Surrealist Last Stands and Hangings: Why Louise Bourgeois' and Robert Gober's Feminist and Queer Uncanny Survive the Treachery of Art History

December 30, 2014 9:49 PM

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Two concurrent exhibitions in New York at the end of 2014 prove that the Surrealist legacy still informs some of the most vital and psychologically compelling art of the late 20th century--as it still informs, albeit critically and via ironic realignments, a good deal of contemporary art today. The Heart Is Not A Metaphor, the Robert Gober retrospective at MoMA, and Suspensions, the small but enthralling exhibition of suspended sculptures by Louise Bourgeois at Cheim Read Gallery, both derive their power in large part from the near century-old Surrealist project of exposing and mediating the Uncanny. Or to put it in contemporary terms, both prove it is still possible to simulate the Uncanny in a culture tolerant of open sexuality with little need to secret away representations of flesh and genitalia within fetishistic stand-ins.

Finessing virtuoso compositions of the Uncanny in an age of open sexuality and within art world obsessed with The New is no small achievement, given that the Uncanny is a concept derived from the 19th-century German Idealist philosophy of Hegel and Schelling to explain experiences of discomfort. It ...

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