New York State Writers InstituteUniversity Art Museum

Pulitzer Prize-Winning Cultural Historian

Michael Kammen
Michael Kammen

February 27, 2007

7:00 p.m. Reading & Discussion
UArt Museum
Fine Arts Building
Visual Shock

Michael Kammen, Pulitzer Prize-winning cultural historian, is the author most recently of "Visual Shock: A History of Art Controversies in American Culture" (2006, ISBN 1400041295). From the Washington Monument to the new 9/11 memorials, from the sculptures of Auguste Rodin to the photographs of Robert Mapplethorpe, art has always had the power to ignite fiery debates about aesthetics and morality. "Visual Shock" chronicles many of these battles while exploring the ways that "freedom of expression" has shaped American culture and politics.

"deep, richly detailed, and enlightening." - The "Boston Globe"

"Over the course of detailing myriad nineteenth- and twentieth-century art innovations and controversies, Kammen tells the fascinating story not only of artists overtly politicizing art but also of corresponding social change and backlash. Drawing on original sources, Kammen elucidates dramatic skirmishes over public art, race and gender issues, modernism and conceptualism, depictions of the American flag, and disputed museum exhibitions. Kammen's history of art considered shocking and art made to shock reveals that for all the controversy art arouses, efforts at censorship fail because even art's harshest critics value freedom of expression." - "Booklist" (starred review)

The author and editor of more than thirty books, Kammen received the Pulitzer Prize for "People of Paradox: An Inquiry Concerning the Origins of American Culture" (1972), and the Francis Parkman and Henry Adams Prizes for "A Machine That Would Go of Itself: The Constitution in American Culture" (1986).

He is also the recent author of "A Time to Every Purpose: The Four Seasons in American Culture" (2004), a lavishly illustrated exploration of the American attitude toward the seasonal cycle as depicted in art, literature and popular culture, from the works of Thoreau to modern advertising.

"a book as filled with wonder as the cycling of the seasons themselves." - "Boston Globe"

The event is cosponsored by the University Art Museum in conjunction with the exhibit "Mr. President," January 18 - April 1, 2007. "Mr. President" will feature works by over twenty-five contemporary artists who have created non-traditional portraits of United States presidents. Using various media including video, sculpture, drawing, and painting, these artists seek ways to penetrate the mythic perceptions of America's most powerful men by providing alternatives to the official portrait.

Times Union Article