Seeing High & Low

Seeing High & Low

Representing Social Conflict in American Visual Culture

Book - 2006
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University of California Press
This cutting-edge volume presents a sweeping view of the evolution of visual culture in the United States through fifteen absorbing case studies by top scholars of American art that explore visual culture’s engagement with social controversy. Written especially for this work in lively and accessible language, the essays illuminate what visual forms—including traditional crafts, sculpture, painting and graphic arts, even domestic and museum interiors—can tell us about social conditions, how visual culture has contributed to social values, and how concepts of high and low art have developed. The only work on visual culture to span American history from the early republic to the present and to delve into issues from ethnicity to geography, Seeing High and Low allows readers to follow the evolution of concepts of “high” and “low” art as well as to gain new insight into American history.

Arranged roughly chronologically, these generously illustrated essays explore topics including the formative role of visual images in the process of class stratification in the Early Republic; the contribution of media images and paintings to debates on environmental crises, race relations, and urbanization in the late nineteenth century; and the difficulties of engaging with social issues while employing a modernist vocabulary.

"Seeing High and Low is a much-needed addition to the study of nineteenth and early twentieth-century American art history. Featuring insightful, well-written essays on visual and material culture subjects ranging from history and landscape paintings to Harper's Weekly illustrations, Anheuser-Busch ads, Craftsman chairs, American Indian handicrafts, and more, this helpful volume explores the popular and 'fine' arts in the national narrative."--Erika Doss, author of Twentieth-Century American Art

"This edited volume presents compelling case studies, offering a series of masterly explanations of how visual culture, visual studies, cultural studies, and art history intersect. The chapters examine paintings, sculpture, photographs, museum exhibitions, architecture, and popular prints, looking closely at the representational strategies and capacities of high and low art, two historical discourses that together reinforce social ideas and cultural forms."--Vivien Green Fryd, author of Art and Empire: The Politics of Ethnicity in the U.S. Capitol, 1815-1860

"Seeing High and Low may well become the standard text for developing new ways to view and interpret American art. It tactfully removes old boundaries and replaces them with theoretical approaches dedicated to opening the field to a wide range of related visual materials. One comes away convinced that the study of images has begun all over again, and that it has become richer and more rewarding than ever."--William H. Truettner, Senior Curator, Smithsonian American Art Museum

"At long last, an excellent introduction to the social construction of American visual culture and the hierarchical categories assembled to organize it. Indispensable reading for scholars in and out of the classroom, this illuminating anthology's contributions are many and significant."--Sally M. Promey, author of Painting Religion in Public

"This gem of an anthology brings a refreshing perspective to the high-low debate. Using all types of visual and material objects its authors read these categories against one another, watching their often-conflicted interactions shape ideas about culture and society. A lucid overview of its visual culture framework explicates the volume's methods and animates its rich selection of case studies, making it a 'must read' for Americanists of all disciplines. And a vital accompaniment to their courses."--Ellen Wiley Todd, George Mason University


Publisher: Berkeley : University of California Press, c2006
ISBN: 9780520241879
0520241878
9780520241886
0520241886
Characteristics: vii, 308 p. : ill. ; 24 cm
Additional Contributors: Johnston, Patricia A. 1954-
Alternative Title: Seeing high and low

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