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These two erudite catalogs, accompanying summer exhibitions on opposite coasts, look beyond the diverse contemporary works in the shows to examine pop-cultural and social manifestations of their related themes. If, as one writer here suggests, "Freud's case studies stand alongside the best of Poe," then Gothic's ruminations on our romanticized notions of the strange, horrific, and violent are the perfect complement to Rugoff's dissection of our mania for clinical forensics. Gothic is the more systematic in its endeavor to bring in non-art expressions; noted scholars and critics offer very readable chapters on the gothic novel, the gothic spirit in rock music, "Industrial Gothic," early gothic films, and the current cinematic revival. An introductory essay discusses the art in the show, while a short story by Dennis Cooper and "Reflections on the Grotesque" by Joyce Carol Oates round out the text. In addition to film stills and other documentary illustrations, fine color plates of around 50 works by some of the last decade's biggest names?Cindy Sherman, Gary Simmons, and Robert Gober among them?are sprinkled throughout the book. Rugoff takes on a more specialized topic, what he calls the "forensic aesthetic," and though his time frame is greater?encompassing art from the last 30 years?he has limited his study to California-based artists. Intertwining such themes as "forensic photography, deteriorated architecture, and the banalization of melodrama," the three essays here will be more challenging to the lay reader. Again, leading names?Baldessari, Nauman, Ruscha?are among the 36 artists included here. Gothic is highly recommended to both public and academic libraries with an interest in either cultural studies or contemporary art. Scene will make an excellent complement in academic art libraries.?Eric Bryant, "Library Journal" Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
About the Author
Ralph Rugoff is an independent curator and critic, and the author of Circus Americanus and coauthor of Paul McCarthy. Peter Wollen is Professor of Film at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the author of many books on art history and film theory. Anthony Vidler has taught at Princeton University, UCLA, and Cornell University and is the author of many books on architectural theory and history, including The Architectural Uncanny (MIT Press, 1992).
The implications of this book and the works it discusses are grand and engrossing. While most of the work discussed does in one way or another deal with a literal 'crime', this does not limit the arguments developed from associating the 'forensic aesthetic' to our expanded post-modern reality and the way in which signification and meaning do not necessarily correspond neatly, ESPECIALLY when space is involved. The 'investigative' positivism of a passed era is elucidated in light of artworks that even today challenge our comfort with Truth, History, Memory, and Documentation, by pointing out the 'contingent' and shifting role of Evidence.
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