Following an analysis of the work of Stanley Cavell, Arthur Danto, Umberto Eco, Susan Sontag, and other philosophers of the 1960s who made aesthetics more responsive to contemporary art, Kelly considers Sontag's aesthetics in greater detail. In On Photography (1977), she argues that a photograph of a person who is suffering only aestheticizes the suffering for the viewer's pleasure, yet she insists in Regarding the Pain of Others (2003) that such a photograph can have a sustainable moral-political effect precisely because of its aesthetics. Kelly considers this dramatic change to be symptomatic of a cultural shift in our understanding of aesthetics, ethics, and politics. He discusses these issues in connection with Gerhard Richter's and Doris Salcedo's art, chosen because it is often identified with the anti-aesthetic, even though it is clearly aesthetic. Focusing first on Richter's Baader-Meinhof series, Kelly concludes with Salcedo's enactments of suffering caused by social injustice. Throughout A Hunger for Aesthetics, he reveals the place of critique in contemporary art, which, if we understand aesthetics as critique, confirms that it is integral to art. Meeting the demand for aesthetics voiced by many who participate in art, Kelly advocates for a critical aesthetics that confirms the power of art.
Jenny Anger traces Walden’s aesthetic and intellectual roots to Franz Liszt and Friedrich Nietzsche—forebears who led him to embrace a literal and figurative mixing of the arts. She then places Der Sturm in conversation with New York’s Société Anonyme (1920–1950), an American avant-garde group modeled on Der Sturm and founded by Katherine Sophie Dreier, Marcel Duchamp, and Man Ray. Working against the tendency to examine artworks and artist groups in isolation, Anger underscores the significance of both organizations to the development and circulation of international modernism.
Focusing on the recurring metaphors of piano, glass, water, and home, Four Metaphors of Modernism interweaves a historical analysis of these two prominent organizations with an aesthetic analysis of the metaphors that shaped their practices, reconceiving modernism itself. Presented here is a modernism that is embodied, gendered, multisensory, and deeply committed to metaphor and a restoration of abstraction’s connection with the real.