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Sometimes a work of art seems to tell a story. It may show an event or provide insight about a subject. Many of Robert Cottingham's artworks depict signs or portions of signs. By carefully choosing a portion of a sign as the subject of an artwork, the meaning constructed by the viewer can be quite different than that of the full sign in its original context.
Dr. Gibson Source photo for Dr. Gibson
Robert Cottingham
Dr. Gibson, 1974
Robert Cottingham
Source photo for Dr. Gibson

Perception is influenced by historical and sociocultural context, by individual values and attitudes, and by situational factors such as contextual expectancies. Just as Robert Cottingham presents a portion of a sign to evoke meaning, news editors, advertisers, and others present carefully selected information to elicit a narrative.

Sometimes you can infer what the forest looks like by seeing a single tree. Sometimes you can't. Sometimes a detail can mislead. Can you tell what the artwork is about by looking at the details below? Click on an image to find out there is more to it!

man being arrested

William H. Johnson
Detail, Moon over Harlem
silhouette of Superman

Roger Shimomura
Detail, Diary: December 12, 1941
three people

Justino Herrera
Detail, That Is No Longer Our Smoke Sign



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