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Objects as History in Twentieth-Century German Art

Beckmann to Beuys

Peter Chametzky (Author)

Available worldwide

Hardcover, 304 pages
ISBN: 9780520260429
November 2010
$85.00, £66.00
This book provides a stimulating overview of twentieth-century German art, focusing on some of the period's key works by Max Beckmann, George Grosz, Hannah Höch, Willi Baumeister, Arno Breker, Joseph Beuys, and Gerhard Richter. In Peter Chametzky's innovative approach, these works become representatives rather than representations of twentieth-century history. That is, the art here does not simply illustrate an argument, the art is the argument. Chametzky draws on both scholarly and popular sources to demonstrate how the works (and in some cases, the artists themselves) interacted with, and even enacted, historical events, processes, and ideas. He asserts the continued historical role of material art works in an era when less material forms--photography, film, television, video, digital images--have assumed the function of visually depicting contemporary history.
Peter Chametzky is Professor of Art History and Chair of the Art Department at the University of South Carolina. He is a contributor to The Built Surface: Architecture and the Pictorial Arts from Romanticism to the Twenty-First Century.
“Chametzky’s book offers an interesting theoretical analysis of German art. Its sources and documentation are abundant. Chametzky’s knowledge of German art is impressive.”—Yves Laberge German Studies Review
“Compelling. . . . [Chametzky includes] appropriate critical/theoretical and cultural/historical background throughout.”—Shelley Cordulack, Millikin University European Legacy
"Reading Peter Chametzky's book feels like receiving a gift: his contextual analyses of German art objects are mobile, generous, and erudite; well-written stories of how the objects' meanings changed and continue to change in the turmoil of history. In addition, selections of the text comprise a fascinating cultural history of alterity told not as a story of Jewish deaths but as one of complex Jewish lives and their significant impact on modern and contemporary Germany's cultural trajectories. Highly recommended and engrossing to read."—Maud Lavin, author of Push Comes to Shove: New Images of Aggressive Women

"This engaging book asks fundamental questions about the object in history and how meaning in art is produced and altered over time. Seamlessly weaving together discourses on gender, the body, ethnicity, film, mass media, and art history, Chametzky deftly explores German art from modernism to post-modernism through cogent case studies drawn from the Wilhelmine, Weimar, Nazi, Cold War, and Reunification eras. His perceptive ventures into such areas as Dada, the machine, and hitherto overlooked Jewish utopian thought provide fresh insights on German art and culture."—Timothy O. Benson, author of Raoul Hausmann and Berlin Dada

"In this wide-ranging and remarkable book, Peter Chametzky attends to some of the most important German artists of the twentieth century, all of whom were in one way or another deeply affected by war. Richly researched and full of fresh insights about both canonical and little-known drawings, photomontages, sculpture, and paintings, it exponentially expands our knowledge of the artists who made them. By examining the work in multiple contexts, often in tandem with other media like photography and film, it also reminds us time and again that all art objects are embedded in and thus defined and redefined by an ever-changing present. Theoretically sophisticated yet beautifully written in jargon-free prose, this major contribution to cultural history is, quite simply, a must-read not just for those interested in Germany's conflicted twentieth-century, but, also and more generally, for anyone concerned with how art objects mean."—Maria Makela, California College of the Arts

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