Whose modernism is it anyway?

Bethina Liu
Feb 2, 2013 4:58PM

When it comes to the study of art, formal resemblance is a useful and intuitive analytical strategy. It informs us of the possible connections that exist between two works of art and, in this process of comparison, allows us to formulate interpretations of the individual works.

And yet, formal resemblance can also be misleading. As viewers, our impulse to establish visual genealogies when encountering multiple works with similar formal qualities bears significant implications for interpretation. Comparable pictorial strategies, deployed within different cultural contexts and art historical trajectories, take on drastically different meanings. 

For artists working outside the Western context, whose practices negotiate between native pictorial traditions and global—predominantly Western—developments, formal resemblance may well lead to reductive readings that all-too-readily overlook the intricacies and complexities of the work.

Bethina Liu