A book project on the spread of North American- and western European-style art history around the world, and on the impossibility of writing a history of world modernisms.

A central image of Asian modernisms: Yorozu Tetsugoro's "Ideal Beauty." Yorozu is a good emblem for the problems raised in this book. First, in regard to how it's studied: there is a range of writing on this painting, some of which might be read, by a North American or western European reader, as influenced by familiar interpretive methods. And second, in relation to its place in narratives of modernism: it is known to every student of Japanese art, but it would be safe to say it is unknown to nearly every college-level student of art history in Europe or North America.

Another painting by Yorozu Tetsugoro. What kinds of interpretation would be appropriate for this image? How could the issues raised by this painting be related to readings of, say, Van Gogh? Or definitively detached from those readings? The problems raised by even such simple questions are apparently endless and largely unasked in art history. 

The Impending Single History of Art (book project)

The Impending Single History of Art: North Atlantic Art History and Its Alternatives  is a book about the often debated, but largely invisible spread of a uniform style of art history, theory, and criticism around the world. I think of this question of writing as the least well theorized problem in the understanding of contemporary art.

This book was part of the Live Writing Project: some chapters were posed online, and comments were incorporated into the book. The MS is completed, and the book is currently under review. The Table of Contents, Preface, and Introduction are embedded live at the bottom of this page. Please scroll down and read that first.

Chapters 1, 2, 3, 5, and 10 are online (mouseover to see links). 

 

1  The Conditions Under Which Global Art History Is Studied —  includes a section on English as the language of art history.

2  Leading Terms: Master Narrative, Western, Central, Peripheral, North Atlantic — includes sections on words like global, worldwide, local, central, marginal, peripheral, regional.

3  Are Art Criticism, Art Theory, Art Instruction, and the Novel Global Phenomena?

4  How to Read Art Since 1900

5  Pondering a Response to Art Since 1900

6  State of the Field: Five Current Strategies

7  Reasons Why Escape is Not Possible

8  Finding Terms and Methods for Art History

9  Writing About Modernist Painting Outside North America and Europe

10  Two Modes of Judgment: Forgiving and Demanding

11  The Most Difficult Problem for Global Art History

Envoi