About this book
One of the powers of art is its ability to convey the human aspects of political events, ranging from war to revolution to sexual liberation. Art can also transform society, a theme that pervades this fascinating survey on art, artists, and anarchism since the nineteenth century.
In numerous essays, Allan Antliff interrogates moments of engagement when artists, poets, philosophers, and critics have confronted pivotal events over the past 140 years. The survey begins with artist Gustave Courbet and writer Emile Zola's activism during the 1871 Paris Commune (which established the modern-day French republic), and ends with an examination of anarchist art during the fall of the Soviet empire. Other subjects include the Neo-Impressionists and their depictions of the homeless in the 1890s; the Dada movement in New York City during World War I; the decline of the Russian Avant-Garde during the 1920s and 30s; the West Coast Beats of the 1940s and 50s; the Modernists of the 1960s, 70s, and 80s; and anarchistic responses to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 by visual artists.
Exploring art's potential as a vehicle for meaningful social change from an anarchist perspective, Allan Antliff throws new light on what it means to be radical.
This insightful and clearly-written collection of essays explores a broad and exciting range of responses to anarchist theory and politics by artists and other creative intellectuals between the 1860s and the late twentieth century. Using an approach that combines scholarly rigor with a lively and politically-committed voice, Antliff shows how diverse the connections have been between aesthetic innovation and anarchist activism. An indispensable contribution to the history of art and the field of anarchist studies.
―Robyn Roslak, author of Neo-Impressionism and Anarchism in Fin-de-Siècle France: Painting, Politics and Landscape
A very readable book that brings theory and philosophy together with art, music, history, economics, and politics. From Proudhonian art criticism and the Paris Commune, to the mechanist Marxism of constructivist theater in post-revolutionary Russia, to Richard Mock's linocuts addressing the horrors of the first Gulf War, Antliff is convincing in his ability to link artistic and anarchist themes, to write a new history that brings to life many forgotten or obscured aspects of both these worlds.
―Richard J.F. Day, author of Gramsci is Dead
Allan Antliff is becoming an important and productive writer on anarchist history.
―Seven Oaks Magazine
A thoughtful discussion of art's potential as a conduit for revolution and meaningful social change.
―Midwest Book Review
[The book] reminds us of the potent status once accorded to art in the West, the fact that dissident artists could be--and often were--bankrupted, exiled, or even executed for disturbing the peace.... Anarchy and Art is an excellent guide to the rebel yells of the past.
―Quill & Quire
Antliff's research has yielded a new theoretical insight into a genre not often considered.... Anarchism, as Emma Goldman noted, stands for the liberation of the human mind and for "free access to the earth and full enjoyment of the necessities of life, according to individual desires, tastes, and inclinations." Anarchist artists have heeded this motto, and the diversity of their visual imagination is richly captured in this book.
In this accessible, well-researched history, Allan Antliff provides an episodic guide to the varied and often surprising ways artists have explicitly sought to give form to anarchist principles through their works over the last 150 years; in doing so, he has given a convincing boost to the idea of art as an effective forum for political activism.
Passionate and readable .... Antliff manages to produce an interesting and konwledgeable commentary.
The tenuous relationship between fine art and radical politics emerges clearly in Antliff's conceptualization of political art.... the book provides strong material on how art can serve anarchistic ideas.
―Left History magazine