Bookshelf: Art & Semiotics

I remember purposely wearing black outfits to my semiotics course when I was in college. Unlike literature and history, which conjure images of tweedy blazers and worn-in leather shoes, semiology is the academic equivalent of minimalist geometric abstraction and thus calls for streamlined black turtlenecks like Audrey Hepburn's Funny Face beat poet dancing look. It makes perfect sense to me. The idea of minimalism is essentially to shed the excess in order to represent something more pure. In a way, your mind is required to do something similar when studying semiotics. In order to grasp the abstract concepts, you are pushed simultaneously to extreme level of inspection and to refuse what you think you already know. 

When it comes to the study of semiotics, three books stand out to me to recommend.

Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes
While this book wasn't my first foray into semiotics, it was one of the most important texts utilized in my course on the semiotics of photography. Barthes, considered one of the most seminal semioticians, applies theories of semiotics to photography which is quite a unique form of representation. But, there is more to this book than meets the eye. There is a humanity which makes it that much more interesting.

Art and Illusion by E.H. Gombrich
I read many Gombrich texts as an art history student and remember them fondly. This particular text is focused on the pictorial representation of complex ideas and theories. It also touches on the difference between a picture and a sign which is one of the major tenants of semiotics. 

Simulacra and Simulation by Jean Baudrillard
I read this book a few years back whenever I was bored before math class. It theorizes the concept of the simulacra, which is a concept integral to the theory of art. The idea of simulacra--defined both as a representation or imitation of a person or thing and an image without the substance or qualities of the original--ties in with Gombrich's Art and Illusion as they ponder the differences between faithful reproduction and intentional distortion.