From Publishers Weekly
Provocative and enlightening, if sometimes awkward and jargon heavy, Butt's book uses gossip to analyze the works of gay New York artists of the period between the Kinsey Report and Stonewall. In five chapters, the professor of Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths College, University of London, argues for the value of gossip in critical art history (particularly when the artist is gay or suspected to be) and skillfully lays out the art world and sexual climate of the McCarthy era before tackling the work of key artists, including Larry Rivers, Andy Warhol and Jasper Johns. Butt's considerations of these three artists through the lens of usually overlooked or dismissed gossip is the work's strongest feature. How Rivers' fragmented paintings function like visual gossip; how tattle was formative to Warhol's coolly detached persona; and how rumors surrounding Johns' "Target with Plaster Casts" radically reshape its interpretation and place in art history are all keenly presented. The frequent inclusion of first person interjections like "I would venture," "I want to suggest," or "I contend" become annoying and add nothing to Butt's argument. Nevertheless, Butt's fresh critical tactics and perspectives on gay visual culture make this a highly engaging read.
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“Between You and Me is a brilliant read that flirtatiously winks and kisses its way through the New York art world of the postwar period, turning our favorite icons inside out and back in again. It’s all in the gossip. Larry Rivers painted a ‘visual gossip column’ and was described by Frank O’Hara as a ‘demented telephone,’ but it takes a smart flirt (the best kind) like Gavin Butt to see gossip’s methodological promise. Taking gossip into his own mouthy hands, Butt slurs the studios of Rivers, Jasper Johns, and Andy Warhol with their own reckless talk: kisses turn into smacks, and winks into home runs. (Between you and me, that’s how I like it.)”—Carol Mavor, author of Becoming: The Photographs of Clementina, Viscountess Hawarden
“Between You and Me is boldly original and beautifully written. Gavin Butt renders a rich (which is to say dishy) description of a queer past that might enable us to imagine a queer futurity. His book will stand as a lasting contribution to queer theory and visual cultural studies and, perhaps more importantly, serve as a political and methodological wake-up call to the discourse of art history.”—José Esteban Muñoz, coeditor of Pop Out: Queer Warhol
“Queers do sing, if only in each other's ears. In his new Queer Studies book Between You and Me, art historian Gavin Butt . . . delves into the rampant gay social scene that accompanied the Pop Art era, in which so many pivotal figures were as gay as periwinkle pasta.”
(Roberto Friedman, Bay Area Reporter
“Between You and Me is a nimble book—balancing a self-consciousness about what it means to work on the most ephemeral of subjects, what it means to deploy gossip as a critical strategy, and how gossip figures in both the content and the form of art from this period. The result is a portrait of the evolution of new kinds of artistic personas, and a map for producing new methodologies for writing about them.”
(Jennifer Doyle, American Quarterly
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