RECOMMENDED FOR READING
Modern Art and Society: An Anthology of Social and Multicultural Readings
Book by Maurice Berger; Icon Editions, 1994
It is the purpose of this book to expand the discourse of modern art history to include the paintings, sculptures, photographs, performance pieces, videos, and multimedia expressions of people who have heretofore frequently been excluded from modernist studies. These essays do more than simply embrace the notion of a socially oriented or multiculturalist art history; instead, they often analyze the mechanisms--both social and aesthetic--that have created the dominant culture's resistance to difference. Some essays, for example, speak to the need for art history to redefine its relationship to the greater social exigencies and urgencies that stimulate and define cultural production: Kenneth Silver examines the relationship between the rise of French modernism and the political events of the First World War; Mason Klein looks at the social and artistic milieu that shaped Marcel Duchamp's transgressive exploration of sexuality; Andreas Huyssen analyzes the cultural politics of Pop Art; and my own essay discusses Eva Hesse's personal politics of sensual and sexual liberation and their connection to the desublimatory discourses of intellectuals and other artists in the 1960s.
Other pieces address the question of the artist's social responsibility, as well as the role of racism, sexism, class, and ideology itself in shaping aesthetic representations: Linda Nochlin asks whether Edgar Degas's antiSemitism should matter in the art historical evaluation of his work; Henry Louis Gates, Jr., explores the implications of racist depictions of AfricanAmericans in nineteenth-century popular and high culture; Abigail Solomon-Godeau reveals the ideological implications of Paul Gauguin's demeaning exotification of tribal women; and Lawrence Levine assesses the manipulative and sometimes counterproductive tactics of New Deal photodocumentation of the Depression era's rural poor. Still other essays open pioneering windows onto aspects of context and meaning sometimes underestimated or ignored by art historians: Maud Lavin examines the function of androgyny in the proto-feminist phoromontages of Hannah Hch and other women artists and filmmakers of the 1920s and 1930s; Jonathan Weinberg liberates from the art historical closet the homoerotic content of Charles Demuth's paintings; Ida Rodrguez-Prampolini elucidates Diego Rivera's intellectual concept of history and its role in his political activism; Ann Gibson explores why the Abstract Expressionist canon champions Jackson Pollock while it casts aside the often equally brilliant work of the African-American Norman Lewis; Douglas Crimp meditates on the role of cultural activism in producing a credible institutional response to society's indifference to AIDS; and Lucy Lippard explores the meaning and possibilities for multiculturalism in the 1990s.
More than a primer on modernism's exclusions and biases, this anthology will hopefully be seen as a valuable methodological tool for art historians. Through various theoretical and critical processes, these essays, whether they discuss the work of one artist or many, offer new ways of thinking about the visual arts. They suggest various reformations of critical thinking, a range of methods, to quote Cornel West in this book's first essay, to dispose of "the monolithic and the homogeneous in the name of diversity, multiplicity, and heterogeneity; to reject the abstract, general, and universal in light of the concrete, specific, and particular; and to historicize, contextualize, and pluralize by highlighting the contingent, provisional, variable, tentative, shifting, and changing." It is ultimately only through this broadening of the discourse that art history can flourish and survive in an increasingly diverse and global society.
Please read the rest of the book at Questia online library
Marcel Duchamp in the Realm of Surrealism
If the "Surrealists" . . . didn't deconstruct language, or only very little, it was because at bottom they had a normative idea of the body--of sexuality, to be blunt. The "corset" imposed on syntax (an enormously complicated garment, in Breton's case) and sexual constraint come down to the same thing. The "dream" they conceived of offered no access to bodily madness . . . but rather entrance to a kind of cultural vulgate, to "oneirism," a rhetorical release of images. It seems to me that the Surrealists missed the body. For this reason they left behind too much literature.
-- ROLAND BARTHES, The Grain of the Voice. Approaching a dimly lit annex off the far end of the large gallery housing the Duchamp collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, one reaches the artist's final major work-- Etant donns: 1. la chute d'eau 2. le gaz d'clairage. . . (Given: 1. The Waterfall 2. The Illuminating Gas . . .) ( 1946-66) -a terminal point that stands apart, removed from the rest of the gallery. Here one encounters an aged, solitary, and permanently closed door. The work's architectural setting, consisting of an imposing portal framed by a Catalonian-style masonry arch set in plaster, helps to further contextualize the exterior of Etant donns as definitive, permanent, and, in its solemnity or funereal aspect, tomblike. (Throughout a twenty-year period, Duchamp worked intermittently in secret on his tableau-assemblage, which was intentionally unveiled posthumously, in 1969, the year following his death.)
Any sense of conclusion to the artist's oeuvre, however, is deferred as we peer through the door's peepholes, into the installation's dramatic interior. Ironically, the presence of the work is only obscurely indicated by a label on the opposite wall. Hence, the museum visitor either completely ignores it or "invariably [approaches] it," as Octavio Paz has written, "after a moment of hesitation and disorientation." 1 Through a secondary, larger breach in what one realizes momentarily is a brick wall, one sees a faceless female nude lying recumbent on a bed of branches, her legs spread open. A gas lamp, held slightly aloft in her left hand, illuminates her anatomy. Beyond this immediate arrangement in the foreground lies an enchanted Eden, a photo-collage replete with dense bush and forest, a waterfall that runs off into a mist-laden pond, and a blue sky lightly dappled...
stages of Surrealism. Take, for example, an image published in the final issue of La Rvolution surraliste ( 1929): surrounding a painting by Ren Magritte of a nude female figure bracketed by the words " je ne vois pas la [femme] cache dans la fort " ("I do not see the [woman]...