Sex Objects: Art And The Dialectics Of Desire

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Overview

The declaration that a work of art is “about sex” is often announced to the public as a scandal after which there is nothing else to say about the work or the artist-controversy concludes a conversation when instead it should begin a new one.

Moving beyond debates about pornography and censorship, Jennifer Doyle shows us that sex in art is as diverse as sex in everyday life: exciting, ordinary, emotional, traumatic, embarrassing, funny, even profoundly boring. Sex Objects examines the reception and frequent misunderstanding of highly sexualized images, words, and performances. In chapters on the “boring parts” of Moby-Dick, the scandals that dogged the painter Thomas Eakins, the role of women in Andy Warhol's Factory films, “bad sex” and Tracey Emin's crudely evocative line drawings, and L.A. artist Vaginal Davis's pornographic parodies of Vanessa Beecroft's performances, Sex Objects challenges simplistic readings of sexualized art and instead investigates what such works can tell us about the nature of desire.

In Sex Objects, Doyle offers a creative and original exploration of how and where art and sex connect, arguing that to proclaim a piece of art “about sex” reveals surprisingly little about the work, the artist, or the spectator. Deftly interweaving anecdotal and personal writing with critical, feminist, and queer theory, she reimagines the relationship between sex and art in order to better understand how the two meet-and why it matters.

Jennifer Doyle is associate professor of English at the University of California, Riverside. She is coeditor, with Jonathan Flatley and José Esteban Muñoz, of Pop Out: Queer Warhol.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780816645251
  • Publisher: University of Minnesota Press
  • Publication date: 2/25/2006
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface : a promiscuous reader
Introduction : Kusama's boat
1 Moby-Dick's boring parts : pornography's allegorical hothouse 1
2 Sex, sodomy, and scandal : art and undress in the work of Thomas Eakins 15
3 Tricks of the trade : pop art and the rhetoric of prostitution 45
4 "I must be boring someone" : women in Warhol's films 71
5 The effect of intimacy : Tracey Emin's bad sex aesthetics 97
6 White sex : Vaginal Davis does Vanessa Beecroft 121
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  • Posted January 22, 2009

    study of various treatments of sexual desire in art in the past 100 years

    You know that any book of criticism with Thomas Eakins, the notorious pornographic film 'Moby Dick,' Andy Warhol, Vanessa Beecroft, and Tracey Emin in it is going to be quirky. What links all of these quirky artists in this work by an associate professor of English at the U. of California-Riverside and co-author of 'Pop Out: Queer Warhol' is their approaches to handling sexuality. With Eakins, the approach in his time and place of Victorian era America was subtle and ambivalent. With Warhol, the approach was ironic and often detached. With Beecroft, forward and multiplicitous. These and the other unconventional treatments of sexuality are critiqued with reference to 'the queer theory that addresses the limitations of dominant (largely binary) models for sexual identity for describing our sexual lives and for understanding representations of sexual difference and sexual desire.' Doyle demonstrates a sure understanding of the latest methodology and critical possibilities of queer theory.

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