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Delirious: Art at the Limits of Reason 1950–1980
Baum, Kelly, with Lucy Bradnock and Tina Rivers Ryan (2017)
This title is in print.
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Can postwar art be understood as an exercise in calculated insanity? Taking this provocative question as its basis, this book explores the art and history of delirium from 1950 to 1980, an era shaped by the brutality of World War II and the rapid expansion of industrial capitalism. Skepticism of science and technology—along with fear of its capability to promote mass destruction—developed into a distrust of rationalism, which profoundly influenced the art of the times. Delirious features work by more than sixty artists from Europe, Latin America, and the United States, including Dara Birnbaum, León Ferrari, Gego, Bruce Nauman, Howardena Pindell, Peter Saul, and Nancy Spero. Experimenting with irrational subject matter and techniques, these artists forged new strategies that directly responded to such unbalanced times. Disturbing and challenging, the works in this book—in multiple media and often, counterintuitively, incorporating highly ordered and systematic structures—upend traditional notions of aesthetic harmony. Three wide-ranging essays and a richly illustrated plates section investigate the degree to which delirious times demand delirious art, inviting readers to “think crazy."

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