I picked up this little book a few years ago in a museum shop in Europe, and to tell you the truth it was the seed that generated this whole ID Arts project. The book explains that four different types of “isms” are represented: 1) a trend within the visual arts; 2) a broad cultural trend; 3) artist-defined movement; and 4) retrospectively applied label. The broad cultural trends caught my eye: Renaissance, Secularism, Humanism, Realism, Materialism, Primitivism, Post-Modernism. The art movements marched along the timeline in step with intellectuals movements. As ID theory emerges in step with startling new discoveries about the design and complexity of life, where will that show up in the world of art? IDism? Designism? If you are an artist thinking about these issues, buy this book and spend a weekend looking at the Chronology of Isms timeline in the back of the book and absorbing the sample art for each period and help us define the next art ism on the chart: Designism.
Isms: Understanding Art is the perfect pocket-sized guide for gallery and museum lovers who have a general interest in the arts, but not necessarily any formal education in the visual arts. With this portable and indispensable tool in hand, anyone can guide themselves through the world’s prestigious museums and major art collections and recognize and intelligently discuss the significant movements that have shaped the world of art.
Using an informative and engaging style with informal and direct tone, each of the numerous “isms” that are used to define-but often misleadingly cloud-art movements are explained in simple terms and made accessible to the casual art lover. Readers are encouraged to think of styles as useful tools for conversation and exploration rather than as hard and fast academic definitions, and to relate to the art itself rather than to a merely conceptual idea.
Each spread is devoted to a single art historical period and begins with an introduction that explains when the movement first emerged, the historical period to which it applies, and the principal disputes over its applicability, usefulness, or significance. The rest of the chapter is divided into several sections illustrating the most important artists and works within the period, related key words, and illustrations that best represent the distinctive features. This comprehensible structure makes it possible for any reader to gain a clear understanding of Classicism or Cubism while sitting in a café or visiting a gallery.