AP Art History

Eadweard Muybridge, The Horse in Motion, 1878
Alfred Stieglitz, The Steerage, 1907
Dorothea Lange, Migrant Mother, 1936
Diane Arbus, Child with Toy Hand Grenade, 1962
Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still #21, 1978
Barbara Kruger, Untitled (“I shop therefore I am”) 1987

This was interesting from both a photography point of view and a general art history point of view.

Art history-wise, the canon is homogenous and full of jargon. A lot of the questions and things you’re supposed to know are, quite frankly, boring and don’t do anything to encourage the appreciation of art. This is very sad.

I’m not enough of a generalist to comment more here, however as someone who likes modern art and photography, I find photography’s role in that canon to be particularly interesting. In every modern art museum I’ve visited, photography is always kept in its own discreet section, partitioned off and away from the rest of the works on display. It’s not relegated to an inferior status, just that it’s kept distinct from the general trends of the time.

I’ve never understood the distinction. Especially when you have artists like Jay Defeo, Ed Ruscha, John Baldessari, Robert Bechtle, and Andy Warhol whose work includes, references, or converses with photography. I enjoy modern art and I particularly like when photography exists in context with what everyone else is doing. In all media. But this rarely happens.

Which means that I was actually somewhat surprised to see any photography get posted. And as I noted, I don’t disagree with any of these photographs being on the “photos you must know” list. All six are hugely important to both to art and to photography.

At the same time, just looking from a photography point of view, there are a lot of things missing. No landscapes. No views of the city. No still-lifes. No patterns or textures. No color studies.

No non-American photographers* and no non-white photographers.**

*Very surprising considering who’s in the canon of photography history.

**Not surprising at all as this fits in with the rest of the Art History Canon.

It is nice to see though that there were twice as many women as men. Unlike the rest of Art History, there are a lot of female photographers who have been accepted by the establishment. At the same time, yeah, yet another grouping which suggests that female photographers only take photos of people.

Author: Nick Vossbrink

Blogging about Photography, Museums, Printing, and Baseball Cards from both Princeton New Jersey and the San Francisco Bay Area. On Twitter as @vossbrink, WordPress at njwv.wordpress.com, and the web at vossbrink.net

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