Thinking with Things: Toward a New Vision of Art

Overview

What is "art"? Why have human societies through all time and around the globe created those objects we call works of art? Is there any way of defining art that can encompass everything from Paleolithic objects to the virtual images created by the latest computer technology? Questions such as these have preoccupied Esther Pasztory since the beginning of her scholarly career. In this authoritative volume, she distills four decades of research and reflection to propose a pathbreaking new way of understanding what ...

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Overview

What is "art"? Why have human societies through all time and around the globe created those objects we call works of art? Is there any way of defining art that can encompass everything from Paleolithic objects to the virtual images created by the latest computer technology? Questions such as these have preoccupied Esther Pasztory since the beginning of her scholarly career. In this authoritative volume, she distills four decades of research and reflection to propose a pathbreaking new way of understanding what art is and why human beings create it that can be applied to all cultures throughout time.

At its heart, Pasztory's thesis is simple and yet profound. She asserts that humans create things (some of which modern Western society chooses to call "art") in order to work out our ideas—that is, we literally think with things. Pasztory draws on examples from many societies to argue that the art-making impulse is primarily cognitive and only secondarily aesthetic. She demonstrates that "art" always reflects the specific social context in which it is created, and that as societies become more complex, their art becomes more rarefied.

Pasztory presents her thesis in a two-part approach. The first section of the book is an original essay entitled "Thinking with Things" that develops Pasztory's unified theory of what art is and why we create it. The second section is a collection of eight previously published essays that explore the art-making process in both Pre-Columbian and Western societies. Pasztory's work combines the insights of art history and anthropology in the light of poststructuralist ideas. Her book will be indispensable reading for everyone who creates or thinks about works of art.

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Editorial Reviews

Art Documentation
As a major scholar of Meso-American art, Pasztory has written a valuable and substantive text.
— Richard McElroy
Art Documentation - Richard McElroy
As a major scholar of Meso-American art, Pasztory has written a valuable and substantive text.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780292706910
  • Publisher: University of Texas Press
  • Publication date: 8/28/2005
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 252
  • Product dimensions: 8.46 (w) x 10.94 (h) x 0.64 (d)

Meet the Author

ESTHER PASZTORY is the Lisa and Bernard Selz Professor of Pre-Columbian Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University.
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Table of Contents

A Note to the Reader
Acknowledgments
Part One
Introduction to Part One
1. Things
2. Thinking with Things
3. Levels of Social Integration
4. Insistence
5. Superpositions
6. Impersonation
7. Enhancement
8. Apotheosis
9. Iconoclasm/Aestheticism
10. Media/Marginalization
11. Transition
Bibliography to Part One
Part Two
Introduction to Part Two: Confessions of a Formalist
12. Still Invisible: The Problem of the Aesthetics of Abstraction for Pre-Columbian Art and Its Implications for Other Cultures
13. Identity and Difference: The Uses and Meanings of Ethnic Styles
14. The Portrait and the Mask: Invention and Translation
15. Aesthetics and Pre-Columbian Art
16. Andean Aesthetics
17. Three Aztec Masks of the God Xipe
18. Shamanism and North American Indian Art
Index
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