The Sixties: Eccentric, Erotic, Psychotic

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MA History of Art Special Option

The Sixties: Eccentric, Erotic, Psychotic

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Photograph of collage, Yayoi Kusama, ca. 1966, the artist reclining on 'Accumulation No. 2', Black and white photograph, (261mm x 326 mm) © Schenking / Donation: Hans Sonnenberg 2010
Eva Hesse’s studio, 1967
Melvin Edwards, Some Bright Morning, 1963. Courtesy of the artist and Alexander Gray Associates, New York. Photo by Tim Nighswander/IMAGING4ART, Courtesy of Melvin Edwards and Alexander Gray Associates
Photograph of collage, Yayoi Kusama, ca. 1966, the artist reclining on 'Accumulation No. 2', Black and white photograph, (261mm x 326 mm) © Schenking / Donation: Hans Sonnenberg 2010
Eva Hesse’s studio, 1967
Melvin Edwards, Some Bright Morning, 1963. Courtesy of the artist and Alexander Gray Associates, New York. Photo by Tim Nighswander/IMAGING4ART, Courtesy of Melvin Edwards and Alexander Gray Associates

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, Hannah Wilke, Louise Bourgeois, Lee Bontecou, Rosalind Drexler, Dan Flavin, May Wilson, Eva Hesse, Yayoi Kusama, Lee Lozano, Marisol, Claes Oldenburg, Yoko Ono, Lucas Samaras, Carolee Schneemann, Faith Ringgold, Joan Semmel, Melvin Edwards, Paul Thek, Howardena Pindell, 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. The ‘sixties’ is understood both as a broadly porous chronological framework, and as a mythic ‘idea’ that continues to carry intellectual, political, and artistic importance today as is seen in much contemporary art.

We will read texts drawn from the fields of art history and art criticism, feminism, political science, psychoanalysis, critical race theory, literature, 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, Shulamith Firestone, Jack Halberstam, Jill Johnston, Kate Millet, Melanie Klein, R.D. Laing, Doris Lessing, Jacqueline Rose, Valerie Solanas, and Susan Sontag.


Course Leader: Dr Jo Applin

Go to the MA History of Art Course Overview

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