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Alex Potts
Alex Potts is Max Loehr Collegiate Professor, History of Art, University of Michigan.
Potts, Alex
Potts, Alex
United States of America
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The Sculptural Imagination: Figurative, Modernist, Minimalist
In the modern period, sculpture has often been viewed as more limited, more literal, and also more primitive than the “leading” visual art: painting. But precisely because of its marginal status, Alex Potts points out in this stimulating and original book, sculpture has played a complex and intriguing role in modern ideas and fantasies surrounding visual art. Potts explores the special qualities of sculpture as a free-standing three-dimensional entity, and he considers the distinctive demands sculpture places on the viewer.

The book begins in the late eighteenth century, when a systematic formal distinction began to be made between painting and sculpture. Following changing attitudes toward sculpture through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Potts analyzes for the first time the radical transformation that has occurred not only in the nature of sculptural works but also in their display and reception. He focuses on a broad range of texts by major writers who have in some way been obsessed by sculpture and by such artist-theorists as Adolf Hildebrand and Donald Judd. The author also offers a detailed view of selected iconic works by key players in modern thinking about the sculptural. The impact of minimalism features prominently in this discussion, for it placed the phenomenology of viewing three-dimensional objects for the first time at the center of debate about modern visual art.
Print publication date January 2001 (in print)
Print ISBN 9780300088014
EISBN 9780300229615
Illustrations 168
Print Status in print
Description: Flesh and the Ideal: Winckelmann and the Origins of Art History
Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717–1768), one of the most important figures ever to have written about art, is considered by many to be the father of modern art history. This book is an intellectual biography of Winckelmann that discusses his magnum opus, History of the Art of Antiquity, in the context of his life and work in Germany and in Rome in the eighteenth century.

Alex Potts analyzes Winckelmann's eloquent account of the aesthetic and imaginative Greek ideal in art, an account that focuses on the political and homoerotic sexual content that gave the antique ideal male nude its larger resonance. He shows how Winckelmann's writing reflects the well-known preoccupations and values of Enlightenment culture as well as a darker aspect of Enlightenment ideals—such as the fantasy of a completely free sovereign subjectivity associated with Greek art. Potts explores how Winckelmann's historical perspective on the art of antiquity both prefigures and undermines the more strictly historicizing views put forward in the nineteenth century and how his systematic definition of style and historical development casts a new light on the present-day understanding of these notions. According to Potts, Winckelmann goes well beyond the simple rationalist art history and Neoclassical art theory with which he is usually associated. Rather, he often seems to speak directly to our present awareness of the discomforting ideological and psychic contradictions inherent in supposedly ideal symbolic forms.
Print publication date August 1994 (in print)
Print ISBN 9780300087369
EISBN 9780300229608
Illustrations 46
Print Status in print