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Fantastic Reality: Louise Bourgeois and a Story of Modern Art (October Books) Paperback – September 26, 2008


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Nixon, a senior lecturer at London's Courtauld Institute, has edited books on the work of Marcel Duchamp and Eva Hesse-two artists who can't quite bookend the irrepressible, major, still-working Bourgeois (b. 1911), but whose work, respectively, prefigures and comes out of Bourgeois's practice. Yet Nixon argues that the other major axis of Bourgeois's work (aside from modernism) is psychoanalysis, and she sets out to place the work squarely within the constructs of Melanie Klein and Anna Freud, whom Nixon argues brought the role of the mother much further into play than Sigmund Freud. Along the way, she sketches a broader trajectory for women artists like Hesse, Nancy Spero and Yayoi Kusama. Like many of MIT's October series of books, this book is thick with brilliant observations, but it requires a deep familiarity with, and care for, the particulars of international modernism, the full sweep of psychoanalysis and the ends of feminist theory.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Like many of MIT's October series of books, this book is thick with brilliant observations, but it requires a deep familiarity with, and care for, the particulars of international modernism, the full sweep of psychoanalysis and the ends of feminist theory." Publisher's Weekly Online



"In Fantastic Reality, Mignon Nixon not only illuminates the work of this revolutionary artist but rewrites the history of sculpture in the postwar years." Linda Nochlin , Lila Acheson Wallace Professor of Modern Art, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University



"Nixon has offered, in addition to a psychoanalytic interpretation of Bourgeois's abstract art, a rich repertoire of techniques through which abstract art can be used to probe psychoanalytic thought." Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association



"The brilliant observations that Nixon tosses out on almost every page not only enrich our reading of Bourgeois's art, but reaccess psychoanalytic criticism with a gusto that makes the book required reading." Canadian Art



"This is a subtle and illuminating book. In reading the sculpture of Louise Bourgeois through the psychoanalysis of Melanie Klein, Mignon Nixon offers a new understanding of the neglected relations between surrealism, feminism and child analysis. Most importantly for the theory and practice of women's art, she finds in Bourgeois the creative potential of maternal ambivalence."--Lisa Tickner, Professor of the History of Art, Middlesex University, London



"In *Fantastic Reality*, Mignon Nixon not only illuminates the work of this revolutionary artist but rewrites the history of sculpture in the post-war years. Emphasizing the crucial role played by Kleinean psychoanalysis in Bourgeois' artistic project, Nixon nevertheless maintains her focus on the specific formal qualities of Bourgeois sculptural inventions, drawing us deep into the mysterious sources of the artist's multifarious creation and its relation to the work of her contemporaries."--Linda Nochlin, Lila Acheson Wallace Professor of Modern Art, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University



"*Fantastic Reality* is an extraordinary achievement. Not only is its view of Louise Bourgeois the most subtle account we have of her work's depths and passions, but Nixon's analysis also excitingly reanimates both feminist and psychoanalytic criticism. A tour de force."--Anne Wagner, Department of History of Art, University of California, Berkeley



"Elegantly written and beautifully argued, *Fantastic Reality* investigates the art of Louise Bourgeois through the lens of psychoanalytic theory. Nixon is equally attuned to the formal texture of language and the psychic dimensions of modern and contemporary art. As a result, her book is not only marvelous art history -- it's a marvelous read."--Richard Meyer, University of Southern California, author of *Outlaw Representation: Censorship and Homosexuality in Twentieth-Century American Art*



"This exceptionally intelligent and illuminating study describes the art of Louis Bourgeois as a practice that has both drawn on and significantly expanded the psychoanalytic account of subjectivity. Attentive to Bourgeois's aesthetic as well as theoretical innovations, Nixon makes a convincing case for the artist as the key figure in the history of modern art, equal in consequence to Marcel Duchamp. Revealing some of the secrets of Bourgeois's intriguing art, the book offers a critical analysis that matches the exquisite complexity and elegant wit of its object."--Ewa Lajer-Burcharth, Professor of History of Art and Architecture, Harvard UniversityPlease note: Arrived too late to appear on book jacket.

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Product Details

  • Series: October Books
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press (September 26, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262640708
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262640701
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,153,376 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
I really wanted to love this book which promises to stage a productive encounter between modernist art, psychoanalysis, and feminism... but then I had to toss it when I read the following sentence: "In Freudian psychoanalysis, the figure of the mother is strangely absent" (p. 4).

Now the author of this book must surely know that the figure of the mother is absolutely central to Freudian psychoanalysis. Any college freshman knows this, your grandma knows this, and Mignon Nixon definitely knows this. According to Freud's analysis of childhood development, the subject's desire and sense of self emerges in relation to the mother. One could go as far as to claim that, for Freud, subjectivity itself comes into being in relation to the mother. This fact is so widely known that many critics of Freud go to the other extreme and (unfairly) complain that psychoanalysts make treatment revolve entirely around the figure of the mother.

My question is: Why make an obviously ridiculous assertion in the name of radical anti-Freudian feminism? If one must propose a feminist critique of Freud, then why ground it in such a ridiculous premise? Whatever the merits of Nixon's feminist undertaking, it is discredited from the outset by a series of cheap shots at Freud.
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I learned so much about one of my favorite artists. Her creativity amazes me and her age when she was still producing.
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