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Discovery #9: Behind Closed Doors The Art of Hans Bellmerby Theres Lichtenstein
Synopses & Reviews
The life-size, adolescent-girl dolls created by German artist Hans Bellmer in the 1930s are the subject of Therese Lichtenstein's highly original book. Disturbing and controversial, Bellmer's dollsand#151;with their uncanny, fragmented bodies and eroticized posesand#151;were just as shocking during Bellmer's time as they are today. Until now there has been little available in English about Bellmer's dolls, and Lichtenstein's book will be welcomed for its fresh interpretation of the artist's work and his place in European modernism. Eighty striking photographs accompany the text.
Working during a time when Nazism was on the rise, Bellmer created several dolls with fragmented bodies that could be dismantled and arranged in various configurations. Using a narrative format, he then photographed the dolls in a range of grotesqueand#151;often sexualand#151;positions. The images he conveyed were of death and decay, abuse and longing, in stark contrast to Nazism's mythic utopian celebration of adolescence.
Lichtenstein interprets Bellmer's complex expressions of eroticism as a protest against the Nazis and also against his father, a cold and repressive Nazi sympathizer. At the same time, she says, by hyperbolically flaunting a passive femininity in a theatrical manner, Bellmer's images allow us to consider how cultural representations can affect the formation of identity and alternative possibilities.
"Behind Closed Doors reveals the complex structure behind these photographs of violated female adolescence, a structure in which sadism, masochism, hermaphroditism, fetishism, utopianism, and nostalgia all play a role. Above all, Lichtenstein's study makes clear the political aspect of these transgressive images: the way in which they served to question and undermine the contemporary authoritarian Nazi image of sexual 'normalcy' by recourse to a violent return of the repressed."and#151;Linda Nochlin, author of Representing Women
"Behind Closed Doors: The Art of Hans Bellmer is a compelling gathering of the narratives around psychoanalysis, visual culture, biology, and gender. Therese Lichtenstein rigorously examines Bellmer's picturing of the body as the site of desire, confusion, and sudden disaster, and in doing so produces a telling tale of history's secrets and lies."and#151;Barbara Kruger, artist and author of Thinking of You
The German-born Surrealist Hans Bellmer (1902-1975) devoted his oeuvre to creating sexualized images of the female body--distorted, dismembered, or menaced in sinister scenarios. The subject of this book is his hand-colored photographs of the bizarre dolls he crafted.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 223-243) and index.
About the Author
Therese Lichtenstein has taught art history and museum studies at New York University, Rice University, and Mount Holyoke College.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
Introduction: The World Is a Scandal
1. Reconfiguring the Body: Anagrams of Anatomy
2. The Hermaphrodite in Me
3. The Hysterical Body
4. Return to the Enchanted Garden of Childhood
Appendix: Selected Writings by Hans Bellmer
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