In "Paint Made Flesh," expressive figuration is considered as a
reflection of artists' responses to such topics as identity,
sexuality, and mortality, and as a symptom of a broader spectrum of
social and political attitudes shaping Western culture since World
War II. It features art from the United States, Great Britain, and
Germany, countries that have since the 1950s produced many artists
who use paint as a metaphor for flesh in all its aspects. It will
also consider contemporary artists whose works move from a national
to a global stage in terms of meaning and style.
The book has been developed to accompany an early 2009 exhibition
at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, which will include
paintings by artists like Francis Bacon, Willem de Kooning, Lucian
Freud, Pablo Picasso, and Julian Schnabel from private collections
and museums around the world. "Paint Made Flesh" will feature
approximately forty color plates and approximately fifty other
illustrations, and four essays by major art historians.
Susan Edwards's essay "The Influence of Anxiety" considers works by
American artists active from the 1950 to the 1970s, including
Willem de Kooning, Leon Golub, Philip Guston, and Alice Neel, as
responses to social conditions and the expressive limitations of
late Modernism. Emily Braun's "Skinning the Paint" looks at the
work of British painters Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, and Frank
Auerbach, and its legacy in the painting of Jenny Saville and
Cecily Brown. The title refers to the way these artists use a knife
both to strip the skin or surface of the figure and to build up new
layers of epidermis, comprising a metaphor for the dialectic
between psychological and physical aspects of being.
Richard Shiff's "Drawn on the Body" discusses German artists such
as Georg Baselitz, Markus Lupertz, and Albert Oehlen, whose
gestural paint application is seen as both an extension and
critique of the notion of a national heritage distinctly tied to
Expressionism. The final essay, Mark Scala's "Fragmentation and
Reconstitution: Painterly Figuration Since 1980," examines ways
that artists like Wangechi Mutu, Daniel Richter, and John Currin
posit a transmutation of identity-personal, cultural, and
sexual-that is today mirrored in images of the body. Instead of
asking the question of the traditional figure painter: "Who are
we?" these artists are more concerned with the question "Who will
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