Artistic Medium

Daniel Wack
Knox College
Artistic medium is an art critical concept that first arose in 18th century European discourse about art. Medium analysis has, historically, attempted to identify that out of which works of art and, more generally, art forms are created, in order to better articulate norms or standards by which works of art and art forms can be evaluated. Since the 19th century, medium analysis has emerged in two different forms of art critical and theoretical discourse. Within traditional art forms such as painting and sculpture, modernist artists and critics began to interrogate an art form and the history of its possibilities in order to discover the necessary conditions for instances of that form. This modernist interest in medium aimed to strip away unnecessary traditional artistic conventions in order to identify that which is essential to the form. Within newly emergent forms of popular art, such as movies, comics, and video games, artists and critics have attempted to articulate the ways the norms of these forms of popular art arise from new material and technological modes of creating and interacting with reproducible images. The possibilities for an art form, whether traditional or newly emergent, can only be discovered by artists in acts of artistic creation. For this reason, the relation between art forms and their media develops and changes as the art forms continue to be discovered and reimagined by artists.
Keywords artistic medium  Lessing  photography  modernism  popular art
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