Shows of Force: Power, Politics, and Ideology in Art Exhibitions

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It has long been considered a mark of naïveté to ask of a work of art: What does it say? But as Timothy W. Luke demonstrates in Shows of Force, artwork is capable of saying plenty, and much of the message resides in the way it is exhibited. By critically examining the exhibition of art in contemporary American museums, Luke identifies how art showings are elaborate works of theater that reveal underlying political, social, and economic agendas.
The first section, “Envisioning a ...

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Used in trade paperback. A servicable reading copy only. Previous owner's name inside front cover. Highlighting to the first 20 pp. Damp rippling to the lower page edges, light ... soiling and wear to the other edges. ; 8vo 8" - 9" tall; It has long been considered a mark of na?vet? to ask of a work of art: What does it say? But as Timothy W. Luke demonstrates in Shows of Force, artwork is capable of saying plenty, and much of the message resides in the way it is exhibited. By critically examining the exhibition of art in contemporary American museums, Luke identifies how art showings are elaborate works of theater that reveal underlying political, social, and economic agendas. The first section, ?Envisioning a Past, Imagining the West, ? looks at art exhibitions devoted to artworks about or from the American West. Luke shows how these exhibitions?displaying nineteenth- and early-twentieth century works by artists such as George Caleb Bingham, Frederic Remington, Frederic Edwin Church, and Georgia O?Keefe?express contemporary political agendas in the way the portray ?the past? and shape new visions of ?the West. ?In ?Developing the Present, Defining a World, ? Luke considers artists from the post-1945 era, including Ilya Kabokov, Hans Haacke, Sue Coe, Roger Brown, and Robert Longo. Recent art exhibits, his analysis reveals, attempt to develop politically charged conceptions of the present, which in turn struggle to define the changing contemporary world and art?s various roles within it. Luke brings to light the contradictions encoded in the exhibition of art and, in doing so, illuminates the political realities and cultural ideologies of the present. Shows of Force offers a timely and surely controversial contribution to current discussions of the politics of exhibiting art. Read more Show Less

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Overview

It has long been considered a mark of naïveté to ask of a work of art: What does it say? But as Timothy W. Luke demonstrates in Shows of Force, artwork is capable of saying plenty, and much of the message resides in the way it is exhibited. By critically examining the exhibition of art in contemporary American museums, Luke identifies how art showings are elaborate works of theater that reveal underlying political, social, and economic agendas.
The first section, “Envisioning a Past, Imagining the West,” looks at art exhibitions devoted to artworks about or from the American West. Luke shows how these exhibitions—displaying nineteenth- and early-twentieth century works by artists such as George Caleb Bingham, Frederic Remington, Frederic Edwin Church, and Georgia O’Keefe—express contemporary political agendas in the way the portray “the past” and shape new visions of “the West.”
In “Developing the Present, Defining a World,” Luke considers artists from the post-1945 era, including Ilya Kabokov, Hans Haacke, Sue Coe, Roger Brown, and Robert Longo. Recent art exhibits, his analysis reveals, attempt to develop politically charged conceptions of the present, which in turn struggle to define the changing contemporary world and art’s various roles within it.
Luke brings to light the contradictions encoded in the exhibition of art and, in doing so, illuminates the political realities and cultural ideologies of the present. Shows of Force offers a timely and surely controversial contribution to current discussions of the politics of exhibiting art.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Luke ( Screens of Power ) analyzes the social and political contexts of paintings in 16 exhibitions around the U.S. In the first section he discusses why corporate sponsors support exhibitions of painters of the American West, including George Caleb Bingham, Frederic Remington and Georgia O'Keeffe (whose utopian images, the author claims, boosted the profits of Southwestern Bell). He then assumes a broader focus, beginning with a Washington, D.C., show of the art of Japan's Daimyo culture. Exploring Japan's role as the new world power, he portrays the U.S. as a ``colonized third world country,'' in sharp contrast to the proud cultural dominance depicted in the first section. Other essays include a comparative criticism of the cultures of the U.S. and U.S.S.R.; a critique of a U.S. exhibition of Hispanic art; and a discussion of Sue Coe's radical art. Luke's main contention is that an artist's work is co-opted by society in order to reinforce cultural icons and ideals (e.g., Remington's WASP warriors conquering the West). Unfortunately, mere repetition does not endow a truism with depth and dimension. (Mar.)
Library Journal
At the outset, Luke states that his book is a ``collection of politically grounded critiques about art.'' With a keen eye, he examines exhibitions in the context of the political arena, seeking to illustrate how ``artistic codes and aesthetic displays can create new currents of social, political, economic, and cultural meaning.'' Citing examples of works by specific artists and exhibits, Luke takes the reader on a verbally visual trek from the myth-vision of the Old American West, the new Southwest, up to and through the burgeoning power of Japan and other post-World War II influences. While Luke admits his interpretations are contestable, his insightful and often incisive views illustrate how inextricably power, politics, ideology, and art are interwoven into our lives. This is recommended for academic libraries, and any collections with a strong interest in art writing, critical theory, and cultural politics.-- Vicki Gadberry, Harris Media Ctr., Mars Hill Coll., N.C.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822311232
  • Publisher: Duke University Press
  • Publication date: 2/28/1992
  • Pages: 264
  • Product dimensions: 5.38 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.76 (d)

Meet the Author

Timothy Luke, University Distinguished Professor of Political Science, Virginia Polytechnic and State University at Blacksburg, is the author of several books, including Capitalism, Democracy, and Ecology: Departing from Marx and Ecocritique: Contesting the Politics of Nature, Economy, and Culture.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction: Situating Art and Critical Discourse in Contemporary Political Contexts 1
I Envisioning a Past, Imagining the West
1 George Caleb Bingham: Contested Ground 9
2 Frederic Remington: Riding into the Sunset 27
3 Frederic Edwin Church: Earth First? 40
4 The West Explored: How the West was Won, or Why Is the Winning Westernized? 52
5 Georgia O'Keeffe: Ideology and Utopia in the American Southwest 68
6 Frank Lloyd Wright: In the Realm of Ideas 79
7 American Impressionism--California School: "California Dreamin'"? 91
II Developing the Present, Defining a World
8 Japan--The Shaping of Daimyo Culture, 1185-1868: The Ironies of Imperialism in the Empire of Signs 107
9 Made in U.S.A.: "The Pride is Back"? 119
10 Ilya Kabakov: Soviet Life 137
11 Hans Haacke: Unfinished Business 152
12 Sue Coe: Pure War in the Zero World 169
13 Hispanic Art in the United States: "This Is Not a Barrio" 178
14 Roger Brown: Tracing the Silhouettes from the Shadow of the Silent Majorities 189
15 Robert Longo: The Ecstasy of Communication 200
16 Culture and Commentary: Riding the Hoverculture 213
17 The Politics of Images: Art Criticism as Cultural Criticism 227
Notes 235
Index 247
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