Juxtaposition - What is Juxtaposition?

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Definition: Simply stated, juxtaposition means placing things side-by-side. In art this usually is done with the intention of bringing out a specific quality or creating an effect, particularly when two contrasting or opposing elements are used. The viewer's attention is drawn to the similarities or differences between the elements.

While juxtaposition can be used in terms of formal elements - for example, the use of aggressive mark-making in contrast to an area of very controlled shading, or an area of crisp detail against something softly handled, it more often refers to concepts or imagery.

An artist might juxtapose a machine-made object or urban environment against organic elements of nature, in order to highlight different qualities in the two. Note that the way this is done can dramatically change the meaning: we might regard the machine-made or human-created as representing safety and order against the uncontrollable strength of nature; or we might see the fragility and beauty of nature against the soulless uniformity of the urban world, depending on the nature of the subjects or images and the way they are presented.

Pronunciation: jucks-ta-pose, jucks-ta-pos-i-shun

Also Known As: collocation, juxtaposing, juxtapose

Examples: In Meret Oppenhiem's 1936 Le déjeuner en fourrure - 'Luncheon in Fur', the perplexing juxtaposition of fur and teacup unsettles the viewer, as we question form and function, and wonder about the answer to Picasso's quip that 'anything could be covered in fur'.