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The Living Line
Modern Art and the Economy of Energy
Robin Veder

Interfaces: Studies in Visual Culture

2015 • 424 pp. 132 illus. (25 color) 6 1/8 x 9 1/4"
Dance / Modern Art / American Art / Kinesthetics

$45.00 Paperback, 978-1-61168-724-8
$85.00 Hardcover, 978-1-61168-723-1

$39.99 Ebook, 978-1-61168-725-5

Check your ebook retailer or local library for ebook availability.

(Hardcover is un-jacketed.
Cover illustration is for paperback edition only)

“Veder’s investigations establish connections among visual artists, patrons of modernism, progressive educational theorists such as John Dewey, and modern dance choreographer Ted Shawn, which demonstrates the breadth and popularity of... [continued in Reviews below]”—Choice

The role of body movement in the formation of American modernism

Robin Veder’s The Living Line is a radical reconceptualization of the development of late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century American modernism. The author illuminates connections among the histories of modern art, body cultures, and physiological aesthetics in early-twentieth-century American culture, fundamentally altering our perceptions about art and the physical, and the degree of cross-pollination in the arts.

The Living Line shows that American producers and consumers of modernist visual art repeatedly characterized their aesthetic experience in terms of kinesthesia, the sense of bodily movement. They explored abstraction with kinesthetic sensibilities and used abstraction to achieve kinesthetic goals. In fact, the formalist approach to art was galvanized by theories of bodily response derived from experimental physiological psychology and facilitated by contemporary body cultures such as modern dance, rhythmic gymnastics, physical education, and physical therapy. Situating these complementary ideas and exercises in relation to enduring fears of neurasthenia, Veder contends that aesthetic modernism shared industrial modernity’s objective of efficiently managing neuromuscular energy.

In a series of finely grained and interconnected case studies, Veder demonstrates that diverse modernists associated with the Armory Show, the Société Anonyme, the Stieglitz circle (especially O’Keeffe), and the Barnes Foundation participated in these discourses and practices and that “kin-aesthetic modernism” greatly influenced the formation of modern art in America and beyond.

This daring and completely original work will appeal to a broad audience of art historians, historians of the body, and American culture in general.

Click here for TABLE OF CONTENTS

Reviews / Endorsements

“Veder’s investigations establish connections among visual artists, patrons of modernism, progressive educational theorists such as John Dewey, and modern dance choreographer Ted Shawn, which demonstrates the breadth and popularity of body culture ideas and practices among the avant-garde of the pre–WW II US. . . . Recommended.”—Choice

The Living Line offers the most incisive reading I know of the art of the pre–World War II avant-garde. Robin Veder’s book illuminates in highly original ways the powerful and hitherto little-noticed influence of physiological aesthetics and body cultures on the artists, writers, and patrons who created American modernism.”—Alan Wallach, Ralph H. Wark Professor of Art and Art History emeritus, the College of William and Mary

The Living Line describes a version of American modernism characterized by a widespread fascination with physical experiences and embodied ways of knowing. This ‘kin-aesthetic modernism,’ in Robin Veder’s mobile analysis, can accommodate the visual arts, modern dance and performance, body cultures like Delsartism, psychological aesthetic theories, and even Taylorized approaches to industrial and military efficiency. From 1890-1930, kinaesthesia was understood as humanity’s sixth sense, the loss of which might very well be our deprivation. This is interdisciplinary modernist studies at its best.”
—Carrie J. Preston, associate professor of English, Boston University

“One of the distinguishing features of The Living Line is Veder’s attention to the literal, physical ways in which her body cultures altered an artist’s working habits and therefore directly shaped the look of their art. . . . [It] is a rich and extraordinarily detailed picture of the early twentieth-century ‘period body.’” —Oxford University Press Journals, Year's Work in Critical and Cultural Theory, 2016

“Attentive to the rich culture of body-reform—muscular empathy, spines, handwriting, dance, physiological aesthetics—The Living Line skillfully draws a line between modernist animation and abstraction, revealing an aesthetic in which the strenuous life receives its answer in the bracing aesthetics of modernism. Robin Veder makes an important case for kinesthetic self-awareness as central to the work of Arthur B. Davis, Georgia O’Keefe, Katherine Dreier, John Dewey and many other American artists and thinkers.”—Tim Armstrong, professor of modern literature, Royal Holloway, University of London

The Living Line is a stunningly original history of early American modernism. By analyzing art in relation to modern dance and other body cultures such as functional and rhythmic exercise systems, Robin Veder restores the long-neglected principle of physiological aesthetics to its rightful position as the engine of early twentieth-century modernist thought and creative action. This is a book that will radically refresh our ideas about the art and artists of that vital and exciting time.”—Sarah Burns, professor emeritus of art history, Indiana University


Runner-up for the Charles C. Eldredge Prize

ROBIN VEDER is an associate professor of humanities and art history/visual culture, Pennsylvania State University, Harrisburg.

Thu, 14 Mar 2019 13:07:59 -0500