William Hogarth: The Analysis of Beauty 

Born three hundred years ago in Smithfield, London, William Hogarth established himself as a central figure in eighteenth-century English culture through his paintings, engravings, and outspoken art criticism. In this new edition of Hogarth’s Analysis of Beauty—a unique work combining theory with practical advice on painting—Ronald Paulson includes the complete text of the original work; an introduction that places the Analysis in the tradition of aesthetic treatises and Hogarth’s own “moral” works; extensive annotation of the text and accompanying illustrations; and illuminating manuscript passages that Hogarth omitted from the final printed version.

In the development of English aesthetics, the Analysis of Beautytakes a position of high significance. Hogarth’s stature in his own time suggests the importance of his attempt to systematize and theorize his own artistic practice. What he proposes is an aesthetics of the middle range, subordinating both the Beautiful and the Sublime to the everyday world of human choice and contingency—essentially the world of Hogarth’s own modern moral subjects, his engraved works.
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Pierre Bourdieu: Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste

No judgement of taste is innocent. In a word, we are all snobs. Pierre Bourdieu brilliantly illuminates this situation of the middle class in the modern world. France's leading sociologist focusses here on the French bourgeoisie, its tastes and preferences. Distinction is at once a vast ethnography of contemporary France and a dissection of the bourgeois mind.
In the course of everyday life people constantly choose between what they find aesthetically pleasing and what they consider tacky, merely trendy, or ugly. Bourdieu bases his study on surveys that took into account the multitude of social factors that play a part in a Frenchperson's choice of clothing, furniture, leisure activities, dinner menus for guests, and many other matters of taste. What emerges from his analysis is that social snobbery is everywhere in the bourgeois world. The different aesthetic choices people make are all distinctions-that is, choices made in opposition to those made by other classes. Taste is not pure. Bourdieu finds a world of social meaning in the decision to order bouillabaisse, in our contemporary cult of thinness, in the "California sports" such as jogging and cross-country skiing. The social world, he argues, functions simultaneously as a system of power relations and as a symbolic system in which minute distinctions of taste become the basis for social judgement.
The topic of Bourdieu's book is a fascinating one: the strategies of social pretension are always curiously engaging. But the book is more than fascinating. It is a major contribution to current debates on the theory of culture and a challenge to the major theoretical schools in contemporary sociology.

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Further Readings Available as PDF
Language and Symbolic Power
The Logic of Practice
The Forms of Capital
Social Space and Symbolic Power

Additional Resources:
Routledge Profile of Pierre Bourdieu
Documentary: Sociology is a Martial Art (2002)

Philip Guston: Collected Writings, Lectures and Conversations

This is the premier collection of dialogues, talks, and writings by Philip Guston (1913–1980), one of the most intellectually adventurous and poetically gifted of modern painters. Over the course of his life, Guston’s wide reading in literature and philosophy deepened his commitment to his art—from his early Abstract Expressionist paintings to his later gritty, intense figurative works. This collection, with many pieces appearing in print for the first time, lets us hear Guston’s voice—as the artist delivers a lecture on Renaissance painting, instructs students in a classroom setting, and discusses such artists and writers as Piero della Francesca, de Chirico, Picasso, Kafka, Beckett, and Gogol.

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Interviews etc.
Painters Painting (1973)
Paul Schimmel Walkthrough at Hauser & Wirth
Panel Discussion Part 1 (Hauser & Wirth)
Panel Discussion Part 2 (Hauser & Wirth)

Robert Irwin: Notes Towards a Conditional Art

Robert Irwin, who is one of the most important artists of this era, was a seminal figure in "Light and Space" art. He began as an Abstract Expressionist painter in the 1950s, and was for some time (but is no longer) an artist who produced no art obejcts. Irwin's philosophical and aesthetic theories are so far-reaching that only now, some twenty years after they were first posited, has the art world begun to recognize that his questions about perception come to bear upon the definition of art itself. In the 1960s, his disc paintings succeeded in "breaking the edge of the canvas," with the resultant effect that the space surrounding the work became equally important. In the 1970s, Irwin created room-environment pieces of a phenomenal or non-object nature across the United States. Comprised solely of light, string, or nylon scrim, these works placed the responsibility upon the viewer in order to bring him to a position where he could "perceive himself perceiving" – "The Mondrian was no longer on the wall – the viewer was in the Mondrian." In the last ten years, Irwin's sculptural aesthetic and his philosophical theories have merged to provide the impetus behind a major body of sculpture created in response to a specific site, situation, or locale. Irwin's importance as an artist lies not only in the beauty and clarity of his precendent-setting work, but in his theoretical contribtion, which provides a framework by which all phenomenal works can be examined. This book, written by the artist, lays out his theoretical position and documents the working processes behind seventeen major sculpture projects created over the past decade. — from dust jacket.

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Susan Sontag: Regarding the Pain of Others

Twenty-five years after her classic On Photography, Susan Sontag returns to the subject of visual representations of war and violence in our culture today.How does the spectacle of the sufferings of others (via television or newsprint) affect us? Are viewers inured–or incited–to violence by the depiction of cruelty? In Regarding the Pain of Others, Susan Sontag takes a fresh look at the representation of atrocity–from Goya's The Disasters of War to photographs of the American Civil War, lynchings of blacks in the South, and the Nazi death camps, to contemporary horrific images of Bosnia, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Israel and Palestine, and New York City on September 11, 2001.In Regarding the Pain of Others Susan Sontag once again changes the way we think about the uses and meanings of images in our world, and offers an important reflection about how war itself is waged (and understood) in our time.

Features an analysis of our numbed response to images of horror. This title alters our thinking about the uses and meanings of images, and about the nature of war, the limits of sympathy, and the obligations of conscience.

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Selected Other Writings
Notes on Camp
Against Interpretation
The Aesthetics of Silence
On Photography (Excerpt)

Interviews, Lectures, etc.
John Berger and Susan Sontag: To Tell a Story
On Classical Pornography (Audio)
Susan Sontag Lecture at the San Francisco Public Library
Interview (1995)

Additional Resources:
The Susan Sontag Foundation