Cultivating Picturacy: Visual Art and Verbal Interventions by James A. W. Heffernan

By James A. W. Heffernan

Notwithstanding English has no note for the visible counterpart to literacy, Heffernan argues that the ability to interpret photographs needs to be cultivated and merits a reputation: picturacy. utilizing examples corresponding to the pre-historic cave work of Lascaux, movie models of Frankenstein, the provocative photos of Sally Mann, and the summary canvases of Gerhard Richter, the amount illustrates how studying to decode the language of images resembles the method of studying to learn. whereas phrases quite often body and control our event of paintings, the examine additionally explains how photos can contest the authority of the phrases we use to interpret artwork.

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8 Jan van Eyck, The Arnolfini Wedding (1434). National Gallery, London. Erich Lessing/Art Resource, NY. Literacy and Picturacy 29 us and questions our inferences. Consider for instance what Panofsky does with Jan van Eyck’s Arnolfini portrait of 1434 (fig. 8). ” But as Jacques Derrida points out, Moses himself links sandals with dignity (“I have led you forty years in the wildnerness . . and your sandals have not worn off your feet” [Deut. 38 Hence the naked foot, as Derrida says, can signify either purity or indignity (351)—possibly even (though Derrida doesn’t say this) an unabashed eagerness for the marriage bed which stands conveniently beside the couple.

What are we to say, for instance, about works of Super Realism such as John Salt’s ’58 Ford with White Hood (1973)? To this question Goodman might reply that what the picture resembles is not an object but a photograph. 19 “Realism is relative,” says Goodman, “It is determined by the system of representation standard for a given culture or person at a given time” (LA 38). If it is fair to say that the photograph now constitutes the prevailing standard of realism in our culture, then Salt’s picture could be called conventionally realistic.

Moses Writing the Book of Genesis (plate 6). ” 46 The reviewer simply could not read a multitemporal work of art. 34 Cultivating Picturacy To read such a work, we must of course suspend the longstanding assumption that painting is unitemporal. Born in the fifteenth century with Alberti’s rules for perspective and codified by Lessing in the eighteenth century, the notion that painting can represent only what can be seen at a single moment from a single point of view came to assume the status of an immutable law—at least until Cubism pulverized it at the beginning of the twentieth century.

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