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. Artists Carolee Schneemann, Martha Edelheit, Marjorie Strider, Hannah Wilke, and Anita Steckel created works that exemplify these innovative approaches to the erotic, exploring female sexual subjectivities and destabilizing 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.
“Traversing movements from Happenings to Pop to Postminimalism, Radical Eroticism demonstrates how compelling and contentious a topic eroticism was during the pivotal decade of the 1960s. With detailed discussions of the bold ways that heterosexual women artists foregrounded their sexuality as confrontational, critical, and political, Radical Eroticism makes an important contribution to the literature on Sixties art and adds to the revisions of its history that locate sex and gender as defining characteristics of the decade.”—David J. Getsy, Goldabelle McComb Finn Distinguished Professor of Art History, School of the Art Institute of Chicago
“Rachel Middleman uncovers an important history of erotic art practices by women, one that needs to be written back into narratives of contemporary art. She demonstrates how artists such as Schneemann, Strider, Wilke, and Steckel carved out spaces for female heterosexual identity and sexual pleasure in a genre long dominated by men. It will be a crucial resource for future studies of contemporary women’s erotic art and the sexual politics of erotic representations.”—Susan Richmond, Associate Professor of Art History, Georgia State University