Reading Response Blog #8

Assigned Reading:  Anderson, T. (1993). Defining and Structuring art criticism for education 

Tom Anderson, author of this article, examines reasons for doing art criticism and proposes a method of criticizing art in an educational context.

Anderson starts his article by defining what art criticism is; it can be defined as talking or writing about art. Art criticism is directed toward understanding and appreciating individual art works or events. Critiques vary because they depend on the aesthetic ideas and value bases held by the particular critic who is looking at the work.  However, no matter what ideals are held by the critic, most all critics are going to ask the same three questions when critiquing a work.

  1. What is this?
  2. What does it mean?
  3. What is its significance?

To answer these three questions, critics use the primary traditional processes of criticism: description, interpretation and evaluation, to critique the work.  Anderson states that if any of the three processes are missing, the result cannot be considered fully developed academic art criticism.

The part I found most important about this reading was when Anderson focused on the educational aspect of art criticism from a children’s perspective.  He states that the deconstructing and deep description aspect of criticism is not particularly appropriate for children because the deconstructing and re-contextualizing imply that one already possesses a sophisticated understanding of cultural beliefs.  Children do not have that cultural base, however, and Anderson states that “the reason they are in school is to acquire it” (Defining and Structuring Art Criticism for Education, p. 201).  Before a child can deconstruct and re-contextualize cultural information, they need to first construct, contextualize, and integrate its meanings.   Therefore, incorporating art criticism into art education will give students the foundation and background to construct meaningful works while also being able to describe and understand the deeper meanings of those works.  Giving children the ability to understand what they have created can carry over into all subject areas and later aspects of education.

Anderson presents the idea that educational art criticism and critiques of student artwork are not the same.  The critiques are primarily exercises in which students examine their own and other students’ work with the goal to improve or better the work.  Art criticism on the other hand is looking at works of art, usually done by professional artists, with the purpose of determining the meaning and significance of the work and what it might say about the human condition or culture.

This reading shows that a student can not participate in art criticism if they have first not developed the ability to participate in educational art criticism.

  1. What is an effective art critique?
  2. How can an art critique be educational?
  3. How does the process of looking at art works promote discussion among students?
  4. How young is too young to promote the discussion about art?
  5. How do you incorporate discussion to include those that do not like talking about the works they have created?

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