Genre is one of the most limiting and reductive ways to think about art, but genre questions still plague artists far and wide. Understanding genre is key to understanding how art functions in society, who it’s for, and why we make it.
To understand the genre in art, you first need to know what genre means outside of the art world.
What does genre in art mean?
Genre normally refers to kind (the genre of a novel, the genre of painting, etc.) In the early days of cinema, movies were divided into genre categories such as comedy, drama, romance, and action.
Today, a genre usually means a category of film or music based on a specific style or content conventions. For example, a horror movie is a genre film because it shares conventions, such as suspense, fear, and gore.
When it comes to art, the genre is a slippery concept that is challenging to distinguish. In general, genre refers to the category of work. Whether it’s a painting, novel, sculpture, or song, there are often different styles that can be firm to define.
For example, is painting a landscape genre or genre? What about a portrait? Is photography a genre? What is the difference between rock and country music? Between classical and jazz? And when it comes to books, is it a novel genre or genre? How about a graphic novel? A collection of poems? What is the difference between genre and genre fiction, genre and genre non-fiction?
Artists can not identify with a particular genre. In this case, they’re called genreless artists.
What are the benefits of having genre in art?
Despite the many drawbacks of the genre in art, there are a few benefits to using it.
First, genres help audiences understand and categorize art. When people go to museums or galleries, they often look for paintings that fall into appropriate genre categories. It makes it easy for them to find what they’re looking for and quickly identify what interests them.
The same goes for genre fiction in literature, where writers have a broad range of conventions to draw from when creating a work.
Second, genre can help artists find their audience and niche within the art world. For example, a gallery might hold a genre show or genre group exhibition to promote the work of their genre artists.
Finally, genre can be a helpful tool that helps to improve our understanding of art history. By looking at how genre changes over time, we can see influencing artists, how their styles evolve.
What are the problems with having genre in art?
The biggest problem with having genre in art is that it can often be limiting and reductive. It can force artists to conform to a style or content conventions, and it can be hard to break out of genre categories.
In addition, genre can be restrictive for audiences as well. It can be hard to know what to expect from a genre work, and it can be complicated to find what represents our interests and identities.
Finally, genre can make it difficult for audiences to understand art history and appreciate the origins of genre conventions. It is why some critics argue that genre is an unpleasant way to think about art at all because it’s mainly used as a marketing tool and doesn’t aid in understanding or appreciation (but this is an argument that genre has many benefits, which we’ve already outlined).
Despite the problems with having a genre, it’s a concept that isn’t going away anytime soon. So artists, audiences, and critics need to be attentive to its limitations and benefits. A genre is a helpful tool that can aid in understanding and appreciating art, but it also has many drawbacks. Artists, audiences, and critics need to be aware of both the benefits and problems of genre in art.