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Visualizing Feeling: Affect and the Feminine Avant-garde

Visualizing Feeling: Affect and the Feminine Avant-garde
Susan Best

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Is late modern art 'anti-aesthetic'? What does it mean to label a piece of art 'affectless'? These traditional characterizations of 1960s and 1970s art are radically challenged in this subversive art history. By introducing feeling to the analysis of this period, Susan Best acknowledges the radical and exploratory nature of art in late modernism. The book focuses on four highly influential female artists--Eva Hesse, Lygia Clark, Ana Mendieta and Theresa Hak Kyung Cha--and it explores how their art transformed established avant-garde protocols by introducing an affective dimension. This aspect of their work, while often noted, has never before been analyzed in detail. Visualizing Feeling also addresses a methodological blind spot in art history: the interpretation of feeling, emotion and affect. It demonstrates that the affective dimension, alongside other materials and methods of art, is part of the artistic means of production and innovation. This is the first thorough re-appraisal of aesthetic engagement with affect in post-1960s art.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1
| Minimalism and Subjectivity: Aesthetics and the Anti-Aesthetic Tradition
Chapter 2 | Feeling and Late Modern Art
Chapter 3 | Participation, Affect and the Body: Lygia Clark
Chapter 4 | Eva Hesse’s Late Sculptures: Elusive Expression and Unconscious Affect
Chapter 5 | Ana Mendieta: Affect Miniaturization, Emotional Ties and the Silueta Series
Chapter 6 | The Dream of the Audience: The Moving Images of Theresa Hak Kyung Cha
Conclusion | Which Anthropomorphism?

Author Info

Susan Best is Professor of Art Theory, Queensland College of Art, Griffith University. Her research focuses on modern and contemporary art, with a particular emphasis on women's art, conceptual art and South American art.


Winner of the AAANZ (Art Association of Australia & New Zealand) Best Book Prize for 2012

'It is difficult to do justice here to the subtlety and complexity of Best’s arguments and the wealth of reference material assembled from other disciplines... Personally, the book has provided me with a way of thinking about art that has shaped my own curatorial practice and which, until now, I haven’t had the means to express theoretically... it opens new directions to explore on every page.'
Tony Bond, Art & Australia

'Visualising Feeling should be read as a manifesto for an art history done differently'
Australian Feminist Studies

'A theoretically enriching and empirically well-informed subject of the imbrication of aesthetics and conceptualist art practice.'
Art Association of Australia & New Zealand

'Thorough... lucid... a little gem among writings about either the anti-aesthetic art of 1960s and 1970s and the role of detachment and objectivity or the role of feminist artists of that time...a fascinating, theoretically rich and in-depth account.'
Basia Sliwinska, Cassone

'At last, here is a book that lifts the ban on aff ect imposed on art criticism and theory by the 'anti-aesthetic' school that has been dominating the scene in the last forty years! Taking her clues from four of the best women artists whose work spans the period, Susan Best convincingly demonstrates that if you close the door of the house of art to feelings, they enter through the window. What’s more, this is valid for the supposedly 'anaesthetic' art movements – minimal and conceptual art – that form the contextual background of her case studies: they are no less aesthetic than the art of the past or the most recent present.'
Thierry de Duve, Professor of Aesthetics and Art History, Department of Fine Arts, University of Lille 3

'Susan Best’s remarkably lucid and paradoxical project begins the process of recovering feeling and emotion in late modern art. Her landmark study of four women artists – Hesse, Clark, Mendieta and Cha – rescues both the feminine and the aesthetic from the ghetto, by an astute combination of psycho-analysis and art history.'
Ann Stephen, Senior Curator, Sydney University Art Gallery

'Visualizing Feeling develops a compelling argument for focusing on precisely the centrality of aff ect and feeling in any understanding of the art of the 1960s and 1970s, where it seemed that aff ect no longer had a place. In exploring the work of four powerful and sometimes neglected women artists, she shows how it is paradoxically where affect is consciously minimized that it nevertheless returns to haunt the art work as its most powerful force. Art works aff ect before they inform, perform or communicate. Susan Best demonstrates that by restoring the question of aff ect and emotion to the art work, new kinds of questions can be asked about the feminine in art, questions that affi rm the personal and political power of these works of art.'
Elizabeth Grosz, Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies, Rutgers University, author of Chaos, Territory, Art: Deleuze and the Framing of the Earth

'The breadth of Visualizing Feeling is considerable. It redresses some of the key accounts of late-modern practice and traverses complex theoretical ground… Best makes an important contribution to the study of 1960s and 1970s art.'
Natalya Hughes, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Art

'Visualizing Feeling opens up a new direction for feminist art history; and offers a fresh perspective on the perennial questions of innovation, beauty and subjectivity in art.'


Innermost Feelings in Art Read
Debating Affect and 'Opposite George' Read
Painting of the Week: 56 Read
Funny Feeling: Conceptual Art and Absurdity Read

Bibliographic Info

Imprint: I.B.Tauris
Publisher: I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd.

ISBN: 9781780767093
Publication Date: 18 Dec 2013
Number of Pages: 208
Height: 234
Width: 156
Illustrations: 27 bw integrated

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