Cultural and Religious Ideas in Abstract Art

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AP Art History Final 1st Semester

Josh Jang
4th period
Mr. Wright
January 10th 2011

Many art works created throughout the history were highly stylized or abstracted for many reasons. The artists in different cultures have used abstractions and stylizations in their art pieces in order to emphasize or symbolize certain religious ideas or cultural ideas that their cultures had. Since pre-historic era, abstract and stylized art pieces were used to reinforce the cultural norms, for people did not have any other medium of communication to convey the cultural norms except through visual objects. Thus, the idea of conveying messages and norms through visual objects began as cultures developed. The method of conveying ideas through abstract art hence continued since then. The art pieces, Venus of Willendorf, King from Ife, Dilukai, and Guernica clearly portrays certain cultural ideas through their abstract and stylized designs.

The sculpture, King From Ife clearly represents the cultural norms of Ife Kingdom during 11th-12th century. As most artists in other cultures have done, the Ife Kingdom’s artist portrayed his ruler an as idealized human beings in King From Ife. The sculpture shows flesh-like modeling in the torso and the kind of idealized naturalism in facial feature. However, its proportions are less life-like than they are ideological. The head is clearly disproportionate to the body, which clearly proves that the art work was stylized. According to the Text, Art Through the Ages, “the head is the locus of wisdom, destiny, and the essence of being” (Gardner 415). The author further describes that “such ideas probably developed at least 800 years ago” (415). Thus, the elongated head symbolized the king’s wisdom and knowledge that he had during his rule in Ife Kingdom. The stylization of the sculpture is also shown in its enlarged stomach and short legs. The enlarged stomach proves the affluent life that the king had during his life time, for...
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