Venus in Exile: The Rejection of Beauty in Twentieth-Century Art
In Venus in Exile renowned cultural critic Wendy Steiner explores the twentieth century's troubled relationship with beauty. Disdained by avant-garde artists, feminists, and activists, beauty and its major symbols of art—the female subject and ornament—became modernist taboos. To this day it is hard to champion beauty in art without sounding aesthetically or politically retrograde. Steiner argues instead that the experience of beauty is a form of communication, a subject-object interchange in which finding someone or something beautiful is at the same time recognizing beauty in oneself. This idea has led artists and writers such as Marlene Dumas, Christopher Bram, and Cindy Sherman to focus on the long-ignored figure of the model, who function in art as both a subject and an object. Steiner concludes Venus in Exile on a decidedly optimistic note, demonstrating that beauty has created a new and intensely pleasurable direction for contemporary artistic practice.
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Steiner (humanities, Univ. of Pennsylvania) examined the role of beauty in art in The Scandal of Pleasure: Art in the Age of Fundamentalism. Here she shows how traditional forms of beauty ... Read full review
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Abstract Expressionism abstraction aesthetic alienation allure architecture artwork audience avant-garde Basquiat beautiful woman become body Bonnard bourgeois century charm claims create creator critic culture death decorative DeLillo desire domestic Dumas's Ellmann and Feidelson example female beauty female image female nude female subject feminine feminist fetish fiction figure Fitzgerald formal Frankenstein Fritz gaze gender girl graffiti heroine high art House of Mirth human ideal ideology imagination Jean-Michel Basquiat Kant Kantian look male artists Manet's Marlene Dumas Marthe Mary Shelley Matisse Matisse's meaning modernist monster Museum myth Nadja nature nineteenth-century novel object obscene Olympia ornament Outsider Art painter painting photograph Picasso picture Pierre Bonnard pleasure pornography postmodernism primitivism prostitute pure purity Rachel Whiteread Rene Magritte representation romance Sam Doyle sexual shows story sublime symbol of beauty tattoo thing tion transgressive turn twentieth twentieth-century art viewer waste wasteland Whiteread Wollstonecraft women word writes wrote York