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"WACK!" What a cover

Posted by Jan Gardner  April 23, 2007 09:18 AM

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MIT Press has published "WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution,'' the doorstop-sized catalog for a new exhibit out in LA of feminist art.

In 512 pages it provides a rich history of women artists, but what's getting all the attention is the cover (see it here) with a couple dozen slim, naked women. (The work of art is Martha Rosler's "Body Beautiful, or Beauty Knows No Pain: Hot House, or Harem,'' 1966-72 and it's shown in full in a centerspread inside.)

Scroll down below the cover for a heated discussion about its merits. Is the cover feminist or anti-feminist? Is it empowering or exploitative?

New York Times art critic Holland Carter weighed in, writing in his review of the international exhibit that the catalog cover "needs rethinking. Martha Rosler's sardonic collage of Playboy centerfold nudes loses its point out of context and turns into just another sex-sells pitch.''

His comment raised the ire of Lorraine Wild,who designed the cover with a colleague. She rebuts Carter's view in her March 9 post.

Whatever side you're on -- if you're even taking sides -- the back-and-forth is invigorating. And if you want to see the exhibit for youself, it arrives in Washington, D.C., this fall and in New York early in 2008.

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Nicole Lamy is editor of the Globe's Books section.
Jan Gardner writes the "Shelf Life" column for the Globe's Books section.
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