Between You and Me: Queer Disclosures in the New York Art World, 1948-1963

Gavin Butt, Author
Gavin Butt, Author Duke University Press $22.95 (210p) ISBN 978-0-8223-3498-9
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Provocative and enlightening, if sometimes awkward and jargon heavy, Butt's book uses gossip to analyze the works of gay New York artists of the period between the Kinsey Report and Stonewall. In five chapters, the professor of Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths College, University of London, argues for the value of gossip in critical art history (particularly when the artist is gay or suspected to be) and skillfully lays out the art world and sexual climate of the McCarthy era before tackling the work of key artists, including Larry Rivers, Andy Warhol and Jasper Johns. Butt's considerations of these three artists through the lens of usually overlooked or dismissed gossip is the work's strongest feature. How Rivers' fragmented paintings function like visual gossip; how tattle was formative to Warhol's coolly detached persona; and how rumors surrounding Johns' ""Target with Plaster Casts"" radically reshape its interpretation and place in art history are all keenly presented. The frequent inclusion of first person interjections like ""I would venture,"" ""I want to suggest,"" or ""I contend"" become annoying and add nothing to Butt's argument. Nevertheless, Butt's fresh critical tactics and perspectives on gay visual culture make this a highly engaging read.
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