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« Waikiki Report | Main | Cities and Icons »

January 07, 2008


Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

* It's National Football League playoff season and television is filled with even more hours of football talk than usual; on Super Bowl day, the pre-game blather goes on for hours.

When I was younger, I used to spend a lot of time watching such programs. That's because I was more emotionally involved with some of the teams than I am now.

It can be easy for pointy-headed pseudo-intellectuals who spent time in Ivy League schools (Who? Me?) to utter the dreaded cry "Tut-tut" about staring at the tube -- er, flat-panel -- through hours of speculations, game highlights and post-mortems. But I won't do that. Instead, I have come to praise the ex-jocks seated behind those long desks.

What, you ask, is the redeeming feature of sports-blather?

It's the analyses.

Part of formal education is learning how to evaluate evidence and draw conclusions. For some guys, doing that in a classroom setting can be a chore. But voluntarily listening to the analytical ex-jocks followed by similar chat with buddies on the playground, in the dorm, at a bar, uses mental processes similar to those when trying to find three levels of meaning in a Robert Frost poem -- and it's a lot more fun.

* This is a bleg (begging on a blog). As some of you might recall, I'm pondering writing a book about painting. I want to get an outline and related material completed so I can pitch the concept to publishers. An item I need to deal with is Western art history narratives that have been proposed since the heyday of Abstract Expressionism (the 1950s). I have seen bits suggesting that the Post-Modern era is considered a-historical. That is, things have become so fragmented that they cannot be encapsulated into a narrative.

That seems plausible, but I need to document it (or its contradiction). I see plenty of art criticism books in bookstores, but I don't want to spend a lot of money and time dealing with what is a side-issue to my project. So, do any of you have any suggestions regarding good, solid sources on post-1960 art history narratives that I might be able to look through and cite?

I'll greatly appreciate any help I can get.



posted by Donald at January 7, 2008


I feel like I should be able to spew out a whole list for you, but I have frightfully little interest in art history. (I put a lot of blame on all the excruciatingly awful teachers I've had over the years—I've only ever had one really good teacher.)

Despite all that, I do have a few suggestions:

Check out "Art in Theory 1900 - 2000"
( It's a massive compilation of theories, artist statements, essays, and letters. At the very least it would give you starting points for further research.

Another book I often come back to is "The Columbia Dictionary of Modern Literary and Cultural Criticism." ( It's not an art history book per se, but it's very handy when you run across one of those weird "-ism"s or a "-ology"s.

Speaking of "-ism"s, I don't know how interested you are in delving into postmodernism, but I've always found the Routledge books to be very helpful.

Speaking of postmodernism, I feel the key theorists are Baudrillard, Lyotard, and Frederic Jameson. There should be Routledge books for each of them. Again, they don't focus on art specifically, but they've all been very influential in how artists perceive the world (which in turn is reflected in the art they make).

Hope this helps. Somehow.

Posted by: Jonathan Schnapp on January 7, 2008 4:25 PM

Regarding the sports analysis, the problem with most of it is that is so superficial...only occasionally do you get any real insight.

On an aside, however, your post reminded me of when I was growing up there used to be some sort of football guide each season that would have for each team with 11 men on each side of the ball and the depth chart listed for each position. I'm sure those are long gone from my parent's house, but I remember poring over those at the start of each season and have them open during whatever game I was watching during the season, flipping back and forth between the 2 teams' pages in order to identify players. Given the long lead time for publication, you could do that when players stayed with the same team for most of their career. Just wondering if anyone else remembers those books...

Posted by: ken on January 9, 2008 1:05 PM

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