ARRESTING IMAGES by Steven C. Dubin

ARRESTING IMAGES

Impolitic Art and Uncivil Actions
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Dubin (Sociology/SUNY at Purchase) offers an involving and evenhanded analysis of the ongoing confrontation between taboo- breaking artists and traditionalists bent on maintaining the status quo. The author skillfully organizes his wide-ranging material into such categories as sexual content in art, and race, religion, and patriotism as themes of the postmodernist cultural milieu. In the process, he recaps the furor raised by such well-publicized works as David K. Nelson's inflammatory portrait of late Chicago mayor Harold Washington in women's underwear, Robert Mapplethorpe's homoerotic photographs, and Andres Serrano's ``blasphemous'' Piss Christ. Dubin provides background details that place these controversies in historical context, tracing the careers of such homosexual artists as Marsden Hartley and Charles Demuth, for example. The author also delves into just why Marcel Duchamp's dictum--that whatever an artist produces is art--fails to convince conservative critics, especially when one such ``artist,'' Karen Finley, makes her artistic/political statements by slathering her body with chocolate, cinnamon candies, and alfalfa sprouts. And to his credit, Dubin conveys both the pros and the cons concerning the use of taxpayers' money to fund the National Endowment for the Arts. Accessible and paced with page-turning immediacy--an excellent overview of what happens when the avant-garde art world meets the conservative right. (Illustrations--25 b&w, two color--some seen.)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-415-90435-8
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Routledge
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1992