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Potential Images

Ambiguity and Indeterminacy in Modern Art

Ambiguity is inherent in images because visual perception is an interpretative act involving memory and imagination. Modern art has made this aspect of perception crucial to its relationship with the viewer. Potential Images, the first systematic exploration of this topic, considers those works of art that rely to a great degree on imaginative response.

Dario Gamboni concentrates on the last decades of the nineteenth and first decades of the twentieth centuries, during which ambiguity and indeterminacy became defining characteristics of art. He examines how work by Redon, Gauguin, Rodin, Duchamp and numerous others sought to involve the beholder and reshaped artistic communication. Drawing on a vast range of sources, Gamboni finds striking parallels in other realms of contemporary culture and points to the intense exchanges that supported this process of cultural transformation. Potential Images also identifies the historical antecedents of this appeal to the viewer, finally proposing a conception of art in which artist and audience occupy symmetrical, equal and even interchangeable positions.

Distribution by the University of Chicago Press only to customers in the USA and Canada. Customers elsewhere should visit the UK website of Reaktion Books.

304 pages | 44 color illustrations, 157 halftones | 8.25 x 11

Art: Art--General Studies

Culture Studies

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"Gamboni’s new book will make an impact among both specialized art historians and readers of more general cultural history."

Richard Hobbs, University of Bristol

"Gamboni’s text is a remarkable feat of scholarship. It will, I am sure, make a substantial and lasting contribution . . . because of its depth, range, and audacity. . . . This is, quite simply, a remarkable book."

Richard Thomson, director, Visual Arts Research Institute, University of Edinburgh

Table of Contents

Introduction: The ’sense of mystery’
I. Ambiguity and indeterminacy
II. From the origins to the classical age
III. From the Enlightenment to Impressionism
IV. Redon, Ensor, Seurat
V. Gauguin, Pont-Aven and the Nabis
VI. At the turn of the century
VII. Cubism, Abstraction and Readymade
VIII. In the society of images
IX. In the company of words
X. In the world of ideas
XI. Between two wars
XII. Ambiguity after Modernism
Conclusion: Redistributions of authority
List of Illustrations

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