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Transgressive art

Related: anti-art - art - grotesque art - transgression - transgressive cinema - transgressive fiction

Notable 'transgressive' artists: Chapman brothers

Art And Obscenity (2006) - Kerstin Mey
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Definition

Transgressive art refers to art forms that transgress; i.e. that go across or against basic norms or mores. Technically, there are three ways a work of art can transgress: by breaking its own rules (think Fountain (1917) by Duchamp), by breaking certain taboos (think Le Dejeuner sur l'Herbe, although this work appears tame by contemporary standards) and by being politically resistant.

Traces of transgression can be found in any art which by some is considered offensive because of its shock value; from the French Salon des Refusťs of mid-nineteenth century France to Dada and surrealism of early twentieth century Europe. Philosophers Mikhail Bakhtin and Georges Bataille have published works on the nature of transgression.

Taxonomy of transgressive art

Transgression has been a hot topic since the recent publication of Anthony Juliusís book Transgressions: The Offences of Art. Julius provides a useful taxonomy of transgressive art, breaking it down into three categories:

--Kaleem Aftab and Ian Stewart via http://www.contemporary-magazine.com/film51.htm

Joe Coleman and other transgressive artists

Altar to my demon (1986) - Joe Coleman

An illustrator and painter whose work can be seen in comics/pop art publications like Blab and Juxtapoz, Joseph Coleman, Jr. (22 November 1955) paints modern American Gothic subjects (hobos, serial killers, underground artists) and religious subject matter (Jesus) with a fleshy, bulbous intensity. In some ways, much of his style makes reference to the Spanish-Mexican religious tradition that Frida Kahlo also drew upon.

His pranks -- including appearing to blow himself up and medieval-style geek antics -- have been documented in the "Pranks" volume of Re/Search Books, along with the works of other sinister clowns like Boyd Rice.

Coleman is striking in appearance, with a long black beard, resembling Coffin Joe to a superficial extent. As an avid enthusiast for weird, dark American culture, he is a serious collector of sideshow oddities -- he's a patron of Johnny Fox's Freakatorium in New York City, where he lives -- and is a supporter of strange artists like primitive rockabilly legend Hasil Adkins. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Coleman_%28painter%29 [Mar 2005]

Transgressive artists
* GG Allin * Butthole Surfers * Lisa Crystal Carver * Joe Coleman (painter) * Costes * Crash Worship * Crust (band) * Cindy Dall * Dame Darcy * Vaginal Creme Davis * Foetus (band) * Richard Kern * Lung Leg * Lydia Lunch * Misty Martinez * Panicsville * Rat Bastard * Boyd Rice * Suckdog * To Live and Shave in L.A. 2 * Nick Zedd --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Transgressive_artists [Mar 2005]

Art And Obscenity (2006) - Kerstin Mey

This post is dedicated to Matthew Hunt and his article Taboo: Art Censorship, which is the best online exploration of the subject of transgressive art.

Book Description
Explicit material is more widely available in the internet age than ever before, yet the concept of "obscenity" remains as difficult to pin down as it is to approach without bias: notions of what is "obscene" shift with societiesí shifting mores, and our responses to explicit or disturbing material can be highly subjective. In this intelligent and sensitive book, Kerstin Mey grapples with the work of twentieth century artists practising at the edges of acceptability, from Hans Bellmer through to Nobuyoshi Araki, from Robert Mapplethorpe to Annie Sprinkle, and from Hermann Nitsch to Paul McCarthy. Mey refuses sweeping statements and "kneejerk" responses, arguing with dexterity that some works, regardless of their "high art" context, remain deeply problematic, while others are both groundbreaking and liberating. --from the publisher

Here is a review by Matthew Hunt himself:
... her study is valuable as it's the first of its kind. She covers all the main bases - Julia Kristeva, Georges Bataille, Hermann Nitsch, Carolee Schneemann, Robert Mapplethorpe, Andres Serrano, Ron Athey - and it's exciting to see them all discussed together. --http://www.matthewhunt.com/blog/2006/12/art-obscenity.html

Transgressions : The Offences of Art (2003) - Anthony Julius

Transgressions : The Offences of Art (2003) - Anthony Julius [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Synopsis Since the mid-19th 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 Dejeuner 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; and 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 endeavours 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 a useful document for anyone involved in our cultural life at the beginning of the 21st century. --Amazon.co.uk

From 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 Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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