From Publishers Weekly
From the Washington Monument to the 1913 Armory show to 9/11 memorials, controversies over art exhibitions, memorials and public art have abounded in the U.S. In this expansively researched history of major and lesser-known disputes from the 1830s to the 21st century, Pulitzer Prize winner Kammen (A Time to Every Purpose
) argues that the "disturbations" roused by artworks and monuments are often both "destabilizing" and "enlightening and educational," indicative of healthy social change and increasing democratization. Structured chronologically, the book balances scholarly investigation and insightful analysis in its fascinating discussion of monuments, memorials and American national identity, and in its probing of modernism's threat to American concepts of morality, pluralism and art itself. While this is a work of meticulous scholarship with remarkable depth and range, Kammen's dry writing style sharply contrasts with the vigor of the controversies he so painstakingly details. Yet for scholars and students of cultural history and art history, Kammen's highly informed analysis will prove an invaluable contribution to American cultural history. (Oct. 3)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
*Starred Review* Art and controversy have gone together like day and night throughout American history, and while the specifics of each conflict are unique, recurring patterns can be discerned. Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Kammen chronicles both particle and wave, as it were, in this kaleidoscopic survey of art-related battles. How instructive it is to learn that the objections raised against Maya Lin's Vietnam Veterans Memorial in the 1980s echo protests against the Washington Monument a century earlier. Concerns about decency led to furor over Rodin's sculptures in one era and the photographs of Robert Mapplethorpe and Sally Mann in another. Over the course of detailing myriad nineteenth- and twentieth-century art innovations and controversies, Kammen tells the fascinating story not only of artists overtly politicizing art but also of corresponding social change and backlash. Drawing on original sources, Kammen elucidates dramatic skirmishes over public art, race and gender issues, modernism and conceptualism, depictions of the American flag, and disputed museum exhibitions. Kammen's history of art considered shocking and art made to shock reveals that for all the controversy art arouses, efforts at censorship fail because even art's harshest critics value freedom of expression. Donna SeamanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved