
Waveland Press, 1988
ISBN: 157766034X

Book Description: The aesthetic is an important part of human experience. Our responses to music or mountains are note merely leisure-time activities; they give meaning to life. Philosophical aesthetics attracts people from different areas of interest including philosophy, art history, music, and theater. In this concise book, Marcia Muelder Eaton clearly speaks to students of varied backgrounds, bringing this mixed audience to a point where they can share their special insights with one another. Presented so that even complex issues in aesthetics are accessible to novices, the text is organized around the components of an aesthetic situation: Topics include: the role of objects, makers, and audiences; the nature of interpretation, criticism, and aesthetic response; the languages and contexts of art; the nature of aesthetic value; non-analytic aesthetic positions such as structuralism and deconstruction; and practical applications of aesthetics, such as environmental aesthetics and aesthetic issues in public policy and decisions.

The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture
Hal Foster, editor
The News Press, 1983
ISBN: 1565844629

Book Description: For the past few decades Hal Foster's critical gaze has encompassed the increasingly complex machinery of the culture industry. His observations push the boundaries of cultural criticism to establish a vantage point from which the seemingly disparate agendas of artists, patrons, and critics have a telling coherence. The Anti-Aesthetic is a touchstone volume for postmodern debate and theory. Though the cultural stakes and terms have changed over the last decade, this collection still illuminates--perhaps now even more lucidly--a vital current in contemporary criticism. Contributors: Jean Baudrillard, Douglas Crimp, Kenneth Frampton, Jrgen Habermas, Fredric Jameson, Rosalind Krauss, Craig Owens, Edward Said, and Gregory Ulmer.

Conversations Before the End of Time: Dialogues on Art, Life and Spiritual Renewal
Suzi Gablik, editor
Thames and Hudson, 1995
ISBN: 0500278385

Book Description: In this series of nineteen dialogues with the art critic Suzi Gablik, artists, writers, and philosophers address the central questions of the meaning and purpose of art in an age of accelerating social change and spiritual uncertainty. Contributors include Ellen Dissanayake; Rachel Dutton and Robs Olds; Christopher Manes; Hilton Kramer; Satish Kumar; David Plante; James Hillman; Guerilla Girls; Carolyn Merchant; Richard Shusterman; Arthur C. Danto; Mary Jane Jacob; Coco Fusco; Theodore Roszak; Carol Becker; Thomas Moore; Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett; Laurie Zuckerman; and Leo Castelli.

Key Points from the Introduction: “As my sense of art slowly transformed from a visual language of forms into something more interactive and dialectical in nature, I began to see how the model of the lone genius struggling against society has deprived art of its astonishing potential to build community through empathic social interaction…One of the key points of contention in the culture war is the issue of intellectual and aesthetic merit…Because much of the art being made today focuses on social problems rather than on “self-expression,” the broader context of political, social, and environmental life is often the artist’s work arena, rather than the more traditional withdrawal behind closed doors in the studio. This means that the site of aesthetic experience is shifting…”

The Reenchantment of Art
Suzi Gablik
Thames and Hudson, 1991
ISBN: 0500276897

Book Description: In The Reenchantment of Art, Gablik confronts again the effects of modernism on our society and proposes a remedy based on a redefinition of our art and culture. Gablik’s solution for transforming personal vision into social responsibility involves new cultural imperatives that include a renewed sense of community, an enlarged ecological perspective, and greater access to the mythic and archetypal underpinnings of spiritual renewal. The Reenchantment of Art introduces a number of exciting new artists offering fresh approaches to making meaningful art.

Key Points from the Introduction: “If modern aesthetics was inherently isolationist, aimed at disengagement and purity, my sense is that what we will be seeing over the next few decades is art that is essentially social and purposeful, art that rejects the myths of neutralist and autonomy. The subtext of social responsibility is missing in our aesthetic models, and the challenge of the future will be to transcend the disconnectedness and separation of the aesthetic from the social that existed within modernism.”

Conversations at the Castle: Changing Audiences and Contemporary Art
Mary Jane Jacob and Michael Brenson, editors
MIT Press, 1998
ISBN: 026210072X

Book Description: This book addresses one of the most troubling questions of contemporary art theory and practice: Who is contemporary art for? Although the divide between contemporary art and the public has long been acknowledged, this is the first time that artists, critics, and the public have come together to debate the problem and to make artmaking, criticism, and public reaction part of the same process. Like the exhibitions, discussions, and seminars held at "The Castle" during the summer 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, this book is based on the premise that contemporary artists and the general public have something to say to each other. By positing the space of "conversation" as one in which artworks can be experienced as creative sites open to multilayered interpretations by changing audiences, the book provides an antidote to the modernist connoisseurial silence that has long been used to define quality. Contributors include: Jacquelynn Baas; Michael Brenson; Lisa Graziose Corrin; Amina Dickerson and Tricia Ward; Steven Durland; Susan Krane; and Susan Vogel.

Conversations on Art and Performance
Bonnie Marranca and Gautam Dasgupta, editors
Johns Hopkins University Press/PAJ Books, 1999
ISBN: 0801859255

Book Description: In this collection of more than three-dozen conversations on contemporary art and ideas, Marranca and Dasgupta bring together influential performers, video artists, playwrights, filmmakers, composers, and critics to talk about the artistic process, the perception of artworks by audiences, and the complex aesthetic, social, and political interrelationships that artworks reflect in the life of a culture. At the center of inquiry are issues that have preoccupied arts discussion in the last quarter of the century, addressed here by the very artists and thinkers responsible for extending the boundaries of their chosen fields in their search for new artistic and critical languages. Conversations takes up a broad range of key questions. What is the nature of presence? How does one see? Where does meaning reside? Topics include the creative process, the impact of criticism and historical legacies, arts funding and education, the modernism/ postmodernism debates, and the special tensions between private and public spheres and between personal statement and the need for communication. In touchstones that are surprisingly similar, what emerge from these conversations are the high standards and intellectual rigor these artists bring to their work, commitment to artistic ideals, and the demands placed on the artists as well as the public. Contributors include John Cage; Gary Hill; Laurie Anderson; Edward Said; Susan Sontag; Umberto Eco; John Ashbery; Robert Jay Lifton; Philip Glass; Stanley Kauffmann; Edwin Denby; Mac Wellman; Maria Irene Fornes; Trisha Brown; Carolee Schneemann; Robert Wilson; Richard Foreman; Herbert Blau; John Guare; Judith Malina; Elizabeth LeCompte; and Wallace Shawn.

An Introduction to Aesthetics (Introducing Philosophy)
Dabney Townsend
Blackwells, 1997
ISBN: 1557867313

Book Description: Presupposing no prior knowledge of philosophy or of the history of art, this volume is an introduction to the core themes in aesthetics and philosophy of art. It also introduces methods of analysis in interdisciplinary philosophy, and offers a perspective on culture that encompasses literary theory, music criticism and architecture. The book is, therefore, suitable for beginning students in general philosophy, as well as in aesthetics and art history. Using illustrative examples, the author sets out to guide the student through questions of what art is, how it forms our culture and why we should care about art. The text explores the historical and theoretical background to aesthetics, considers how artists respond to cultural conditions, and examines the development of aesthetic attitudes at both a personal and institutional level. Beginning with the basics of philosophy and working from concrete examples in the arts, this text guides the reader towards a comprehensive understanding of aesthetics. Topics include: Language About Art and Aesthetics; Criticism and Value Terms; The Problem of Definition; Aesthetic Analysis and Its Objects; Formal Analysis; The Artist and the Work of Art; The Artist's Intentions; Inspiration; Creativity and Originality; Breaking the Connection Between Artist and Art; The Audience and the Work of Art; Attitudes of the Audience; Critics and Criticism; Institutions and the Role of the Audience; The Artist and the Audience; The Aesthetics of Reception; Mythpoesis: Myth and Ritual; and Institutional and Post-Institutional Aesthetics.