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The Invisible Dragon: Essays on Beauty Paperback – 16 Oct 2012

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Product details

  • Paperback: 152 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press; Revised edition edition (16 Oct 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226333191
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226333199
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.3 x 18.4 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 465,848 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"Dave Hickey's writing is exhilarating and deeply engaging. At its best, Dragon is both a time capsule of a period when dirty pictures could dismantle institutions and a provocation to reignite the conversation about the purpose of art." (Newsweek)"

About the Author

Dave Hickey writes cultural criticism. He is former executive editor of Art in America and the author of Air Guitar. He has served as a contributing editor for the Village Voice and as the arts editor of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. He is now a professor of English at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 19 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
The wait is over! 7 Jun 2009
By Allyson - Published on
Format: Hardcover
As a graduate student I poured over these essays originally bound in a tattered soft cover I found at an obscure used book store. Years later, I'm still a fan of Hickey's cowboy-like mentality, wit and contemporary vernacular (most prevalent in "Air Guitar"). With my copy beyond repair, a few years ago I even contacted Art Issues Press in hopes for a copy and learned that a new edition was in the works. (They still sent me a nice clean photo-copy of the original.) This "revised and expanded" edition has reignited a lively debate amongst my peers and colleagues regarding the art market, the concept of beauty, and, of course, the sublime. This book belongs on the shelf of everyone associated with the arts.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
The Adam Smith of Art Criticism 15 Aug 2012
By Katya Cohen - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I fully understand David Hickey's impulse in writing these essays. The strongest essay being the one in which he reacts to the Academy's defense (or not) of Robert Maplethorpe during the culture wars of the 80's. I thought it was really incisive and a truly creative way of seeing things, and it gave me a lot to think about. As to his more general thoughts on Beauty, the essays themselves are cogent and in the abstract, if not in the particulars, convincing.

Hickey is basically ranting against the "Academy" (or Art Establishment), and not because he sees it as colluding with the market, like some reviewer inferred, in fact, quite au contraire. In these essays Hickey defends the marketplace for being the ultimate arbiter, through democratic wrangling, of value, beauty, and meaning.

Again, I do get the impulse behind this kind of thinking. It must be born of years of looking at too much uninspiring art sanctioned by the Academy due to its prescriptive value instead of that thing that good art can do, which is move us in ways that perhaps will always remain essentially undefinable. And boy is there ever a lot of that crap out there passing for Art (and the word Art still implies "good", even after all these years since Greenberg).

Hickey decries the Academy (in which he includes even what I find to be our no-real-lover-of-the-arts Government) for funding such art on the basis of it being "good for us" instead of "making us happy". And he does this by riffing on the Declaration of Independence and by quoting Thomas Paine. And again, I feel his pain; but I think his approach might be simplistic. In essence, Hickey calls for Beauty to be determined in the Forum, the laissez-faire marketplace. Given that in this day and age a lot of the art sanctioned by the Academy has precisely to do with investigating the deleterious effects of the market on the production of "true" art, I can see where he might have ruffled some feathers; and I smile at the thought of that.

I love his attitude and his writing; and I viscerally feel what he is longing for, but his solution does not ring true. And I say this as a person who believes that markets work for the good of the people, most of the time; but even laissez-faire capitalism needs some regulation when decisions made according to its principles do more harm than good. The market alone has made as many mistakes about what is good art as the Academy has. Norman Rockwell is still crap, as is Thomas Kincaid. Unfettered democracy might produce what the people want, and Hickey has the right to slap the word "Beautiful" on the result; but I don't think it's that easy. That being said, the book is a good read and gets one really involved in determining and arguing one's own value system.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Acerbic, defiant, anti-obtuse book that will stir up debates 6 July 2009
By S. Koterbay - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The old edition of this book had been out of print long enough that it's started to become a serious collector's item, and rightfully so. These essays are charged with ideas that provoke conversation wherever and whenever they are dropped amidst artists and art critics. Do the come off sometimes as a little bit too confrontational? Is there a little bit too much of a twisting of the undergarments by Hickey, just for the fun of it sometimes? Of course. However, despite occasional lapses into mediocre sophomoric twitterings, there remains some substantial, serious thought throughout that is undeniable worth time and consideration.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Brilliant Provocation 28 Mar 2009
By Mr. Nowhere - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This short book of essays is essential reading in modern art and cultural criticism -- alternately illuminating and infuriating. It will get you thinking, seriously, in ways you haven't thought before -- and what more do we want from a critic? You will never consider "beauty" in quite the same way again.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
New edition is better than ever 9 Sep 2009
By Harriet Nethery - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This revised and expanded edition of the classic book, "The Invisible Dragon," lovingly designed and produced by the University of Chicago Press, is terrific--and even better than the first edition. A new essay on "American Beauty" proposes an aesthetics uniquely American, devolving from the Founders and thrown horribly off track by the commodity politics of the nineties, and especially of post 9/11. A new introduction by Hickey rounds out the offerings, making Invisible Dragon a great book for the new millennium.
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