Eroticism and Art Hardcover – Nov 15 2005
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`This original and carefully researched study is enhanced by over 130 illustrations of which over 100 are in colour, with 28 full page plates, of which all but 4 are in excellent colour.' Day By Day
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Numerous full colour and halftone illustrationsSee all Product Description
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One picture reproduced here is Courbet's _The Origin of the World_ of 1866. It is an audacious work that is still thrilling; it is simply a finely-rendered "lower portrait" of a woman, legs spread, dramatically foreshortened without showing arms or face. This was a decidedly male point of view, defiant and calling attention to "the dynamics and politics of desire" between artist, model, and viewer. Its dynamics and politics have been updated; two Yugoslav artists in 1997 made a video version. Instead of being a passive female exciting the male artist and viewer, the model stimulates herself in a feminist rendering of the same pose. Both artworks were shocking for their times, and certainly some would put the 1997 version in the category of pornography, but its deliberate intent to modify the message of the original clearly imbues it with the kind of political and social edge that Mahon finds as a universal characteristic of erotic works. Mahon examines the use of the erotic by the surrealists and even by the Nazis and fascists leading up to World War II. She has several chapters covering recent decades, including erotic, bizarre, or dangerous performance art.
Mahon maintains a detached "What can we learn from this?" tone throughout, appreciative of even the strangest sexual displays, and she analyzes them with elegance and sympathy. The subject is literally vital; one chapter after another shows images that might be titillating for some while simultaneously emetic for others. There are over a hundred, mostly color, pictures, all well-keyed to the text, although Mahon has discussed plenty of other unreproduced works that make it handy to have access to the Web to see what she is talking about. It is a handsome and glossy volume, with many pictures and ideas to provoke, uh, thought.
That in my opinion is the first problem with this book. In many instances the text is incomprehensible to me, and I really think this is due to the author and not to my incompetence. I could give quite a list of similar enigmatic quotes.
The second problem concerns the issue of looking, when the author describes a work that we can see for ourselves, because there is an illustration available. More often than not the author nevertheless seems to look at a completely different work. In these descriptions the author introduces conceptions that form the basis of further discussion, but as I do not see how these conceptions relate to the work described, the subsequent discussion passes me by. Convince me, I would say, that I might see what you say you are seeing.
My last remark: the book seems to be about politics as much as about art; I know that this is a common approach, but I always think it is a shame, in my ideal world in the end art transcends or eludes politics and erotic art in particular speaks to my senses instead of making dull political statements.
So these are the words that come to my mind when I think about this book: enigmatic (or simply poorly written)and dull, sometimes even page after page extremely dull. No, I do not recommend the book.
Its scope is also very limited.
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