In the 1960s, the fascination with erotic art generated a wave of exhibitions and critical discussion on sexual freedom, visual pleasure, and the nude in contemporary art. Radical Eroticism examines the importance of women’s contributions in fundamentally reconfiguring representations of sexuality across several areas of advanced art—performance, pop, postminimalism, and beyond. This study shows that erotic art made by women was integral to the profound changes that took place in American art during the sixties, from the crumbling of modernist aesthetics and the expanding field of art practice to the emergence of the feminist art movement. The works of Carolee Schneemann, Martha Edelheit, Marjorie Strider, Hannah Wilke, and Anita Steckel exemplify the innovative approaches to the erotic that explored female sexual subjectivities and destabilized assumptions about gender. Rachel Middleman reveals these artists’ radical interventions in both aesthetic conventions and social norms.
Rachel Middleman is Assistant Professor of Art History at California State University, Chico.