Jacket Image

Enlarge Image

210 × 148 mm
192 pages
Paperback with flaps
45 illustrations
01 Sep 2006
  • £19.95

  • Print-on-demand edition
    [more info]
  • Buy Now

Retro The Culture of Revival Elizabeth E. Guffey

Flares are in. Flares are out. Flares are back again. Fads constantly cycle and recycle through popular culture, each time in a slightly new incarnation. The term ‘retro’ has become the buzz word for describing such trends, but what does it mean? Elizabeth Guffey explores here the ambiguous cultural meanings of the term and reveals why some trends just never seem to stay dead.

Drawing upon a wealth of original research and entertaining anecdotal material, Guffey unearths the roots of the term retro and chronicles its evolving manifestations in culture and art throughout the last century. Whether in art, design, fashion or music, the idea of retro has often meant a re-emergence of styles and sensibilities that evoke familiar touchstones of memory from the not-so-distant past. Guffey explores how and why the past keeps coming back to haunt us in a variety of forms, from the comeback of Art Nouveau nearly fifty years after its original decline, to the infusion of Art Deco into the kitsch glamour of Pop art, to the recent popularity over 1980s vogue. She also considers how advertisers and media have employed the power of such cultural nostalgia, using recycled television jingles, familiar old slogans and famous art to sell a surprising range of products.

An engrossing and wholly unprecedented study, Retro reveals how the past is embedded in the future of contemporary art and culture.

‘[an] enjoyable exploraton of retro chic . . . Guffey offers an intriguing investigation of our seduction by the past’ – The Independent

‘provides an interesting take on the various rapidly recycling revivals of the late 20th century . . . a thought-provoking read – it weaves in lots of fresh and stimulating material which adds to our understanding of the complexities of post war cultural life.’ – Building Design

‘This is an informative, interesting and provocative book that adds depth and complexity to many aspects of modern art and design history and to diverse related areas of academic study.’ – Journal of Design History

‘In this informative and lively book, Elizabeth Guffey cuts through the ambiguities of the term retro and examines its roots, evolution and myriad manifestations . . . Throughout, the book seeks to understand how and why the recent past has been transformed into a revolving door of pop historicism . . . Based on considerable original research and including rich anecdotal material, the book is aimed at all readers interested in retro as well as twentieth century art, design and consumer culture.’ – Concept for Living Magazine

‘fascinating . . . [a] persuasive and intelligent account.’ – Design Issues

‘Guffey’s analysis is an important complement to design-history books that gloss over cultural undercurrents that help shape the way things look.’ – Winterthur Portfolio

For more information about Retro and Elizabeth E. Guffey please visit the Retro: The Culture of Revival website

Show all

Elizabeth E. Guffey is an Associate Professor of Art and Design History at the State University of New York at Purchase. She is the author of Drawing an Elusive Line: The Art and Career of Pierre-Paul Prud'hon (2001). She is also vice-president of the Design Studies Forum.