In her groundbreakingSexual Personae, Camille Paglia turned her incisive eye on beauty and decadence in literature, art, and popular culture. Now, America's premier intellectual provocateur returns to the subject that brought her fame, tackling the great themes of Western art in an enthralling tour through more than two dozen seminal images, some famous and others obscure or unknown. With energy, erudition, and wit, Paglia leads us chronologically through the paintings, sculptures, architectural styles, performance pieces, and digital art that have defined and transformed our visual world. She combines close analysis with background that situates each artist and image within its historical context-from an Egyptian tomb to Titian's ""Venus With a Mirror;"" from an elegant French Rococo interior to Jackson Pollock's abstract ""Green Silver;"" from Renee Cox's daring performance piece ""Chillin' with Liberty"" to Eleanor Antin's amusing conceptual art project ""100 Boots."" In a stunning ending, Paglia declares that the avant-garde tradition is dead and that director George Lucas, creator ofStar Wars, is the world's greatest living artist.
We are living in an age of visual "vertigo" and "must relearn how to see," argues academic and critic Paglia (Sexual Personae) in this highly reflective and imaginative history of images in Western art. Paglia begins with the Luxor paintings of Queen Nefertiti's journey to the afterlife and ends with Revenge of the Sith by filmmaker George Lucas, who she argues is the greatest contemporary master of synthesizing art and technology. Intentionally organized as a devotional where the reader observes and contemplates one image at a time, Paglia traces the major periods of Western art image by image, so that each brief chapter could be a stand-alone essay. While some of Paglia's choices are somewhat predictable (Bernini's Chair of Saint Peter as an example of the baroque; David's Death of Marat for neo-classicism; Jackson Pollock's Green Silver as an example of abstract expressionism) her image choices for romanticism (The Sea of Ice by Caspar David Friedrich) and surrealism (The Portrait by Rene Magritte) are less so. Paglia writes with energetic lucidity, and her entries on the Laocoon and Donatello's Mary Magdalene are standouts in this absorbing volume. Both a valuable cultural critique and an elucidating history, Paglia's latest would suit the general reader, as well as those looking for an alternative approach to contemporary ways of seeing. Illus. Agent: Tina Bennett, Janklow & Nesbit. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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October 16, 2012
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