Formal Analysis on an Pre-Columbian Art work

  
This assignment asks you to write a formal analysis of an artwork from the Pre-Columbian Andes.  Be sure that you chose an Andean work, rather than a Mesoamerican object. Any Andean work is fine

You may use an image of an object from the internet. Try the websites of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (metmuseum.org), or the Kimbell Museum (kimbellart.org), or the LA County Museum (lacma.org), or the Cleveland Museum (clevelandart.org), or the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco (deyoung.famsf.org). All of their sites have accessible digital archives of their holdings in pre-Columbian art. Browse through their online collections of Andean art and choose an object. 

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What is formal analysis? Formal analysis is a process that combines close observation with keen, polished writing.  A formal analysis is not merely description, but argumentation.  It addresses the visual and compositional particulars of a work, and the author makes pointed conclusions about the object’s form. Go about your formal analysis as you would analyze a piece of poetry: make your observations pointed, even technical, and be careful not to use terms that are vague.

Some issues you may want to keep in mind as you address your chosen object: size, materials, technique of manufacture, function. Avoid broad generalizations. Instead, think technically, making specific observations of the work’s form and composition; from this sharp seeing, draw more general conclusions about the object. How does the work communicate? What kind of visual/tactile/spatial experience does the object impart to the viewer? It may help you to think pointedly: what aspect of the piece appeals to you? Or, in another manner of speaking, what makes the object visually “successful”?

Remember that your paper is not about the broad cultural significance of the object. In writing this paper, don’t worry about cultural context, or any cultural information the museum label may give you: this information is important, but it is not part of this short writing exercise. Your interest is in the object’s visual properties: how do the object’s visual forms work together as a composition?

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