Contemporary art is deeply engaged with the subject of classical myth. Yet within the literature on contemporary art, little has been said about this provocative relationship. Composed of fourteen original essays, Contemporary Art and Classical Myth addresses this scholarly gap, exploring, and in large part establishing, the multifaceted intersection of contemporary art and classical myth. Moving beyond the notion of art as illustration, the essays assembled here adopt a range of methodological frameworks, from iconography to deconstruction, and do so across an impressive range of artists and objects: Francis Alÿs, Ghada Amer, Wim Delvoye, Luciano Fabro, Joanna Frueh, Felix Gonzales-Torres, Duane Hanson, Yayoi Kusama, Roy Lichtenstein, Kara Walker, and an iconic photograph by Richard Drew subsequently entitled The Falling Man. Arranged so as to highlight both thematic and structural affinities, these essays manifest various aspects of the link between contemporary art and classical myth, while offering novel insights into the artists and myths under consideration. Some essays concentrate on single works as they relate to specific myths, while others take a broader approach, calling on myth as a means of grappling with dominant trends in contemporary art.
'…a very timely volume, with a tight focus on a significant yet seriously understudied theme…addresses the almost complete neglect of the prospect that the decline of autonomous art portends not the rebirth of Christianity as the leading context for art interpretation but the re-emergence of older, more classical, hence more buried contexts of interpretation.' Gregg M. Horowitz, author of Sustaining Loss: Art and Mournful Life
'As this compelling and revelatory volume proposes, classical mythology's rich territory and enduring stories of morality and the human condition provide a provocative lens through which to read and re-read the works of some of contemporary art's most celebrated artists.' Irene Hofmann, SITE Santa Fe, USA
'… as this volume addresses an interesting yet apparently under-explored area of art history, it is recommended for libraries serving scholars and advanced students.' ARLIS/NA
'Jennie Hirsh and Isabelle Loring Wallace have done a superb job in bringing together a rich collection of essays that not only uncovers the (perhaps surprising) role that classical mythology plays in a wide variety of contemporary art (here defined as 1960 to the present), but also shows us how contemporary art historians can fruitfully employ classical myths as part of their methods of interpretation. Classicists will find here an exemplary volume on the reception of Classical mythology in the history of art distinguished by the theoretical sophistication of the essays, the art-historical expertise of the authors, and the depth and far-reaching implications of the editors’ introduction.' Bryn Mawr Classical Review
'[The] rise of a Classical trend in contemporary art has exposed the relative lack of writings about that topic. As a consequence, the publication of a book such as Contemporary Art and Classical Myth should in itself be welcomed as the sign of a burgeoning interest in a fundamental theme in contemporary creation. Moreover, it focuses on what is the most crucial artistic legacy of Classical sculpture: its myths.' Oxford Art Journal
Contents: Introduction, Isabelle Loring Wallace and Jennie Hirsh; Prologue: Faraway, so close; mythic origins, contemporary art: the case of Kara Walker, Lisa Saltzman. Section I Myth as Meaning: A poetics of becoming: the mythography of Cy Twombly, Craig G. Staff; Art is glimpsed, Sharon Hecker; Narcissus, narcosis, neurosis: the visions of Yayoi Kusama, Jody B. Cutler; The porous space of Bracha L. Ettinger's Eurydices, Marisa Vigneault; Double take, or theorizing reflection in Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Jennie Hirsh. Section II Myth as Medium: Lichtenstein's Narcissus, Graham Bader; Philomela as metaphor: sexuality, pornography and seduction in the textile works of Tracey Emin and Ghada Amer, Giulia Lamoni; Icarus returned: the falling man and the survival of antiquity, Sharon Sliwinski; Deep shit: thoughts on Wim Delvoye's Cloaca project, Isabelle Loring Wallace. Section III Myth as Method: A new Parrhasius: Duane Hanson's uncanny realism, Elizabeth Mansfield; Over and over, again and again, Emma Cocker; Video art in the house of Hades, Sophie-Isabelle Dufour. Section IV Epilogue: The Sphinx unwinds her own sweet self, Joanna Frueh; Bibliography; Index.