The Sixties: Eccentric, Erotic, Psychotic - The Courtauld Institute of Art

The Sixties: Eccentric, Erotic, Psychotic

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The Sixties: Eccentric, Erotic, Psychotic

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Dr Jo Applin

During the 1960s various eccentric, erotic, ‘psychotic’, and ‘polymorphously perverse’ art works emerged in the New York art world. These unruly, often abstract, practices engaged a politics of Eros, and fluid notions of sexuality and subjectivity, through diverse formal, theoretical and political means. Artists we may look at include Judith Bernstein, Louise Bourgeois, Lee Bontecou, Rosalind Drexler, Dan Flavin, Eva Hesse, Jasper Johns, Yayoi Kusama, Lee Lozano, Marisol, Claes Oldenburg, Yoko Ono, Lucas Samaras, Carolee Schneemann, Joan Semmel, Jack Smith, Paul Thek, and Andy Warhol. Using the terms ‘eccentric’, ‘erotic’ and the ‘psychotic’ as our guiding themes we will explore exhibitions, materials, art writing and criticism that challenged prevailing norms of what the work of art can or should be, and the new kinds of subjectivity these works in turn both produced, challenged and refused.

We will read texts drawn from the fields of art criticism, feminism, political science, psychoanalysis, and queer theory to make better sense of the upheavals both the work of art and the world at large underwent in this period. Our thinking will be guided by themes regarding the body, technology, and failure, freedom and feminism, and the politics and aesthetics of breakdown, sexuality, and violence. Visits to galleries and current exhibitions will form an important part of our learning and thinking together, and it is anticipated there will also be an overseas trip. The course will be taught by a combination of thematic seminars, focused case studies and site visits.

Alongside writing by artists and art historians we will read work by other writers, critics, and theorists that may include Hannah Arendt, Norman O. Brown, Fred T. Castle, Shulamith Firestone, Jack Halberstam, Jill Johnston, Kate Millet, Melanie Klein, R.D. Laing, Doris Lessing, Jacqueline Rose, Valerie Solanas, and Susan Sontag.

Courtauld Course Lecturer

About the lecturer

Dr Jo Applin

Jo Applin is a specialist in modern and contemporary art, with a particular emphasis on American art since 1960. She studied at Essex University and UCL, where she was subsequently Henry Moore Postdoctoral Fellow. She joined The Courtauld in 2016, after eleven years teaching at the University of York. In 2008 Jo was Associate Scholar at the Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal, and in 2012 the recipient of a Philip Leverhulme Prize. In 2016 she was Visiting Scholar at the University of Cambridge Centre for Gender Studies, a Fellow of Corpus Christi College, and Senior Scholar at the Terra Foundation Summer Residency in Giverny.

Jo’s research addresses questions of materiality, abstraction, eccentricity, feminism, sexuality, and subjectivity. She is the author of Eccentric Objects: Rethinking Sculpture in 1960s America (Yale University Press, 2012) and Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirror Room-Phalli’s Field (Afterall and MIT Press, 2012), and is currently completing two further books, Not Working: Lee Lozano versus the Art World 1961-1971 (Yale University Press), which was awarded the Suzanne and James Mellor Book Prize from the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington D.C. in 2015, andLondon Art Worlds: Mobile, Contingent and Ephemeral Networks 1960-1980 (Penn State University Press), which she is co-editing with Catherine Spencer and Amy Tobin. She is also embarking upon a new book about ageing and abstraction in American art since 1940, and co-editing a special issue of Oxford Art Journal on feminism and domesticity, to be published in 2017.

Jo is reviews editor of Oxford Art Journal, and sits on the boards of ARTMargins,Tate Papers, and the Terra-Tate Research Project Refiguring American Art 1945-1980. Jo has also published widely on contemporary art and is an active critic, writing regularly for Artforum and other publications. She has also reviewed books and exhibitions for TLS, Oxford Art Journal, Map, Journal of American Studies, West 86th,Modernism/Modernity, The Art Book, and Sculpture Journal.

Flesh, a major loan exhibition Jo has co-curated, will open at York Art Gallery in September 2016.

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