Images from the World Between: The Circus in Twentieth-Century American Art

Overview

Images from the World Between is an engaging survey of circus imagery in twentieth-century American art. In her introductory essay, curator Donna Gustafson chronicles the history of the American circus, showing how and why it came to be an important subject for American art. Through a discussion of a wide range of paintings, sculptures, prints, and photographs, Gustafson examines how the circus has been represented both as a microcosm of society and as an alternative reality. Some artists have been drawn to the ...
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Overview

Images from the World Between is an engaging survey of circus imagery in twentieth-century American art. In her introductory essay, curator Donna Gustafson chronicles the history of the American circus, showing how and why it came to be an important subject for American art. Through a discussion of a wide range of paintings, sculptures, prints, and photographs, Gustafson examines how the circus has been represented both as a microcosm of society and as an alternative reality. Some artists have been drawn to the abstract beauty of the circus ring, tent, and performances. Others have immortalized individual performers such as trapeze artist Alfredo Codona, animal trainer Clyde Beatty, and aerialist Lillian Lietzel for their physical prowess, grace, and courage. Still others have focused on the darker aspects of circus life, such as the danger inherent in many of the performances and the appeal of the grotesque.

The book accompanies an exhibition organized by the American Federation of Arts. Among the artists discussed are Diane Arbus, George Bellows, Rhona Bitner, Alexander Calder, John Stuart Curry, Charles Demeuth, Walt Kuhn, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Lisette Model, and Bruce Nauman. In addition to Gustafson's, the book contains essays by Karal Ann Marling on the postwar revival of interest in circus motifs and on the clown in popular culture, by Ellen Handy on the circus in twentieth-century photography, by Lee Siegel on the circus in twentieth-century literature, and by Eugene R. Gaddis on A. Everett "Chick" Austin's collection and exhibition of paintings with circus themes. As director of the Wadsworth Atheneum and the Ringling Museum of Art, and as a performing magician, Austinunited the worlds of art and the circus.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
The ethereal chink between reality and fantasy, prosaic and performed, and mundane and metaphorical once again reveals itself in this perceptive work, another entry in the swelling list of circus titles. This visually splashy tome accompanies an eponymous traveling art exhibition curated by Gustafson, director of exhibitions at the Hunterdon Museum of Art and former chief curator of exhibitions at the American Federation of Arts. Gustafson's trenchant text illuminates the history of the American circus using over 90 paintings, prints, photographs, and other more contemporary media such as video and installations. The rest of the volume is given to four essays by noted curators and academics that examine specific aspects (e.g., Karal Ann Marling's "Clowns with Bad Attitudes") of the intersection between art and the circus. More than 100 other images are used in conjunction with these subsequent essays. Though this visual high-wire act tilts more to academic institutions, the copious and beautifully presented illustrations make it appropriate for more advanced art, theater, circus, pop culture, and performance art collections in public libraries. Barry X. Miller, Austin P.L., TX Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher

"A stunning collection.... A lush, vibrant contribution to the gorgeous and the grotesque 'literature of the circus.'" LA Weekly

The MIT Press

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262072281
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 11/1/2001
  • Pages: 184
  • Product dimensions: 9.00 (w) x 11.75 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Donna Gustafson is Chief Curator of Exhibitions at the American Federation of Arts in New York
City.
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