Transgressions: The Offences of Art / Edition 2

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Since the mid-nineteenth century, artists have compulsively rejected received ideas in order to test and subvert morality, law, society, and even art itself. But what happens when all boundaries have been crossed, all taboos broken, all limits violated?

Transgressions is the first book to address this controversial subject. Here Anthony Julius traces the history of subversion in art from the outraged response to Manet's Le Déjeuner sur l'Herbe to the scandal caused by the grant programs of the National Endowment for the Arts a century and a half later. Throughout the book, and supported by the work of such artists as Marcel Duchamp, the Chapman brothers, Andres Serrano, Damien Hirst, Gilbert & George, Paul McCarthy, Jeff Koons, Hans Haacke, and Anselm Kiefer, Julius shows how the modern period has been characterized by three kinds of transgressive art: an art that perverts established art rules; an art that defiles the beliefs and sentiments of its audience; and an art that challenges and disobeys the rules of the state.

The evidence assembled, Julius concludes his hard-hitting dissection of the landscapes of contemporary art by posing some important questions: what is art's future when its boundary-exceeding, taboo-breaking endeavors become the norm? And is anything of value lost when we submit to art's violation?

Transgressions is not a comfortable—still less a comforting—read, but it has a powerful urgency that makes it an essential document for anyone involved in our cultural life at the beginning of the twenty-first century.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Originally published in England in the wake of the media scandals surrounding the rise of Young British Artists, or "YBAs," such as Damien Hirst, Jake and Dinos Chapman and Tracey Emin, this somewhat scholarly book seeks to historicize the theater of transgression that has become a mainstay in modern and contemporary visual art. At once a history lesson and a muddled polemic, the book moves through various moments in the progression of scandalous art, from Manet's angry reception in the salons of Paris to Mapplethorpe's public crucifixion in the United States, arguing through a web of quotations and epigrams (Adorno's "Every work of art is an uncommitted crime" is a touchstone) that the transgressive power of visual art has in some way been exhausted, and the enduring criminal mindframe of the modern artist has lost its power to subvert. And yet, through a certain portentous, aphoristic thinking, the author also manages to imply that this has always been the case. The argument is never entirely clear, perhaps because the author seems to be hashing out his own thinking on the topic more than offering the reader a neatly distilled path of logic. But regardless, and perhaps because of this rawness, the book is a noble effort, tracking the movement of a serious mind as it grapples with the messy, contradictory issues of contemporary art. 41 color plates, 174 halftones (Mar.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
With this book, litigator and culture critic Julius (T.S. Eliot and Anti-Semitism) has written the first thoroughgoing investigation of the concept of cultural transgression. He designates artistic transgressions as a quintessentially 20th-century phenomenon that finds its origins in the daring works of Manet and Flaubert. Establishing art as naturally defiant, something requiring viewers to relinquish conventional perceptions, he constructs a formulaic approach to understanding the assorted, psychologically freighted mechanisms of artistic transgression. He uses the works of Duchamp, Andres Serrano, Paul McCarthy, and Hans Haacke, among others, to demonstrate the existence of three kinds of artistic transgression: that which defies established aesthetic standards; that which desecrates existing morals; and that which contravenes governmental authority. While his analysis is enlightening and approaches many significant questions-namely whether truly transgressive art is possible in a society seemingly inured by media spectacle-it does sometimes presuppose artists' intentions and draws connections among works that do not ring true. However, Julius ultimately delivers an absorbing theoretical definition of a timely subject. Recommended for all comprehensive art libraries.-Savannah Schroll, formerly with Smithsonian Inst. Libs., Washington, DC Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226415369
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2003
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 1,456,633
  • Product dimensions: 6.63 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Anthony Julius, the eminent lawyer, writer, and lecturer, has been described as a partisan with fierce integrity, a brilliant legal mind, a considerable critic, and a worldly philosopher who relishes disturbing the consensus. His previous books include T. S. Eliot: Anti-Semitism and Literary Form and Idolizing Pictures.
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Table of Contents

I. A Transgressive Work and its Defences
A Thought-Experiment
The Transgressive
Celebrating the Transgressive
The Three Defences
II. A Transgressive Artist: The Origins of the Transgressive Period
The Period
The Female Nude
Jesus Crucified
An Anti-Genre
Genres, Types, Aspects
III. A Typology of Transgressions
The Three Types
Violating Art Rules
Breaking Taboos
Disobedient Art
IV. The End of Transgressive Art
Demoralising the Audience
Demoralising the Artist
Art's Vulnerability
V. Coda: Every Work of Art Is an Uncommitted Crime
Bibliographical Essay
List of Illustrations
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