Sex & Violence, Death & Silence
‘Pop art was famously about "liking things", as Warhol once said. The first American Pop artists, like their English counterparts, were looking outward at the world around them rather than focusing on their emotional reactions to it. They were among the first to understand the desire of consumers to change their lives through the purchase of clean, manufactured commodities. YBA, on the other hand, was more interested in the dirt that accrues beneath the laminate surface of shiny things. Its artists were drawn to abject and degraded materials, to the banal and dejected, to signifiers of death and decay. The trick, though, was to tell it in a jaunty, unportentous, offhand, unliterary -
- way ... And then there were the drugs.’
Spanning nearly thirty-five years, Sex & Violence, Death & Silence is a collection of the best of Gordon Burn’s writing on art. Focusing on two principle generations - the Royal College Pop art of Hockney and his contemporaries, and the YBA sensations of the 1990s - it explores how these artists rose to prominence with their friends and contemporaries, and what happened next.
Burn’s work is fast becoming a kind of chronicle. Its factuality always connects with the broader poetic rhythms of cultural life. Displaying all his customary insight and empathy, his writing adds up to much more than a collection of pieces on art: superbly evocative and engaging, it offers a pathway through two of the most important and vibrant periods in recent art history, and is another compelling and ruminative look at our culture.
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