Abject Art

The abject is a complex psychological, philosophical and linguistic concept developed by Julia Kristeva in her 1980 book Powers of Horror. She was partly influenced by the earlier ideas of the French writer, thinker and dissident Surrealist, Georges Bataille. It can be said very simply that the abject consists of those elements, particularly of the body, that transgress and threaten our sense of cleanliness and propriety. Kristeva herself commented ‘refuse and corpses show me what I permanently thrust aside in order to live’. In practice the abject covers all the bodily functions, or aspects of the body, that are deemed impure or inappropriate for public display or discussion. The abject has a strong feminist context, in that female bodily functions in particular are ‘abjected’ by a patriarchal social order. In the 1980s and 1990s many artists became aware of this theory and reflected it in their work. In 1993 the Whitney Museum, New York, staged an exhibition titled Abject Art: Repulsion and Desire in American Art, which gave the term a wider currency in art. Cindy Sherman is seen as a key contributor to the abject in art, as well as many others including Louise Bourgeois, Helen Chadwick, Paul McCarthy, Gilbert & George, Robert Gober, Carolee Schneemann, Kiki Smith and Jake and Dinos Chapman.Cindy Sherman Untitled #263 1992  

Cindy Sherman Untitled #263

This work belongs to a series known as the ‘Sex Pictures’, which feature mannequins and body parts obtained from medical catalogues. Sherman has often addressed themes of sexual objectification and the depiction of women in art. However, the focus on male and female genitalia, sexual display and coupling in this series is far more ambiguous. They can be seen as theatrical representations of pornography. Although voyeuristic and dysfunctional, their erotic content is deliberately undermined.

Found at: http://www.tate.org.uk

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: