This is a pithy collection of essays on the nature, meaning, and destiny of beauty in the late 20th century. For such a slender volume (just 64 pages), the broad scope of these essays covers a lot of ground. Dave Hickey discusses the work of Raphael, Andy Warhol, Caravaggio, and Michel Foucault, traversing centuries of ideas about aesthetics, sexuality, religion, and culture. Hickey, a professor of art criticism and theory at the University of Nevada and the author of a book of short fiction, boldly ventures to compare Robert Mapplethorpe's X Portfolio
to Shakespeare's Sonnets
. A delight for the mind.
From Publishers Weekly
Modern art, say those in the know, isn't so much about beauty as it is about instruction. Art appreciation is considered, in our culture, a consequence of sophistication, taste and learning--the property of the learned elite, the rich and famous. Even for sympathetic contemporary art lovers, there is something terribly precious about the intense politicization that animates much contemporary artistic practice. But can beauty replace pedagogy in art? In essays on gender and beauty, Robert Mapplethorpe, art institutions and beauty's "vernacular," art critic and teacher Hickey prompts a consideration of aspects of the rhetoric of beauty in Western art. "The vernacular of beauty, in its democratic appeal, remains a potent instrument for change in this civilization," Hickey asserts. But he goes on to say that what stands in the way of change are the museums, universities, foundations and the like "mandated to kidnap an entire province of ongoing artistic endeavor from its purportedly dysfunctional parent culture," to dissect and neutralize the power of images. One could argue with Hickey that new mass art audiences' responses to beauty are helping change both art's institutional framework and its position in our culture. But Hickey is on to something: beauty's reemergence as a coveted value challenges the art professional's role as art custodian. And from the standpoint of those who value democratic culture, this is all to the good. Illustrated.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.