What is folk art?

We explain what popular art is and what types of popular art exist. In addition, its importance, characteristics and concrete examples.

  1. What is folk art?

It is not easy to define popular art, or its opposite category, the art of elites or elitist. These terms are used to designate different approaches to the phenomenon of art , based on the consideration of which social class would be most reflected in it: the popular classes or the elites.

This distinction, heir to the idea of Fine Arts or high arts versus low or popular arts, has been questioned numerous times during the twentieth and twenty-first century. It is common to use it as a synonym for mass or majority art , which would be the one with the easiest understanding and least educational requirement, against cult or minority art, much more demanding with its interlocutor.

In addition, the ideal of the mainstream (mainstream) versus the alternative, that is to say, of central art forms, controlled and consumed massively, alongside marginal art forms with less impact, but greater cultural value.

Similarly, one can speak in certain contexts of folk art to refer to folklore or inherited traditions , when not of art committed to social or political militancy. It should never be confused with Pop-art, an aesthetic movement born around 1960.

  1. Types of folk art

There is no proper classification of popular art, but in broad strokes we can talk about:

  • Popular music . Musical expressions of diverse spirit, which involve different instruments (often borrowed from neighboring cultures ) and that connect with local, national or regional motives and imaginary, usually accompanied by dancing.
  • Popular lyric . Forms of verse and recitative such as Spanish romance, or Argentine payeo; They usually occur as couplets or counterpoints, at parties or social events.
  • Folk dancing . Traditional forms of dance that usually group the community and reinforce a certain sense of belonging. They are usually mestizo or traditional dances, in contact with ancestral inheritances.
  • Oral literature . Stories that are transmitted orally, rarely collected in books, from generation to generation and that reflect popular values ​​and customs, local or ancient anecdotes, and even fables and mystical or religious motives.
  • Crafts . Usually these are sculptures , paintings , ceramics, fabrics or pieces of goldsmiths, which are traditionally made in a region and contain their cultural motifs. Normally these are pieces with a simple decorative or practical function, such as ashtrays, pots, etc.
  1. Importance of folk art

Folk art plays an important role in shaping national identities , since not being fully subject to the rules and processes of “high” culture, you can move more freely and incorporate trends, techniques and products of very diverse bill.

For many therein lies its true value as an expression of the reality of the peoples, which is always mixed, complicated and difficult to define.

  1. Characteristics of folk art

Popular art
Folk art does not belong to a specific historical period.
  • It arises in the Renaissance . With the emergence of a new wealthy social class, the bourgeoisie , the artists who previously produced their pieces for a patron of the aristocracy, find a much wider audience in wealthy merchants. This art, however, was disdained by aristocrats as “folk art.”
  • It is popularized in the Industrial Revolution . Thanks to the mass culture and the technical reproduction of the works of art, a new category of the “popular” arises that now refers to the mass consumed, to what is produced and sold to the wider public.
  • It has no times . Although the origins of the concept can be marked, popular art does not belong to a historical period or to a particular movement, but instead brings together a set of pieces from different backgrounds.
  • It does not refer to authors . Although it is possible to talk about popular artists and name them, the most common is that popular art refers to a category of cultural expressions to which it is difficult to attribute authorship.
  1. Examples of folk art

  • The basketry of American aborigines surviving the colonization process, such as the Makah, from the late 19th or early 20th centuries.
  • The dance with South American drums (in Argentina and Uruguay) known as Candombe or Candombé.
  • The sebucán fabric, a festive tradition of indigenous origin in Venezuela.
  • The Valencian fallas, in Spain, a series of festivities full of local icons that occur in the first half of March every year.
  • Skulls and pan de muerto, Mexican folk cuisine to celebrate the day of the dead.

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