Graffiti as a limit case for the concept of style: a genealogy of aesthetic impropriety

Hansen, Susan ORCID logoORCID: (2017) Graffiti as a limit case for the concept of style: a genealogy of aesthetic impropriety. Konsthistorisk tidskrift/Journal of Art History, 86 (4) . pp. 315-329. ISSN 0023-3609 [Article] (doi:10.1080/00233609.2016.1259657)

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This paper examines graffiti as an object that has historically confounded stylistic or formal analysis proper, although elements of this deviant form of mark making have been appropriated as expressive resources within the recognisable styles of modern and contemporary art. Critiques of the concept of style are now well established and this formerly dominant method of approaching the analysis of art historical objects has largely fallen out of favour in current scholarship. Beyond rehearsing these familiar critical points, it will be argued that a consideration of the limitations of this foundational disciplinary concept may be a paradoxically productive exercise if an approach is taken that examines the boundaries, or limits, to the kinds of objects and images to which the concept of style has been applied. It will be argued that a number of historically liminal categories of person – children; primitives; the mentally ill; and criminals – inform the genealogy of perception of the contemporary liminal ‘styles’ of graffiti, post-graffiti and street art; and that these limit cases, rather than being marginalised exclusions not worthy of analytic attention, are generative of the very coherence of the notion of style. Following Rancière, it is argued that contemporary applications of the concept of style may lie in attending to the contingency and primacy of the processes of perception itself, an essential component of seminal approaches to style (e.g., Wölfflin, 1915) in determining our practices of looking.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Published online: 27 Dec 2016
Research Areas: A. > School of Science and Technology > Psychology
Item ID: 20922
Notes on copyright: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Konsthistorisk tidskrift/Journal of Art History on 27/12/2016, available online:
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Depositing User: Susan Hansen
Date Deposited: 09 Nov 2016 10:38
Last Modified: 29 Nov 2022 20:35

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