Cover image for Potential images : ambiguity and indeterminacy in modern art
Potential images : ambiguity and indeterminacy in modern art
Gamboni, Dario.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
London : Reaktion, [2002]

Physical Description:
304 pages : illustrations (some color), portraits ; 29 cm

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N6350 .G35 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Oversize

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Ambiguity is inherent in images because visual perception is an interpretative act involving memory and imagination. Modern art has made this aspect of perception crucial to its relationship with the viewer. Potential Images , the first systematic exploration of this topic, considers those works of art that rely to a great degree on imaginative response.

Dario Gamboni concentrates on the last decades of the nineteenth and first decades of the twentieth centuries, during which ambiguity and indeterminacy became defining characteristics of art. He examines how work by Redon, Gauguin, Rodin, Duchamp and numerous others sought to involve the beholder and reshaped artistic communication. Drawing on a vast range of sources, Gamboni finds striking parallels in other realms of contemporary culture and points to the intense exchanges that supported this process of cultural transformation. Potential Images also identifies the historical antecedents of this appeal to the viewer, finally proposing a conception of art in which artist and audience occupy symmetrical, equal and even interchangeable positions.

Author Notes

Dario Gamboni is Professor of Art History at the University of Amsterdam.

Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

French avant-garde experimentation from the 1880s to World War I is the principal focus of this perceptive examination of modern art's "open relationship" with the viewer. Gamboni (Univ. of Amsterdam), a noted Odilon Redon scholar, revisits familiar symbolist territory as he analyzes interpretative ambiguities evident in the works of Redon, James Ensor, Georges Seurat, and Gauguin. The study begins with classical and Renaissance antecedents of ambiguous images and their multiplicity of interpretation and concludes with contemporary examples, such as Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke, and Markus Raetz. Beyond probing the artworks, Gamboni marshals evidence from literary, critical, psychological, cultural, and political sources in support of his investigation of the interplay and tensions between the elitist hermeticism that informs much of modern art and its more universal ability to communicate with the viewer. Some 200 plates and illustrations are finely reproduced and integrated with the text. Thorough, intense, heavily documented, and challenging, this work is best suited and highly recommended for upper-division and graduate-level collections.-Russell T. Clement, Northwestern Univ. Lib., Evanston, IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgementsp. 7
Introduction: The 'sense of mystery'p. 9
I Ambiguity and indeterminacyp. 13
II From the origins to the classical agep. 21
III From the Enlightenment to Impressionismp. 42
IV Redon, Ensor, Seuratp. 68
V Gauguin, Pont-Aven and the Nabisp. 86
VI At the turn of the centuryp. 105
VII Cubism, Abstraction and Readymadep. 131
VIII In the society of imagesp. 149
IX In the company of wordsp. 168
X In the world of ideasp. 183
XI Between two warsp. 201
XII Ambiguity after Modernismp. 219
Conclusion: Redistributions of authorityp. 241
Referencesp. 245
List of Illustrationsp. 295
Indexp. 301