By Miles Orvell
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Additional resources for After the Machine: Visual Arts and the Erasing of Cultural Boundaries
Photographer: Lee Stalsworth. Page 14 Not so with Charles Sheeler, whose work is far more a meditation on shapes and form that removes the object from the realm of history and time. It is in Sheeler that Precisionism finds its most powerful and in some ways its most enigmatic figure. For Sheeler the construction of the image is of paramount interest, just as it is the construction of material things that interests him as subject matter. Following his early exposure in France to the new art of Picasso, Braque, Matisse, and especially Cézanne, Sheeler began painting landscapes and still lifes in two dimensions, as cubistic problems of color and abstract form.
Both writers are also concerned with the role of art in such a world, and they draw differently on cartoon sources in popular culture to invent an idiom that will occupy a kind of middle ground in American culture, between high and low. The definition of cultural territory is also at stake in the next chapter, "Understanding Disneyland: American Mass Culture and the European Gaze," which takes the quintessential product of the American corporate imagination, the theme park, and looks at it through the refracting lens of the European intellectual.
Nor do I see it as an existentially liberating, undifferentiated simulacrum in which all differences between high and low culture have faded away (Jean Baudrillard). Rather, I see our Page xiv culture as a set of differentiated markets that occasionally cross over their boundaries and that incessantly borrow from one another, something like Umberto Eco's fluid system of interchangeable signs. And at times, certainly, one can hear within this set of decentered culturesas, for example, Jim Collins does (in Uncommon Cultures), following the lead of the British culturalist studies schoola kind of Bakhtinian dialogue.
After the Machine: Visual Arts and the Erasing of Cultural Boundaries by Miles Orvell