Transgressions: The Offences of Art

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9780226415369: Transgressions: The Offences of Art

Since the mid-nineteenth century, artists have compulsively rejected received ideas in order to test and subvert morality, law, society, and even art itself. But what happens when all boundaries have been crossed, all taboos broken, all limits violated?

Transgressions is the first book to address this controversial subject. Here Anthony Julius traces the history of subversion in art from the outraged response to Manet's Le Déjeuner sur l'Herbe to the scandal caused by the grant programs of the National Endowment for the Arts a century and a half later. Throughout the book, and supported by the work of such artists as Marcel Duchamp, the Chapman brothers, Andres Serrano, Damien Hirst, Gilbert & George, Paul McCarthy, Jeff Koons, Hans Haacke, and Anselm Kiefer, Julius shows how the modern period has been characterized by three kinds of transgressive art: an art that perverts established art rules; an art that defiles the beliefs and sentiments of its audience; and an art that challenges and disobeys the rules of the state.

The evidence assembled, Julius concludes his hard-hitting dissection of the landscapes of contemporary art by posing some important questions: what is art's future when its boundary-exceeding, taboo-breaking endeavors become the norm? And is anything of value lost when we submit to art's violation?

Transgressions is not a comfortable--still less a comforting--read, but it has a powerful urgency that makes it an essential document for anyone involved in our cultural life at the beginning of the twenty-first century.

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About the Author:

Anthony Julius, the eminent lawyer, writer, and lecturer, has been described as a partisan with fierce integrity, a brilliant legal mind, a considerable critic, and a worldly philosopher who relishes disturbing the consensus. His previous books include T. S. Eliot: Anti-Semitism and Literary Form and Idolizing Pictures.

From Publishers Weekly:

Originally published in England in the wake of the media scandals surrounding the rise of Young British Artists, or "YBAs," such as Damien Hirst, Jake and Dinos Chapman and Tracey Emin, this somewhat scholarly book seeks to historicize the theater of transgression that has become a mainstay in modern and contemporary visual art. At once a history lesson and a muddled polemic, the book moves through various moments in the progression of scandalous art, from Manet's angry reception in the salons of Paris to Mapplethorpe's public crucifixion in the United States, arguing through a web of quotations and epigrams (Adorno's "Every work of art is an uncommitted crime" is a touchstone) that the transgressive power of visual art has in some way been exhausted, and the enduring criminal mindframe of the modern artist has lost its power to subvert. And yet, through a certain portentous, aphoristic thinking, the author also manages to imply that this has always been the case. The argument is never entirely clear, perhaps because the author seems to be hashing out his own thinking on the topic more than offering the reader a neatly distilled path of logic. But regardless, and perhaps because of this rawness, the book is a noble effort, tracking the movement of a serious mind as it grapples with the messy, contradictory issues of contemporary art. 41 color plates, 174 halftones
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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