New Books

Retro: The Culture of Revival ( GT 511 .G84 2006 ). Drawing upon a wealth of original research and entertaining anecdotal material, Guffey unearths the roots of the term “retro” and chronicles its evolving manifestations in culture and art throughout the last century. Whether in art, design, fashion, or music, the idea of retro has often meant a reemergence of styles and sensibilities that evoke touchstones of memory from the not-so-distant past, ranging from the drug-induced surrealism of psychedelic art to the political expression of 1970s afros. Guffey examines how and why the past keeps coming back to haunt us in a variety of forms, from the campy comeback of art nouveau nearly fifty years after its original decline, to the infusion of art deco into the kitschy glamor of pop art, to the recent popularity of 1980s vogue. She also considers how advertisers and the media have employed the power of such cultural nostalgia, using recycled television jingles, familiar old advertising slogans, and famous art to sell a surprising range of products. Read an excerpt here.
 

Cultiviating Picturacy: Visual Art and Verbal Interventions ( P93.5 .H44 2006 ). Though English has no word for the visual counterpart to literacy, Heffernan argues that the capacity to interpret pictures must be cultivated and deserves a name: picturacy. Using examples such as the pre-historic cave paintings of Lascaux, film versions of Frankenstein, the provocative photographs of Sally Mann, and the abstract canvases of Gerhard Richter, the volume illustrates how learning to decode the language of pictures resembles the process of learning to read. While words typically frame and regulate our experience of art, the study also explains how pictures can contest the authority of the words we use to interpret art. Read some of the first chapter here.

In Shooting Kennedy: JFK and the Culture of Images ( E842.1 .L83 2003 ) David Lubin speculates on the allure of these and other iconic images of the Kennedys, using them to illuminate the entire American cultural landscape. He draws from a spectacularly varied intellectual and visual terrain–neoclassical painting, Victorian poetry, modern art, Hollywood films, TV sitcoms–to show how the public came to identify personally with the Kennedys and how, in so doing, they came to understand their place in the world. This heady mix of art history, cultural history, and popular culture offers an evocative, consistently entertaining look at twentieth-century America. Read chapter 4 here.

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