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Manhattan Art Book Club
Parlor, February 21, 2015

Come join the Manhattan Art Book Club at the Salmagundi Club this Feburary 21st at 12:30pm.

This months selection is: Venus in Exile: the rejection of beauty in twentieth century art by Wendy Steiner.

Previous eras had celebrated beauty as the central aim of art, the modernist avant-garde were deeply suspicious of beauty and its perennial symbols, woman and ornament, preferring instead the thrill and alienation of the sublime. They rejected harmony, empathy, and femininity in a denial still reverberating through art and social relations today. Exploring this casting of Venus, with all her charms, into exile, Wendy Steiner's brilliant, ambitious, and provocative analysis explores the twentieth century's troubled relationship with beauty.

Tracing this strange and damaging history, starting from Kant's aesthetics and Mary Shelley's horrified response in Frankenstein, Steiner untangles the complex attitudes of modernists toward both beauty and the female subject in art. She argues that the avant-garde set out to replace the impurity of woman and ornament with form -- the new arch-symbol of artistic beauty. Steiner reveals, the feminist hostility to the "beauty myth" had a parallel result, leaving Western society alienated from desire and pleasure on all sides.

 

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