Jonathan D. Katz works at the intersection of art history and queer history, one of the busiest intersections in American culture, and yet one of the least studied. A specialist in the arts of the Cold War era, he is centrally concerned with the question of why the American avant-garde came to be dominated and defined by queer artists during what was perhaps the single most homophobic decade in this nation’s history.
The four essay reproduced here all attempt to read the work of some of these central Cold War artists like John Cage, Jasper Johns, and Robert Rauschenberg in terms of resistance to dominant culture. But theirs’ was a queer kind of resistance, almost illegible as dissident, for it employed strategies like silence, chance, emptiness and coding to mark its distance from the dominant social historical climes. Paradoxically, these quiet, closeted forms of resistance soon came to define the American avant-garde across the board. These essays attempt to explain how and why.
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