ART HISTORY II / SElF
Writing Assignment I
DUE: Wednesday, September 24
Choose a work from the Parkland Art Faculty exhibit to analyze.
In this analysis of the work your purpose is to inform the reader by explaining
and evaluating the work for them.
Once you have selected the work you want to analyze note the following
Title of the work: (the title of a work of art should be underlined, in
italics or in quotes)
Now take fifteen to twenty minutes to actively look at the piece. How
does this work strike you? Does the work appeal to you emotionally or
intellectually? Is your reaction negative or positive? Make notes on your
initial thoughts about this work.
Here are some suggestions for things you will want to think about when
you look at the art work that can help you write your analysis.
Inform -- details are important.. Do not assume that the reader has seen
the art work. You must be their eyes. Make note of any information about
the piece from the label, notebook or artist’s statement if it is
available. Write down a physical description of the piece. What is it?
What is the subject matter? How was it made?
Explain -- while keeping the work in focus before you, try to determine
what the artist is saying and what messages you are receiving. Whether
intentional or unintentional, the artist always makes choices and these
choices reveal something about the meaning of the work. Some times they
are immediately apparent and sometimes they require considerable time
and concentration. To determine how to begin, take clues from what is
available to you. Be sure to talk about the materials used by the artist.
Why do you think they chose this material? Does the material add anything
to the understanding of the piece? Consider if the scale of the work has
any bearing on your appreciation. Discuss the formal properties of the
work. Line, shape, color, composition, these are the properties that immediately
strike you visually and are therefore a good place to start your investigation.
Now address your reaction to the work. Do you like the work? Explain your
reason one way or the other. This may sound like a silly question but
it can reveal your intuitive response that will lead to a fruitful conclusion.
Make note of what you like and dislike about the piece. It is not enough
to say “I like this piece, you must explain what it is about the
work you like and why you like it.
Evaluate -- Using the knowledge and information you bring to the appreciation
of the work, judge whether the artist has something to say. Do you think
they communicate this successfully? The usual tools of evaluation are
contrast and comparison — relating the work at hand to either the
history of art or to other forms of expression, such as literature, music,
theater, etc. Comparing and contrasting the work with other work by the
same artist or their peers can also be
useful. By keeping to the techniques of contrast and comparison, you make
it easier for the reader to relate to your thoughts and opinions rather
than struggling to comprehend abstract ideas or personal emotions. Do
you see the work differently after studying it?
Writing the analysis -- Write a three page, double spaced, typed
analysis of the art work you selected. Do not reduce your type smaller
than a size 10 or larger that a size 12. Writing is the least of the work.
If you have thought through the steps above carefully, you will find you
have an outline in your notes already. Single out one or two examples
of pieces to use as comparisons and to illustrate your points. Further
ideas may arise as you start to write. Go with these for the first draft.
Let the paper sit for a day or two then reread and polish. Let someone
else read the paper to be sure your explanation of the piece makes sense.
Take advantage of the Writing Clinic offered here at Parkland. Use the
terms and vocabulary you are learning in the course.
Remember to address these questions: What attracted you to this work?
How and why did it affect you? What do you think was the artist’s
There is no right or wrong here. The reactions to the work are your own
thoughts. just be sure to explain what you mean and why you feel the way
you do. Support your ideas with examples and comparisons with other art
works that are appropriate. Enjoy this exercise, have fun looking at an
actual work of art.
“Some Come to the Hand”
Mixed Media Assemblage by Peggy Shaw
At the Parkland College Art Gallery Fall 2003 Art and Design Faculty Exhibit
(Revised November 2003 after
grading with Instructor's comments)
There are times when artists realize that the traditional
venues they use for personal expression, paper and canvas and clay, have
become woefully inadequate for the task at hand. None of these media seem
to be imbued by themselves with the necessary characteristics of conveying
the artist’s vision to its fullness or totality. If only one could
meld the various media and tangible, sculptural objects of interest into
one plastic and malleable fusion of thought, idea, and form…
The “assemblage” is the objet d’art
that can do this — a mixed media collection of “found”
objects or pieces dear to the artist’s heart with reminiscent or
referential qualities, combined with any number of multifarious artistic
processes, techniques, and materials to create a three-dimensional piece
containing elements of each medium. At this year’s Parkland Art
and Design Faculty Exhibit Peggy Shaw has followed this path, as have
others before her, but rarely with such confidence in the selection and
subsequent measured placement of the assemblage’s components into
such a quietly elegant and unified series of similar assemblages.
Before we continue with our examination of Ms. Shaw’s
work, however, we should first ask, what should we make of the “found”
object, several of which are present in all of the assemblages she is
exhibiting in the series. At the moment of its possession by its finder/artist,
the “found” object enters a new relationship in its SPACE
in society. No longer is the item or object only a piece of detritus or
flotsam floating in a void of suspended uselessness down the river of
society’s discards, awaiting redemption or final rejection. Now
it has become a referential timepiece, anchored in place, reminiscent
of some moment in the past or some dream of the future, its ding an sich
either totally abandoned or submerged into a new existence dependent upon
the artist’s vision.
Come to the Hand,” is the title of one Ms. Shaw’s pieces that
we will give a closer look and seems to refer to this, the random subconscious
selection of the “found” objects in an artist’s collection.
Out of the infinite possibilities that each or any of the found objects
can interject into the artistic mix, only a few are selected or (in a
personal interpretation of the title’s meaning), “come to
the hand” to be included in the assemblage.
This particular piece of Ms. Shaw’s, like its
siblings also included in the exhibition, utilizes as its support a panel
from a discarded and dismembered piece of furniture – maybe a breakfront,
maybe a desk – a tongue and groove half-inch thick section of wood
approximately twelve by eighteen inches high. Mortises still protrude
from the sides of the panels, which originally were stained a deep mahogany
and covered with several coats of varnish. Over the years those glazes
have mellowed into a crackled, dark patina of age.
Oriented vertically, “Some Come to the Hand”
employs a rectangle of plexiglass to define and enclose an inner perimeter
where the story of the work is told. Beneath this glass lies a sheet of
faded film, dimly showing a smoky image of what appears to be a derelict
rowboat, perhaps sunken in a lost lake of waving and silent seagrass.
Directly above the boat a toronadic field of circular scratches reinforces
the implication of the “lost” condition of the boat —
did it just rot away at dock through abandonment or disuse and slowly
sink to the grasses below? Or was it swamped by some sudden whirlwind
of destiny or fate?
Below the boat a horizontal bar divides the film into
a lower section, elongated and enigmatic where a disembodied pair of arms
terminates in clasped hands deep under the surface of the murky lake.
The devotional gesture only reinforces the work’s dual sense of
mystery and closure. To the left of the arms, a twisted tendril of brown
thread winds its way to the bottom of the film into a matrix of crushed
brown leaves or some organic material – our “found”
objects – tinged in red, matted and pasted together. Reading the
work from top to bottom, the thread forms an eel-like path from the sunken
boat through down through the watery depths to its home in the leaves.
Reading in the opposite direction, from bottom to top, the thread seems
to channel a muted energy to the surface above.
So many interpretations could be made of this work;
to one who is only reading a description of it, it could be imagined as
being unsettling, with seemingly vague references of “lost”
ideals or missed opportunities — or even some Existentialist sense
of homelessness. But there’s a clarity here, not of unease, but
of intangible poignant memories more akin to forgotten days at lakeside
holiday camp, fragments of long-ago happy days grasped in a wistful sort
of way. Some large-scale assemblages like those of Robert Rauschenberg,
(“Combine” paintings) are very strident in their presentations,
with an almost “in-your-face” expression of their underlying
ideologies as statements on the current conditions of the time, but “Some
Comes to the Hand” has none of that. Just a sure and steady hand
that gives this work subtle meanings filled with evocative moments.
Daniel J. Bornt
 Robert Rauschenberg's Collection is one of
the first examples of the artist's "combine" paintings, a breakthrough
body of work he began in the mid-1950s. As this characterization suggests,
these works combine painted surfaces with three-dimensional found objects,
fragments from newspapers and magazines, postcards, and other scavenged
imagery. Eventually, Rauschenberg began to create combines that were less
paintings than sculptural assemblages with intermittent areas of paint,
two-dimensional clippings, and pictures glued to the surface, plus found
objects such as tires, umbrellas, suitcases, and in one celebrated instance,
a stuffed sheep. -
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