Thursday, September 09, 2010

Experiencing Art and Architecture

In this class we will be exploring the visual arts, as opposed to literature, music, or drama. Specifically, we will focus on two-dimensional and three-dimensional arts. Below is a guide to help you understand how to analyze such works as paintings, sculpture, and architecture.

adapted from Dennis J. Sporre, Artsguide: World and Web. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2001.

I. Visual Arts:

A. Two-dimensional Arts :

1. examples: painting, prints, drawing, photography,
2. have permanence in space and time, unlike music, which doesn’t.

B. Three-Dimensional Arts:
1. examples: sculpture, architecture
2. have permanence in space and time

II. Analysis of two dimensional art involves:

A. Elements of Composition

1. line (is it curved or straight? thick or thin?)

2. form (what is space described by the line? what is the shape?
Forms in paintings can’t be understood apart from lines. )

3. color
a) hue (what colors on the color wheel are used?)
b) value (graying a hue by adding black)
c) intensity (graying a hue by adding its complementary hue)

4. Mass/Space (do the forms give the illusion of mass, relative to other objects in the picture?

5. texture (is the picture rough or smooth? ie, a glossy photo or a Can Gogh canvas done with palatte knife?)

B. Principles of Composition

1. repetition ( how are the basic elements of the picture repeated, alternated? )
a) rhythm (do the elements recur regularly, or not?)
b) harmony (do the elements appear to join naturally, working together comfortably? Or are they incongruous, out of sync, and thus creating “dissonance?”)
c) variation (how does the artist take a basic element in the composition and use it again with slight or major changes?)

2. balance
a) symmetrical balance (if you drew an axis through the center, would each side be a mirror image of the other?)
b) asymmetrical balance (no mirror image, but still a “psychological” balance, or feeling of balance due to handling of space, line, form and color.

3. unity (does the piece seem complete? do all the elements work together toward meaning?)

4. focal area (is your eye immediately attracted to one point/form, or are there multiple areas that demand your attention?)

C. Other factors

1. perspective (is there an illusion of distance?)

2. Subject matter (realistic/representational or non-representational?)

3. dynamics (is the picture static, stable, placid? or in motion, violent?)

III. Analysis of three-dimensional art of sculpture involves:

A. Dimensionality

1. full round (Michaelangelo’s “David” )

2. low or high relief (how far does it protrude from the background?)

3. linear (mobiles, tubing)

B. Methods of execution

1. Subtraction ( artist carves the work out of a block of wood or stone)

2. Addition (artist builds up the work out of multiple materials)

3. Substitution (artist makes mold and casts the sculpture)

4. manipulation (artist shapes single material, like clay, with hands)

5. found (artist discovers an object and decides to present it as art)

6. ephemeral/conceptual sculpture (Christo’s transitory fabric art )

C. Composition

1. Elements
a) mass (the sculpture consists of actual volume and density; compare “David” with “Venus of Willendorf”
b) line and form (opposite of painting; line in sculpture can’t be understood apart from form.)
c) color (Sculptor may intentionally paint the work, or allow weather or oxidation to change it over time)
d) texture (is the surface rough or smooth?)

2. Principles
a) proportion (the relative relationship of shapes to one another; what ideal of proportion is operating?)
b) Repetition (rhythm, harmony and variation constitute repetition in sculpture as well as in the pictoral arts.)

3. Other Factors
a) Articulation (the way the eye is carried from one element to the next
b) Focal Area (what part, of all parts, is emphasized?)
c) Lighting and environment (direction and sources of light, and context in which work is exhibited affect our response to it)

IV. Analysis of three dimensional art of Architecture involves:

A. Structure (what system of construction is used to support the building?)

1. post and lintel

2. Arch
a) buttress
b) tunnel vault
c) groin vault
d) ribbed vault
e) dome with pendentives

3. cantilever

4. bearing wall (wall supports itself, floors, and roof)

5. skeleton frame (walls are attached to frame, like skin)

B. Materials (what materials have been used in the construction? How have they been combined to form the structure and decorative elements?)

1. stone

2. concrete

3. wood

4. steel

C. Scale and Proportion (how does the size of the example compare to the size of a human being? What emotions result from this scale? How do the elements of the building relate to each other in terms of their proportions?)

D. Context (What is the environment like in which this building is placed? Do the surrounding buildings and terrain harmonize or conflict with the design elements of the building?)

E. Space (What is the design of the interiors like? How do they relate to the exterior? Traffic flow? )

F. Climate (how does this building create shelter from the elements?)

G. Reaction (how do all the above elements combine to elicit a response from you? What is your emotional reaction to this building, and what causes it?)