Mainstream art historical writing on Indian art has remained focused on identifying and defining stylistic schools, understanding evolutionary patterns and regional styles as well as understanding iconographic and narrative conventions and structures. The wide-ranging essays in this volume challenge the boundaries and assumptions of mainstream art history. Moving away from an art history structured by an art object-centered approach, this book gestures at a framework-oriented approach that calls attention to the political, social, economic structures that undergird art. It is an attempt to reformulate the discipline in a manner that can explain the field of the visual in a way that goes well beyond the explanatory capacity of conventional modes of studying Indian art.
These essays question preconceived notions about meaning in representations -- artistic and art historical. They contest earlier claims about the objectivity of scholarship in general and history writing in particular as much as they critique the valorization of a purely individuated, subjective art criticism. In its attempt to historicize the practice of art, the book examines the economic, political and social implications of art that enable the re-situation of Art History among social science disciplines.
The emphasis is on the study of specific visual cultures within the dynamics of historical processes. These essays raise critical issues of art production, circulation and consumption as well as production of meaning. Traditional arts have been studied from a critical perspective that extricates them from a past that is hermetically sealed off from the present. The opposition of 'High Art' and 'non-art' (read popular or mass visual culture) has been challenged. Breaking outside the ambit of high art, studies in the book extend from popular, mass-produced art to MTV imagery to digital art.