ugly - Unsightly; displeasing to the eye; repulsive or offensive; hideous; objectionable. Bad. The opposite of beautiful. Mediocrity in any form can be ugly, but so can pornography, vandalism, and the results of other unappealing or criminal behaviors; just as poor qualitiy painting, sculpture, architecture, fashion and other products of art and design can be ugly. Ultimately, just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, ugliness is too. Aesthetic values (tastes) vary both within and between cultures. What affects the rise or fall of any peoples' assessments of various styles or individual works may come from many sorts of influences. Any people's distaste for imagery that offends ethical or moral standards may be less likely to change over time, but it too can change.
Although the most popularly embraced art is beautiful, and choosing to produce art that is ugly is counter-intuitive, artists have sometimes chosen to produce ugliness. Artists have often portrayed unsettling subjects in order to disturb the viewer, frequently to move the viewer to pay attention to social ills. Examples of intentionally produced images of uncharitable behaviors among ordinary people, and corruption among political, business or military officials can be found among cartoons and Expressionism.
Examples of ugliness:
Leonardo da Vinci (Italian, 1452-1519), Five grotesque heads, drawing on paper, Royal Library, Windsor, UK. These are just a few of the numerous very realistic pictures Leonardo produced of grotesque or monstrous human heads, known in Italian as "visi monstruosi." See Renaissance.
Anonymous, Ugly Guy, c. 2000, digital image, a pastiche of features from various photographic sources. Compared to the following examples, this fellow actually has several endearing qualities! See grotesque and portrait.
Anonymous, Polluted Water, photograph. Any change to a cherished natural or man-made environment that does not respect or improve it can be perceived as ugly. Changes made in the name of "development" can be ugly too. But pollution more obviously makes an environment ugly because we see such things as sewage, trash, unnatural chemicals, noxious fumes, and so on. Our images of a polluted place become all the more ugly when we see that pollution is degrading or destroying the quality of life of the people, animals, and plants who live in that region. See environment art, landscape architecture, and public art.
American, Flag or Banner of the Ku Klux Klan, 20th century, fabric. For something to be ugly, it is not necessary for it to offend us for any formal reason — color, shape, texture, etc. Once its meaning is perceived to be objectionable, it can be uglier than anything that is merely lacking in decorative qualities. The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) was founded as an underground terrorist organization pitted against the movement that abolished slavery during the American Civil War. Its name was derived from the English "work clan" and the Greek word kyklos, meaning "circle." Although the KKK lost much of its strength in the late 19th century, it revived during the 20th century with a broader xenophobic aggenda. Although the KKK defines itself as a political party, and is also known as the White Rights Movement, the KKK has focused hatred toward Jews (in alliance with neo-Nazis), Roman Catholics, foreigners, gays, blacks, communists and organized labor. According to the KKK, America's whites are sacrificing too much in order to benefit those who are not white. To the degree that a viewer finds the beliefs or actions of a group of people distasteful, its symbols are perceived as ugly, just as the KKK's costumes, cross-burnings, and flag are seen as uglier the more the viewer is offended by this organization's terrifying intents. There have been so many horrible organizations about which we know hideous things. The symbols of organizations that have not greatly impacted us are understandably less ugly than the images we associate with the horrid people who have. See circle, ethnocentrism, fascist aesthetic, multiculturalism, world-view, and xenophilia.
Ron Haeberle (American), Mylai Massacre, March 16, 1968, photograph documenting the killing of Vietnamese women and children by American soldiers. Photographs taken during many violent episodes, including the war in Iraq are comparable in their ugliness.
Other resources concerned with ugliness:
Also see anti-art, bad art, deformalism, fashion, kitsch, miserable failure, obscene, pain, theory, transgressive art, and vulgar.
uki-e - In Japanese art, a perspective picture.
ukiyo-e - In Japanese art, genre painting and prints, especially those of the Edo period.
Torii Kiyonobu I (Japanese, c. 1664-1729), Sawamura Kodenji as Tsuyu no Mae, 1698, hand-colored woodblock print; signature: Wagako Torii Shobei; seal: Kiyonobu; publisher: Hangiya hammoto, Worcester Art Museum, MA. Torii Kiyonobu I was the founder of the "Torii school", which specialized in depictions of the Kabuki theater.
Kaigetsudo Doshin (Japanese, active 1700-16), Courtesan, hanging scroll; ink and opaque color on paper; signature: Nippon giga Kaigetsu; matsuyo Doshin zu (a pleasure picture in Japanese style by Doshin, a last leaf of Kaigetsu); seal: Ando, Worcester Art Museum, MA.
Torii Kiyonaga (1752-1815), Women at Bath, woodcut print. Kiyonaga was the adoptive fourth head of the Torii family of artists. He specialized in pictures of beautiful women.
Kitagawa Utamaru (Japanese, 1754-1806), The Courtesan Ichikawa of the Matsuba Establishment, late 1790s, color woodcut, 14 15/16 x 10 inches (37.9 x 25.4 cm), Cincinnati Art Museum, OH. "Ichikawa, a noted beauty, was an orian, the highest rank of courtesan. Orian were skilled in the traditional arts of the tea ceremony, ikebana, calligraphy, shamisen playing, singing, dancing, and painting." See chado.
Toshusai Sharaku, The Two Actors Sanogawa Ichimatsu III and Ichikawa Tomiemon, 1774, woodblock print, Museum für Ostasiatische Kunst, Berlin.
Kunisada (Japanese, 1786-1864), A Self-Portrait of the Artist Kunisada, Before a Wall Painting of a Phoenix - from the series: A Modern Prince Genji, 1865, color woodcut triptych, image 36.2 x 24.5 cm; sheet 36.1 x 23.7 cm, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, CA. See self-portrait.
Kikugawa Eizan (1787-1867), Sakura, woodblock print. Eizan was a disciple of Utamaro, and produced works in the style of the master.
Ando Hiroshige (Japanese, 1797-1858)
Kuniyoshi (Japanese, 1797-1861), A Self-portrait of the artist Kuniyoshi Surrounded by Figures from his Sketches, no date, color woodcut triptych, image 35.8 x 75.1 cm, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, CA.
Some related sites:
Also see anime.
ultramarine - Blue pigment originally made from ground lapis lazuli. French ultramarine is an artificial substitute.
Also see azurite.
ultraviolet or UV - The light whose wavelength (about 380 nanometers) is just long enough not to be x-rays, but just enough shorter than violet light so that it is not visible to the human eye. Ultraviolet is also known by the short form of "UV." It is sometimes called black-light because ultraviolet lamps (usually a mercury-vapor lamp) appear quite dark even when lit, and because of the peculiar way it illuminates certain kinds of surfaces, such as day-glo colors.
Various colors of paint and layers of varnish fluoresce in different ways under UV light. This fluorescence can be photographed, both in color and in black and white. Recently applied paint absorbs UV and appears dark, allowing for the detection of areas of inpainting. Aged retouching, however, often goes undetected with UV. Examination under UV can sometimes also help in identifying pigments.
Also see angstrom, color, sight, and spectrum.
unconscious - Not having awareness or sensory perception. Occurring in the absence of conscious awareness or thought. Without conscious control; involuntary or unintended. In psychoanalytic theory, the portion of the mind which holds such things as memories and repressed desires, that are not subject to conscious perception or control but that often affect conscious thoughts and behavior. The unconscious is an important issue to artists influenced by Surrealism. Compare "unconscious" to "subconscious."
Also see attention, Metaphysical Painting, naive art, and Stendhal syndrome.
undecagon - A closed polygon bounded by eleven straight-line segments. The formula with which to find an equilateral undecagon's area is 9.3656 times the length of one side squared.
Also see mathematics, radial, shape, and vertex.
undercut - Carving to create an overhang; a recess or awkward angle in the surface or form of a three-dimensional object which would prevent easy removal of a cast from a mold. Molds should be designed to eliminate this problem. Ways to cast objects with overhangs include using piece mold and waste mold.
underdrawing - Drawing preliminary to other work, and incorporated into it, thus deprived of independent artistic value. An example is the underdrawing in fresco and panel painting, such as sinopia and abbozzo.
Leonardo da Vinci (Italian, 1452-1519), The Adoration of the Magi, 1481-82, yellow ochre and brown ink on panel, 8 x 8 feet (246 x 243 cm), Uffizi, Florence. Only because this painting was abandoned so far from its completion can we see its underdrawing.
Also see infrared reflectography (IR) and reflectogram.
underpainting - The layer or layers of color on a painting surface applied before the overpainting, or final coat. There are many types of underpainting. One type is an all-over tinting of a white ground. Another is a blocked out image in diluted oil paints that serves as a guide for the painter while developing the composition and color effects.
Also see abbozzo, azurite, grisaille, pochade, and sinopia.
UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property - In 1970 the United Nations organization UNESCO took on the challenge to counter the pilfering of architectural complexes, destruction of ancient sites, and international trade in stolen cultural properties. UNESCO issued a "convention" (an international agreement to which a number of nations are contractual parties) called the "UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property." Its concern: "the measures to be adopted to forbid and prevent the importation and the transfer of the illicit property of cultural goods." By ratifying this Convention, each state party undertakes to adopt the necessary measures:
a) to prevent museums within their territories from acquiring cultural property which has been illegally exported;
b) to prohibit the import of cultural property stolen from a museum or a public institution after the entry into force of the Convention;
c) at the request of the state of origin, to recover and return any such cultural property stolen and imported.
In 1984, these interests were taken up by another international organization, the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law, known by the acronym UNIDROIT, which issued the final draft of its Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects in June 1995. The UNIDROIT Convention is a complement to the UNESCO Convention. See the article on it below.
Also see antiquity and museum.
UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects - In 1984, the challenges addressed in the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property were further taken up by another international organization, the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law, known by the acronym UNIDROIT, which issued the final draft of its "Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects" in June 1995. The UNIDROIT Convention is a complement to the UNESCO Convention. Perhaps the most important clause in the Convention is the principle that anyone with a stolen item in his/her possession must in all cases restore it. This rule forces buyers to check that the goods have come onto the market legally, otherwise they will have to be returned. As of 2003, forty countries have agreed to the UNIDROIT Convention. The UNIDROIT Convention remains controversial even among those who are eager to regulate international trade in antiquities, preserve and study them. Among the countries not agreeing are Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Generally dealers and collectors prefer looser regulation than countries which are the sources of antiquities, and many have effectively lobbied their governments in opposition to the UNIDROIT Convention.
Also see museum.
unique - One of a kind, an original.
United States of America, art of the - See Pre-Columbian art, American Indian art, Colonial American art, Hudson River school, Realism and realism, Luminism, American Impressionism, Ten American Painters, The Eight, Ashcan school, Art Deco, Harlem Renaissance, American Scene painting, Abstract Expressionism, Pop art, Op art, Minimalism, Conceptual art, Neo-Geo, Post-Minimalism, ceramics, cinema, design, folk art, furniture, glass, photography, portrait, poster, sculpture, self-portrait, tattoo, trompe l'oeil, vessel, and video, among many others.
United States Society for Education Through Art (USSEA) - The USSEA was founded in 1977, as an affiliate of the International Society for Education Through Art (InSEA) and, along with the National Art Education Association (NAEA), is an American association representing persons working in curriculum development, teaching and research related to art education and cultural differences. USSEA is a society of art educators who share interests in multicultural and cross-cultural concerns in art education with others in the nation and in the world. This organization promotes greater understanding and respect for learners from all ethnic, minority, and socio-cultural backgrounds.
unity - The quality of wholeness or oneness that is achieved through the effective use of the elements and principles of design. A totality that combines all of its parts into one complete, cohesive whole. Often it is realized through a deliberate or intuitive balancing of harmony and variety. However, this balance does not have to be of equal proportions. Harmony might outweigh variety, or variety might outweigh harmony. Harmony aids efforts to blend picture parts together to form a whole. Variety adds visual interest to this unified whole. A composition is unified when the relationships between its parts interact to create a sense that no portion of the composition may be changed without altering the aesthetic integrity and meaning of the artwork. When unity is achieved with insufficient harmony and variety, the result is monotony. Unity is largely synonymous with coherence.
Also see comparison, homogeneity, horror vacui, and interdisciplinary.
universal artwork - The notion that all the arts, including painting, music, architecture, poetry, and so on, be combined into one unified art. This originated in the German theory of Gesamtkunstwerk, translated variously as "universal artwork" or as "a synthesis of the arts" or as "a total work of art." Gesamt = entire, all, or complete. Kunst = art. Werk = work. This was most famously the goal of Richard Wagner (German, 1813-1883), a composer of music, especially of operas, and champion of Romanticism. Placing most emphasis on the arts of music and poetry, Wagner aimed to synthesize works in which symphonic music would convey the subtle and deep emotions that words and dramatic action alone could never achieve. Although numerous artists have sought to produce works that unify all the arts in the years since, this term seems rarely to have been used to refer to works other than Wagner's, even though other works might be said to have been more successful at attaining this goal. Some works of cinema and performance art might be cited as examples of universal artworks. Also see Gemütlichkeit, reification, syncretism, synergy, synesthesia, and virtual reality.
More related German words: Künstler = artist (and related words); Die Künste = The Arts (plural); künstlerisch = artful. NOTE: some of these words have u's bearing umlauts over the u's and some do not — ü and u. Thank you Astrid Wilch!
unpack - In art criticism, the act of revealing hidden layers of meaning, as if removing the contents of a suitcase. A synonym for analyze or deconstruct.
unsigned - See signature, signed and unsigned.
upholster, upholsterer, and upholstery - In making furniture, to upholster is to attach stuffing, springs, cushions, and covering fabric — these materials often referred to as upholstery. A person who applies this craft or trade is an upholsterer.
Examples of upholstered furniture:
Attributed to Nicolas Foliot (French), Fauteuil, mid-18th century, wood, carved and gilt, upholstered in red velvet, silver embroidery, 113 x 77 x 90 cm, Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia. Made for Louis XV's daughter, the Princess of Parma, for her Italian palace, this chair retains the original upholstery, which includes embroidery on the back and seat.
Caleb Gardner (American, Newport, RI), Easy Chair, 1758, walnut, maple, 46 3/8 x 32 3/8 x 25 7/8 inches (117.8 x 82.2 x 65.7 cm), Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY.
Resources concerning upholstery:
uppercase - In typography, capital letters, which gained this alternative name from the standard location in which typesetters stored them. Though visually powerful, whole words set in uppercase letters should be used sparingly. They are difficult to read, and may even suggest shouting.
Also see lowercase.
Ur - See Mesopotamian art.
urethane - See polyurethane.
URL - Uniform Resource Locator. A standard addressing scheme used to locate or reference files on the Internet. Used in World Wide Web (WWW) documents to locate other files. A URL gives the type of resource (scheme) being accessed (e.g., gopher, ftp, etc.) and the path to the file. The syntax used is: scheme://host.domain[:port]/path/filename. The URL for ArtLex is <http://www.artlex.com>
urushi-e - In Japanese art, a print with coloring thickened and made glossy with glue.
ushabtis - Ancient Egyptian funerary figurines or statuettes, sometimes made of wood, stone, ceramic, and metal. An important component of the burial assemblage from the Middle Kingdom to the Ptolemaic period (c 2000 - 200 BCE), ushabtis took over the role of the servant models, and acted as substitutes for the deceased himself. They range in form from miniature versions of the standard coffins of the Middle Kingdom and early New Kingdom (each containing a single shabti) to shrine-shaped boxes holding from two to several hundred specimens. Some ushabtis have been found in extra-sepulchral contexts: pieces buried as votive offerings or as a medium for deceased's presence at places of special sanctity (notably the holy city of Abydos). Ushabtis are also known as shabtis and shawabtis.
Egypt, Thebes, Ushabti of Yuya, c. 1391-53 BCE, Dynasty 18, reign of Amenhotep III, New Kingdom, painted cedar, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY.
Kingdom of Kush (ruling parts of Sudan and Egypt), Ushabti, from the pyramid of Taharqo at Nuri, 664 BCE, granite, British Museum, London.
Egypt, Ushabti of Neferibresaneith, Son of Shepenbastet, c. 664-525 BCE, Dynasty 26, faience, Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory U, Atlanta, GA.
UV - See ultraviolet (UV).