From Idolatry to Advertising

Susan Josephson, Author Paragon House Publishers $16.95 (0p) ISBN 978-1-55778-712-5
A thought-provoking analysis of art's role in modern society, From Idolatry to Advertising begins with Renaissance notions of fine art and continues through the current proliferation of popular art, design art and advertising, deftly incorporating spirituality, psychology, history and sociology into its approach to art's meaning and impact. Author Josephson bases her analysis on the ``cultural niche'' theory of art: art is both a product of evolution and a tool by which cultures ``stimulate certain mental postures.'' Her refreshing intellectual perspective, a mixture of art professor's and cultural anthropologist's, encompasses hotel artwork, Garfield lunchboxes and the ubiquitous ``cute puppies in a basket'' without a trace of fine-art snobbery. The chapter on advertising and its use of popular-art techniques resorts to well-worn media theory to make its points, but Josephson's closing chapter, on mankind's slide down the slope of cultural evolution during the media age, is simultaneously sharp, smart and terrifying. The one serious drawback is Josephson's voice: she is a philosophy professor by trade, and her writing is repetitious, as if meant to be spoken, not read. Nevertheless, her thoughtful musings on art, advertising and humanity's future are conveyed with enough strength and clarity to make this a fascinating and powerful book. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/04/1995
Release date: 09/01/1995
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