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Renew Marxist Art History. The former tracks the development of the discipline in the s, and the latter's memoir equally maps the experience of a young art historian amid the reactionary environment of the US.

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Particularly good are Brian Foss' description of the encroachment of industry into Canadian landscape painting, and Steve Edwards' essay on the aesthetics of late 19th-century photography in London and its status as labour. Both these writers demonstrate the way in which social art historians using Marxist analytical tools approach their subjects and explain their goals, and they do so in a style that is entertaining and enlightening. This accessible vein continues in Barnaby Haran's exposure of the propaganda potential in Soviet lithograph's of rural life in Tajikistan, and in Jody Patterson's description of the convergence of the two great modernist traditions of socialist realism and abstraction in the form of American paintings representing political and social unrest in the s New York docks.

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Beyond these essays, buyer beware! In arguably the most interesting contribution, the late Frances Stracey examines the complex role played by women in the Situationist International SI , both as contributors and as the discussed and often pornographic subject matter. The SI was a group of assorted artists and intellectuals active — Indeed the balance of male and female authors throughout this project has to be welcomed but there is little beyond the frontiers of Western art.

Even the essay revealing the commodification of the work of a politically motivated Colombian photographer only goes to demonstrate the power of Western art institutions and the art market in neutralizing politically charged art.

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Nevertheless, with the focus on text rather than illustrations and all these monochrome, this is not a book for anyone expecting anything more than a red tint to their visual expectations. Someone once said that it was possible to study art history and not actually look at a picture.


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  • ISBN 13: 9781908970114.
  • What Marx did for art.
  • I fear that reading a book like this will only reinforce such a view. As a Marxist art historian myself, I believe that our discipline needs to be more transparent and welcoming and less opaque and exclusive. This is what Hemingway insisted on in the preface to his book, Art in Bourgeois Society He wrote, "We wish only to affirm that a theory of social and historical change is a prerequisite of any discourse that claims to engage with the historically specific circumstances involved in the generation of art objects or other cultural products.

    ReNew Marxist Art History

    Marx's formulation, which underpins the writings of Marxists such as Georgi Plekhanov, Georg Lukacs and Antonio Gramsci, would later be distorted and caricatured by Stalinists and academics. They portray Marxism as a crude reductionist attempt to understand the development of art and culture solely through changes at the economic "base" of society.

    What this volume captures is how contemporary Marxist art historians have sought to re-establish and extend the original vibrant and sophisticated tradition. They are acutely aware of the project they are involved in - to consciously argue for the Marxist perspective of art history and create a space in academia and challenge bourgeois ideology. They claim that this is an important field where the hegemony of the ruling class can be challenged. Moreover, it is not overly academic in its language.

    John Berger on Ways of Seeing, being an artist, and Marxism (2011) - Newsnight archives

    And although in a number of essays it deals with the complex question of method, on the whole it deals with specific cultural subjects with valuable insights about particular artists and cultural developments by writers committed to using a historical materialist method.