New Book

Visual Shock: A History of Art Controversies in American Culture by Michael G. Kammen

N 72 .S6 K225 2006

You can read the first nine pages of Chapter One here.

From Booklist “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.”

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