This month in CAA Reviews, Katie M. J. Larson discusses Flashback, Eclipse: The Political Imaginary of Art in the 1960s by Romy Golan.Click here to learn more about the book. Click here to read the full review. An excerpt appears below:
“Romy Golan’s book, Flashback, Eclipse: The Political Imaginary of Italian Art in the 1960s, proposes a new methodological approach to thinking about art made during that volatile decade. Rather than a chronological account of the period, Golan puts forth the theoretical and temporal models of the flashback, eclipse, and mise en abyme as a means to draw out the ambiguities and ellipses that characterized its art. Such a strategy reveals, she suggests, suppressed memories of Italian fascism as well as ‘various liberatory moments of political and cultural resistance,’ or what the author terms the political imaginary’ of artists, curators, and critics during the 1960s.
Golan’s approach offers a valuable model by which to consider contemporary Italian artists’ complicated relationship to their cultural inheritance. Italy offers a unique case study because its historical avant-garde espoused right- rather than left-wing utopian aspirations, becoming active first in nationalist and later in fascist activities. As a result, in postwar Italy there emerged the myth of the ‘zero hour,’ which advocated for societal amnesia and cultural palingenesis. Yet this position ultimately proved untenable, particularly as the optimism of the economic miracle began to fade and social tensions reached a fever pitch. Golan’s study demonstrates the ways in which Italy’s contested past lingered and reemerged in its art, a phenomenon that has often remained unacknowledged in contemporary criticism and scholarship.”