Circus Americanus

Overview

Circus Americanus is a riotous excursion through America’s changing visual landscape. Exploring its remote corners and bizarre byways, Ralph Rugoff takes us on a tour of theme park slums and mystical police cars, futurist war and the “aesthetics of safe chaos.” With an idiosyncratic eye for detail, he maps a culture in which “reality” has become just another theme, revealing an America much stranger than the glamorous kitsch of its surfaces. Whether he is writing about Las Vegas casinos, forensic cartoons, the ...
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Overview

Circus Americanus is a riotous excursion through America’s changing visual landscape. Exploring its remote corners and bizarre byways, Ralph Rugoff takes us on a tour of theme park slums and mystical police cars, futurist war and the “aesthetics of safe chaos.” With an idiosyncratic eye for detail, he maps a culture in which “reality” has become just another theme, revealing an America much stranger than the glamorous kitsch of its surfaces. Whether he is writing about Las Vegas casinos, forensic cartoons, the enigma of Napoleon’s preserved penis or the aesthetics of sewage treatment, Rugoff considers everyday marvels with a concern for how we live together in a world beyond belief.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Ralph Rugoff delights his readers with his customarily dizzying range and perennially deft sensibility but also with something more unusual, a real sense of discretion.”—Lawrence Weschler, New Yorker staff writer

“As millenarian Western time loops, Ralph Rugoff presents a carnival of New World wonders: yesterday and tomorrow today.”—Jon Savage, author of England‘s Dreaming: Anarchy, Sex Pistols, Punk Rock and Beyond

“Ralph Rugoff gives us the critic as expert tracker, with brilliant flair for the vivid scene. By turns funny and alarming, affectionate and macabre, his writing is filled with thoughtful asides on the way we live now.”—Marina Warner, author of From the Beast to the Blonde and Managing Monsters

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
With passing nods to J.G. Ballard, Reyner Banham and Jean Baudrillard, the leitmotif of this collection of short essays is the Disneyfication of America, by which all experience is subject to the hyper-realities and inflated expectations of entertainment. A contemporary art critic, Rugoff arrived on the West Coast, where he ``felt instantly, if somewhat oddly, at home,'' in 1983. Writing for LA Weekly-which first printed most of these essays-he developed a style of cultural journalism that uses art as a springboard to other topics. For example, minimalist sculptor Robert Irwin's career as a gambler ushers in a piece on a Hollywood racetrack. The ensuing ``circus'' takes in such sideshow attractions as the Liberace Museum and the Foundation for Facial Plastic Surgery to encompass the seamier realms of pulp non-fiction. An essay on forensic animators, whose work prompts jurors to witness a crime from the bullet's point of view, begins with an invitation to Quentin Tarantino to make way for the true maestros of ``chillingly violent images.'' Rugoff's illustrated essays are appropriately entertaining-a description of ``gifts from the people'' displayed at the Richard Nixon Library is especially funny. One of the strongest essays, though, is a relatively quiet homage to the conceptual artist Robyn Whitlaw, whose In-visibility Project 1973-1978 preceded her own enigmatic disappearance. Dec.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781859840030
  • Publisher: Verso Books
  • Publication date: 12/1/1995
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 220
  • Product dimensions: 8.20 (w) x 10.98 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Ralph Rugoff is Director of the Hayward Gallery and was previously a Los Angeles art critic covering visual culture for LA Weekly.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements
Introduction
Gambling with Reality: The New Art of Las Vegas 3
Sea World Tales 9
Theme Park Slums 15
The Largest Free Event in California 21
Honey, I Shrunk the City 25
Courses in Seduction 31
Farewell, My Ferris Wheel 35
Christo's Umbrella Liability 39
Heavenly Vehicles 43
Excremental Journey 49
World Under Glass 55
Statues of Limitation: The Privatization of Public Art 59
Gun Rites 65
Building a Lost Future 67
Tijuana's Soldier of Fortune 71
The Illuminating Disappearance of Robyn Whitlaw 75
Street Medallions 79
The Last Public Sculpture 83
A Conspiracy of Vitrines: The Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace 87
Mothership Hubbard: The Scientology Collection 93
The Museum of Jurassic Technology 97
Jump-cut to Auschwitz: The Beit Hashoah Museum of Tolerance 101
Arrested Artifacts: The LA County Sheriff's Museum 109
Gene Autry and the Marlboro Man 115
The Liberace Museum 121
Collecting Napoleon's Penis 125
Pathological Beauty: The Mutter Museum 129
Ripped and Shredded 137
O Supermodel 141
Children and Other Miniature Collectibles 145
The Surgical Revolution 149
Lucha Libre: World without Borders 153
Living Large 167
Pictures from a Futurist War 173
Brave Nude World 177
On Forensic Photography 183
Head Shots 187
Crime Storyboard: Welcome to the Post-rational World 191
Sentimental Surveillance 197
The New Hollywood Park 201
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