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Drawing on socio-economic and political studies as well as histories of religion, science, literature, and popular culture, this book explores the diverse, conflicted history of American art and architecture within the United States from the European voyages of discovery and colonial conquest to the present dawn of a new millennium. Thematically interrelating the visual arts to other material artifacts and cultural practices, it text examines how artists and architects produced artwork that visually expressed various social and political values. Covering the years between 1492 and 2002, chapter titles include The Invention and Mapping of America, Religious Rituals and the Visual Arts in Colonial America, Art and the Consumer Revolution in Colonial America, Revolutionary Icons and the Representation of Republican Virtue, National Identity and Private Interests in Antebellum America, Art and Commerce in the Gilded Age, Modernist Art and Politics, Modernism/Postmodernism and the Survival of a Critical Vision, and Globalization and the Culture Wars. For individuals interested in a survey of American art.
Bjelajac (art and human sciences, George Washington Univ.) abandons the quest for "American-ness" in favor of a contextual history of art in American society. Basically chronological, his book is also arranged around themes (e.g., 17th-century religious imagery, populism and public art in the Depression). Maps, Masonic symbols, and folk art are brought into the mix in sometimes illuminating relationships with the more traditional fine arts. Neither traditional art history nor a social history, this book is an attempt to view aspects of the latter through the testimony of the objects the author discusses. Much of this will not be news to scholars in the field, and though the text is selective, the scope of the book means that nothing is covered in great depth. Chapters are subdivided into sections that can be read independently of an overall narrative or argument--they might almost be web pages or sound bites in other media. The color illustrations are oleaginous and horrible. Not an essential purchase.--Jack Perry Brown, Art Inst. of Chicago Libs. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
David Bjelajac is professor of art and the human sciences at The George Washington University. He is the author of two monographs on Washington Allston, including Washington Allston, Secret Societies, and the Alchemy of Anglo-American Painting. He has contributed a chapter on "William Sidney Mount and the Hermetic Tradition in American Art" to The Visual Culture of American Religions (eds. David Morgan and Sally M. Promey).