High formalism (often identified with the criticism of modern arts) can be defined by the reification of pure formality, the promotion of close looking, and the decontextualization of "the object," its disaggregation from the archaeological and architectural assemblages in which all artifacts are usually found. It is avowedly subjective. By contrast, historical formalism (often identified with the archaeology of art in premodern and non-Western traditions) attempts a hermeneutics of integrated aspect-seeing in the past—including the constitutive historical subjectivity of formality produced by the makers of the artifacts in question—that proceeds methodologically from the formalities we can see when we organize artifacts according to explicit morphological typologies and series. It is provisionally objective.
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Whitney Davis; Subjectivity and Objectivity in High and Historical Formalism. Representations 1 November 2008; 104 (1): 8–22. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/rep.2008.104.1.8
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