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Abstract Bodies

Sixties Sculpture in the Expanded Field of Gender

David J. Getsy


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Original and theoretically astute, Abstract Bodies is the first book to apply the interdisciplinary field of transgender studies to the discipline of art history. It recasts debates around abstraction and figuration in 1960s art through a discussion of gender’s mutability and multiplicity. In that decade, sculpture purged representation and figuration but continued to explore the human as an implicit reference. Even as the statue and the figure were left behind, artists and critics asked how the human, and particularly gender and sexuality, related to abstract sculptural objects that refused the human form.

This book examines abstract sculpture in the 1960s that came to propose unconventional and open accounts of bodies, persons, and genders. Drawing on transgender and queer theory, David J. Getsy offers innovative and archivally rich new interpretations of artworks by and critical writing about four major artists—Dan Flavin (1933–1996), Nancy Grossman (b. 1940), John Chamberlain (1927–2011), and David Smith (1906–1965). Abstract Bodies makes a case for abstraction as a resource in reconsidering gender’s multiple capacities and offers an ambitious contribution to this burgeoning interdisciplinary field. 

Praise For Abstract Bodies: Sixties Sculpture in the Expanded Field of Gender

“Highly recommended.”—Choice

— Choice

“In bringing to light a grossly neglected approach to the topic and action of gendering in art production and interpretation, Getsy’s book demonstrates that we are still processing the profound event that was 1960s abstraction, still reconciling ourselves to its categorical refusals, semiotic disruptions, and relational revisions.”—Art Journal

— Art Journal

“David Getsy is a key voice among a new generation of art historians.”—Art in America

— Art in America

Yale University Press, 9780300196757, 392pp.

Publication Date: November 3, 2015

About the Author

David J. Getsy is Goldabelle McComb Finn Distinguished Professor of Art History at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.