Synopses & Reviews
Original and theoretically astute, Abstract Bodies
is the first book to apply the interdisciplinary field of transgender studies to the discipline of art history. It recasts debates around abstraction and figuration in 1960s art through a discussion of genderandrsquo;s mutability and multiplicity. In that decade, sculpture purged representation and figuration but continued to explore the human as an implicit reference. Even as the statue and the figure were left behind, artists and critics asked how the human, and particularly gender and sexuality, related to abstract sculptural objects that refused the human form.
This book examines abstract sculpture in the 1960s that came to propose unconventional and open accounts of bodies, persons, and genders. Drawing on transgender and queer theory, David J. Getsy offers innovative and archivally rich new interpretations of artworks by and critical writing about four major artistsandmdash;Dan Flavin (1933andndash;1996), Nancy Grossman (b. 1940), John Chamberlain (1927andndash;2011), and David Smith (1906andndash;1965). Abstract Bodies makes a case for abstraction as a resource in reconsidering genderandrsquo;s multiple capacities and offers an ambitious contribution to this burgeoning interdisciplinary field.and#160;
"Getsy manages to take what seems to be the most obvious aspect of Rodinand#8212;his sexualityand#8212;and look at it in a fresh and compelling way. . . . You will never look at or think about Rodin's sexy subject matter the same way again."and#8212;Bob Duggan, Big Think
makes a remarkable intervention into art history, combining a rigorous attention to the history of sculpture with surprising and elaborate readings of the art of the 1960s. As a result of his disciplined attention to abstract forms rather than figural representations of the body, David Getsy has opened a new chapter in art history. This is a brilliant and original book and will change the way we think about the dynamics between art, embodiment, plasticity, and queer form.and#39;
Jack Halberstam, University of Southern California
and#39;David Getsyand#39;s Abstract Bodies
represents a welcome convergence of the long established academic discipline of art history with the more recent interdisciplinary field of transgender studies. This book is not a history of transgender artists or transgender themes in art, but rather a path-breaking application of transgender studies as a heuristic lens. His deft coupling of subject matter and critical framework enables readers to grasp the profound extent to which the plasticity of shape and transformation of substance in reference to human being is a central feature of recent Western history.and#39;
Susan Stryker, University of Arizona
more than bridges art history and gender studiesandmdash;David Getsy demonstrates that these fields need
each other. This book shows us how to see genderand#39;s capacities in texture, light and formandmdash;loosened from the discourse of sex, gender becomes a material possibility. This is essential reading for anyone who wants to know how to write about sculpture, or who wants to know how queer art history can be.and#39;
Jennifer Doyle, University of California at Riverside
and#39;The insights that emerge from David Getsyandrsquo;s analyses of sculpture, reception, anecdote, historiography, and of the particular languages andndash; andandnbsp;voices
andnbsp;andndash; of artists, are provocative and profound.andnbsp;In the process of locating transformational energies inandnbsp;these artistsandrsquo; works, Getsy not only connects us more intimately to eachandnbsp;artist but also redirects theandnbsp;field of postwar abstract sculpture.and#39;
Michael Brenson, Bard College
Late nineteenth-century Britain experienced an explosion of interest in sculpture. Sculptors of the and#147;New Sculptureand#8221; movement sought a new direction and a modern idiom for their art. This book analyzes for the first time the art-theoretical concerns of the late-Victorian sculptors, focusing on their attitudes toward representation of the human body. David J. Getsy uncovers a previously unrecognized sophistication in the New Sculpture through close study of works by key figures in the movement: Frederic Leighton, Alfred Gilbert, Hamo Thornycroft, Edward Onslow Ford, and James Havard Thomas.
These artists sought to activate and animate the conventional format of the ideal statue so that it would convincingly stand in for both a living body and an ideal image. Getsy demonstrates the conceptual complexity of the New Sculptors and places their concerns within the larger framework of modern sculpture.
During his lifetime, Auguste Rodin's name became synonymous with modern sculpture-- and sex. Rodin came to emphasize the importance of desire and the sexual as the markers of his individual perspective, using them to fuel his increasingly daring treatments of the nude. In the minds of many viewers, the dramatic and activated surfaces of his sculptures came to be seen as evidence of not just a sculptor's touch but of a lover's touch as well. This fascinating book makes a case for reconsidering the terms of Rodin's influence, arguing that the sculptor placed renewed emphasis on the materiality and objecthood of sculpture as a means of asserting his own desire's inseparability from his works.
Drawing on transgender studies and queer theory, this book analyzes how abstract sculpture of the 1960s posed questions of genderandrsquo;s mutability and multiplicity as artists and critics struggled to map the human onto sculptural objects that refused the human form.
About the Author
David J. Getsy is Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow of the Leslie Center for the Humanities and Department of Art History, Dartmouth College, and editor of Sculpture and the Pursuit of a Modern Ideal in Britain, c. 1880and#150;1930.