Reading Response 1: Grotesque

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Frances S Connelly describes the grotesque as an era in modern expressionism that was meant to challenge traditional views of beauty and expression. The use of provocative imagery such as the dead decaying, communicates a transformative morphing from one life to the next.The grotesque in is aesthetics is limitless as it does not have to stick to standards of beauty. It speaks of the ever-changing form of the body as it is always being built and created, destroyed, and transformed into something new. We see this in the Otto Dix print above. The skull that is usually used to represent something that is dead and finished with life has remnants of the past life with the markers of identity being the hair on the head and above the lip of the skull. We also see live animals and maggots creating a home inside the skull, eating it way but also bringing life to the image. This what Connelly  would describe as the dance of death that many grotesque images communicate.


Another description of grotesque that Connelly offers is that grotesque images often displayed scenes that were uncommon to any civilized audience. When many people think of grotesque they think of the visceral, almost disgusting image much like the Dix print at the top of this post. But exposure to scenes that that are appalling is also executed in a more subtle narrative. We see this in the Goya print above where a pack of wild dogs attacks a white horse while a group of domestic dogs sit calmly beside the horrific event. The juxtaposition of domesticated dogs who sit comfortably without directly attacking or attempting to save the horse under the term “grotesque” sends a very political message. A message that says the apathy toward suffering of a bourgeoisie class is just as appalling and gross as a decaying skull.



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