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American Art Criticism between the Cultural and the Ideological (I)


Babes-Bolyai University


Starting from the presupposition that art and art criticism in the United States of America are closely linked and that the very meanings and receptions of art works have been reflected by various writings in the field of art criticism, this first part of a comprehensive study on the topic attempts, on the one hand, to divide the historical evolution of American fine arts and art criticism into several distinct periods, and on the other, to evaluate the major directions of art criticism by considering its historical periods as being markedly ideological or cultural, as the case may be. Thus, considering the approximately 150 years of historical accomplishments of art criticism in the United States, I will argue that the starting point of American art criticism is visibly cultural, while the next two periods are characterised by ideological art criticism, noting that the ideological orientation differs in the two time frames. The fourth moment in the evolution of art criticism marks the revival of the cultural, so that, within the fifth, the postmodern art criticism could no longer grasp a clear distinction between the cultural and the ideological. The present article will focus on the first two important orientations in art criticism in the United States, 1865-1900 and 1908-1940, respectively; a future study will consider the remaining three periods, following this historicist approach of art criticism in the United States.


Keywords: American art criticism, cultural art criticism, ideological art criticism, temporal periodisation of art criticism