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13. Michael G. Kammen, History

Michael Kammen
Kammen Book

Michael Kammen

Visual Shock: A History of Art Controversies in American Culture (Knopf, 2006). Americans’ relationship with art is Kammen’s journey through art controversies from the early years of the American Republic to the present. Among artists, critics, scholars, politicians, and citizens, art has always generated strong reactions. Kammen explores public reactions and debates in American history over the appropriateness of paintings, sculptures, memorials, and monuments. He examines the nature, diversity, and persistence of art disputes and shows what has changed since the 1830s—and why. He covers controversies, such as the statue of George Washington by sculptor Horatio Greenough, commissioned by Congress in 1833, which showed Washington as a bare-chested Greco-Roman deity enthroned on a pedestal, as well as the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, the NEA 4, and memorials for victims of 9/11. Kammen concludes that Americans have historically resisted modernism in its different phases and that a majority of Americans even disapprove of government support for the arts.

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