Owens,’Craig.”“The’Allegorical’Impulse:’Toward’a’Theory’of’Postmodernism.””The $. Art$of$Art$History:$A$Critical$Anthology.$$New’York:’Oxford’Press,”. from The Allegorical Impulse: Towards a Theory of Postmodernism – Craig Owens To impute an allegorical motive to contemporary art is to venture into. Modernism and Postmodernism: Allegory as Theory . art historian Craig Owens () wrote “The Allegorical Impulse: Toward a Theory.

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In allegory, the image is a hieroglyph; an allegory is a rebus — writing composed of concrete images.

Modernism and Postmodernism: Allegory as Theory

On the basis of this identification, the symbol becomes the very emblem of artistic intuition: Allegory is consistently attracted to the fragmentary, the imperfect, the incomplete — an affinity which finds its most comprehensive expression in the ruin, which Benjamin identified as the allegorical emblem par excellence.

However, the manipulations to which these artists subject such images work to empty them of their resonance, their significance, their authoritative claim to meaning. When was allegory first proscribed, and for what reasons?

This is why allegory is condemned, but it is also the source of its theoretical significance. Las Vegas is the new Rome, centrally planned and precisely laid out for a specific purpose.

Craig Owens (critic)

There are, as always, important impulwe to be accounted for: Let us say for the moment that allegory occurs whenever aolegorical text is doubled by another; the Old Testament, for example, becomes allegorical when it is read as a prefiguration of the New.

This fact is crucial, for it suggests the allegorical potential of photography. As hybrids these early paintings appropriated motifs from other famous works of art which could be recognized, even in their buried state, by viewers familiar with art history.


Quintin Hoare, in Charles Baudelaire, p. John Osborne, London, Douglas Ainslie, New York,pp.

In explaining how allegory is writing which is a text that must be read, Owens wrote, If allegory is identified as a supplement, then it is also aligned with writing, insofar as writing is conceived as supplementary to speech. If he adds, however, he does so only to replace: Every image of the past that is not recognized by the present as one impklse its own concerns threatens to disappear irretrievably.

The Allegorical Impulse Part I | Rhizome

Views Read Edit View history. Detail like decoration is unnecessary within the totality. Coleridge, Miscellaneous Criticism, owenx. I am interested, however, in what occurs when this relationship takes place within works of art, when it describes their structure. Each element re-found by the architect retained its historical meaning even though the element was re-placed in a postmodern structure.

These impulses oens be seen, respectively, in site-specific artphotomontage and art that follows a mathematical progression for instance Sol LeWitt.

This is of course the doctrine of the most pregnant moment, and it dominated artistic practice during the first half of the nineteenth century. Rosemond Tuve, Allegorical Imagery: One could quibble that the example chosen by Jencks was a convenient but arbitrary one, but history has a grim way of making a prophet even of a mere historian.

This association of the symbol with aesthetic intuition, and allegory with convention, was inherited uncritically by modern aesthetics; thus Croce in Aesthetic:. Consideration of such works must be postponed, however, for their importance becomes apparent only after the suppression of allegory by modern theory has been fully acknowledged. As the prefiguration for the New Testament, the Old Testament, allegory was the origin of critique because of its role as commentary.


The white box absolutism of Walter Gropius and his colleagues favored the general over the specific and the absolute over the particular. The allegorical work is synthetic; it crosses aesthetic boundaries. Rosemond Tuve describes the viewer’s ‘experience of a genre-picture – or so he had thought it — turning into In the photographs of Atget and Walker Evans, insofar as they self-consciously preserve that which threatens to disappear, that desire becomes the subject of the image.

So a somewhat obscure Asian American architect had the honor of being the omega and the omega of Modernism and Postmodernism. Four years later, the trio published Learning from Las Vegas and by championing the vital and the vernacular, the book upended the purity of Modernist theory.

Originally published inCambridge. The point is ironic, and it should be remembered that irony itself is regularly enlisted as a variant of the allegorical; that words can be used to signify their opposites is in itself a fundamentally allegorical perception. It evoked ancient Rome the way fashion evokes costumes of the past.