fichner_ua8_ch03 Visual Arts

fichner_ua8_ch03 Visual Arts - 03-W3429 12/6/05 8:44 AM...

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03-W3429 12/6/05 8:44 AM Page 70
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PRINCIPLES OF DESIGN 3 He searched disorder for its unifying principle. —Brian O’Doherty on Stuart Davis U nity is one of the principles of design, and principles of design, like visual ele- ments, are also part of the basic language of art. Just as people use principles of grammar to combine words into sentences, artists use principles of design to com- bine the visual elements of art into compositions that have a certain style, form, and content. Design or composition is a process—the act of organizing the visual elements to effect a desired aesthetic in a work of art. Designs can occur at random, as ex- empliFed by the old mathematical saw that an inFnite number of monkeys peck- ing away at an inFnite number of typewriters would eventually (though mindlessly) produce Hamlet. But when artists create compositions, they consciously draw upon design principles such as unity and variety, balance, emphasis and focal point, rhythm, scale, and proportion. This is not to say that all artists necessarily apply these principles, or even always recognize the extent of their presence in their work. Indeed, some artists prefer to purposefully violate them. American Museum of Natural History, New York. 03-W3429 12/6/05 8:44 AM Page 71
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Irritation is made possible in the first place by formal clarity and precise scale. —Katharina Fritsch UNITY AND VARIETY Unity is oneness or wholeness. A work of art achieves unity when its parts seem necessary to the composition as a whole. It is the exaggerated unity, the extreme unity, of Katharina Fritsch’s Rattenkönig (Rat-King) (Fig. 3-1) that impacts the 72 PRINCIPLES OF DESIGN 3-2 ARCHIBALD J. MOTLEY JR. Saturday Night (1935). Oil on canvas. 81.3 cm ± 101.6 cm. The Howard University Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. viewer—that, and the fact that the rats are nine feet tall and seem to be poised for attack like so many troops from the legendary Roman infantry. Although the composition was inspired by the artist’s encounter with a rat hole behind an unnamed New York art institution, the title of the work harks back to the battle between the nutcracker-turned- prince and the evil Rat King in Tchaikovsky’s beloved (albeit scary) ballet. The work achieves extreme unity through its repetition of shapes, the exactitude of the “copies,” and their placement in a precise circular con±guration. Artists gener- ally prefer to place some variety within a uni±ed composi- tion to add visual interest, but the principle of variety is most often subservient to the sense of oneness or overall unity in a work. The more you look at works of art, the better you will become at sensing the unity of compositions and at pinpointing the ways that artists achieve it. Some- times the techniques will be obvious, and at other times they will be subtler.
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This note was uploaded on 11/28/2010 for the course ACT 2201 taught by Professor Alexander during the Spring '09 term at Troy.

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fichner_ua8_ch03 Visual Arts - 03-W3429 12/6/05 8:44 AM...

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