The Invisible Dragon by Dave Hickey

The Invisible Dragon: Essays on Beauty and Other Matters

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Publisher: Art Issues Press, ISBN9798987596500, Author: Dave Hickey, Format: Hardcover, 229 x 146 mm, 160pp

This 30th-anniversary edition of Dave Hickey's classic work commingles the original essays on beauty and art with five previously uncollected essays whose subjects range from Dolly Parton, to Richard Pryor, to John Rechy. Hickey's book was in part an attempt to make beauty visible under the looming presence of death and bodily decay – only now can we fully appreciate how artists continue to harness beauty as a source of meaning and joy.Hickey's 1974 profile of Dolly Parton anticipates Dolly’s longevity as a cultural and feminist icon; his appreciation of Richard Pryor weaves an elegiac tapestry; his review of John Rechy’s seminal gay novel Numbers outs its literary innovation in the face of a homophobia that otherwise ghettoized it; and his singular essay on Ed Ruscha, a paragon of arts writing by an extraordinary prose stylist, enjoins us to listen to art, not just look at it.

An afterword by Hickey’s friend and Dragon’s editor “queers” the brash, heterosexual gambler as it situates the creation of Dragon squarely within the AIDS pandemic. 1993: the AIDS pandemic rages through yet another decade, leaving society and the arts devastated and bereft. Dave Hickey sits down to produce a slim volume, The Invisible Dragon. The book ignites a firestorm, and from its ashes “beauty” again rises as a dominant force in artistic life. Academics argue about theoretical minutiae. Artists pass the book around like a samizdat. Dave Hickey (1938–2021) was one of the pre-eminent arts and cultural writers of the turn of the 21st century. A MacArthur "Genius" Fellow known as the "beauty guy” in the popular press, Hickey opened A Clean, Well-Lighted Place gallery in Austin, Texas, in the 1960s, before becoming executive editor at Art in America magazine. In the 1970s, he was a songwriter in Nashville, Tennessee, where he coined and helped create the “Outlaw country” music movement. By the 1990s, Hickey had made a home in Las Vegas, from where he regularly travelled to speak with audiences worldwide.