Formal Analysis and Compare–Contrast Essay

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This essay need to write about two-three art exhibition (I will attach the picture and description of the art exhibition). I will also attach an PDF file about the essay. The writing style can be a bit broken grammar since that is my writing style (no need to write like high language style or super professional). The writing style is more of describe what you see from these art exhibition. It’s like creative writing, I will attach one more exhibition art later on Monday 2/17.

This four-five page length requirement does not include your separate Illustration Page(s)

The challenge of writing a formal analysis is not to simply follow a formula. You must choose what you want the reader to look at based on the point(s) you are trying to make about the work.

Everything you choose to write about must be there for a reason.

• You are building a case, in essence, supporting your critique with verbal cues to the reader.

• Think of yourself like a tour guide, or as if you are giving a lecture or presentation and want to persuade the audience to your point of view.

When you first introduce the work, communicate the facts of the exhibition(s), (Who? What? When? Where?) This should grab the readers’s attention and give a general sense of what you see as you enter the gallery (or other location). It serves as a way to visually orient the reader about where they are in time and space and lead the reader in to discover what you are going to talk about. Use your cinematic mindset to set the stage for the reader. For example, if it’s a group exhibition, you might start by discussing the show title, gallery name, location, and other general observations and then choose a specific artwork(s) to critique. You would then in effect, “move in closer,” to identify the artist(s), the title, the medium, and year the work was created. (If you have other ideas regarding how you want to discuss artwork [for example, the effectiveness of an installation, compare/contrast between works in a show], bring your ideas forward in class.)

1) DESCRIPTION: Describe the visual facts of the work. Describe the work without using value words such as “beautiful” or “ugly.” Make objective or value-neutral* statements about the work in question. These are the material facts of the work. Exclude interpretations and evaluations, and, instead, take an objective inventory of the work. Point out materials or technologies used to create the artwork. *A test of objectivity would be that most people would agree with your statement. Thinking style examples: • What is the size of the work and the media or material used? • What are the elements used in the work of art? • Describe the artist’s use of color. How many colors have been used? • Describe the textures. • Describe the lines in the work. • What kinds of shapes do you see? • How is the work displayed? • How many objects or materials are presented?

2) ANALYSIS: Although the term here relates closely to Feldman’s notion of “description,” the term “analysis” builds upon the initial discussion of identifying and describing an artwork’s most basic visual elements and material, and going beyond that to understand why it looks as it does. This means, looking at the picture, sculpture, or whatever the work may be and identifying how the principles of the work of art organize its elements. Make statements about the relations among the things you named in the description (step 1). For example, you could note similarities and dissimilarities in formal elements–such things as color, shape, or direction. Take note of continuities (such as the color red repeated throughout the work) and of connections (for example, the shape of a window repeated in the shape of a table) between these formal elements and the subject matter. What kind of spatial devices are used to create dimensionality? Do you see examples of repetition or rhythm?

Thinking style examples: • Is your eye drawn to any particular area of the image? • Is there an element that stands out in the composition? • Is the composition balanced? • Does the work look flat or does it give a feeling of depth or space? • Is there symmetry, asymmetry, use of negative space, repetition? • What is the relationship between objects in the installation?

3) INTERPRETATION: The purpose of the interpretation is to comprehend each individual’s response to works of art or design. These are personal interpretations that can be emotional and/or intellectual, involving the mood and feeling or philosophical speculation that each individual sees in a work of art. For example, your interpretation can draw on art history and theory, psychology, politics, or cultural issues. Everyone brings his/her/their own experiences and associations to each and every encounter with an artwork. Therefore, works of art and design have unique meanings for each viewer. This third stage of looking allows you to vocalize your own interpretations, making connection with the work before you and, perhaps, the things that you have experienced and thought about in your own life. Ideally, the content you created in steps 1 and 2 support your interpretation. Thinking style examples: • What kind of mood or feeling do you get from the image? • Do you “see” a story? • If you could imagine yourself within the image, how would you feel? • What sounds or music do you hear? • Why do you think the artist choose this particular subject to sculpt? • What is the content of the work of art? • What meaning or ideas are being expressed by the work? • What seems to be the artist’s intention? • How does the presentation of the object within the exhibition affect your interpretation?

4) JUDGMENT: Everyone appreciates different things about art. This fourth stage of looking at art is about judging if an artwork is successful and to explain why or why not. You can compare and contrast different aspects that you think are strong or weak, or simply focus on the work’s strength or weakness. Judgment is entirely personal and does not have to match the opinion or taste of anyone else. It is important for each individual to develop an understanding of and feel confident about what they do or do not like. And to clearly and thoughtfully communicate why. Thinking style examples: • What do you think is the most important aspect of the work? • Is it successful in expressing content such as a mood, idea, or feeling? • Is it aesthetically pleasing? • Is it successful in representing a subject? • What do you like or dislike about the work? • Do you agree with its politics or social commentary?

What you write as your judgment might function as a lead in to your conclusion or closing statements; it’s important not to just “drop off” at the end of your essay. Leave your reader with a sense that her time was well spent. What do you want her to learn, discover, think about, or question?

COMPARE–CONTRAST: • For a discussion about how to approach writing a comparison essay, I have attached to the hard copy of the instruction sheet, given out in class, “Writing a Comparison,” which is taken from Sylvan Barnett’s book A Short Guide to Writing About Art, chapter five. • Practical advice (for creating charts and diagrams) can be found from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Writing Center:… TONE/VOICE: • You may use the first/second person or third person voice for this assignment. If you need to review what that is, read this PDF compiled by the St. Louis Community College, “Point of View in Academic Writing.”… • The tone is formal or semi-formal, even if written in the the first person. See Purdue Writing Center “Levels of Formality.” academic_writing/using_appropriate_language/levels_of_formality.html • You must consciously attempt to use sensory description and active, vivid verbs throughout the essay. This may seem counter to some of the more “objective” aims of formal analysis, but it is a rhetorical device that will pull the reader in by appealing to their senses.


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