The Householders: Robert Duncan and Jess

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Product Details

MIT Press
Publish Date
7.3 X 9.1 X 0.8 inches | 1.85 pounds
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About the Author

Tara McDowell is Associate Professor and Director of Curatorial Practice at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. She has worked as a curator at the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.


The Householders shows Duncan and Jess striving to put back together the small corner they occupied. After all, the collage aesthetic that permeated both men's creative output only holds when it has a solid foundation. McDowell reads their domestic life together-the household-as both this base and the glue.


Tara McDowell's The Householders allows the reader to peek behind the proverbial curtain of the enigmatic couple's life, and to gain an understanding of how their sacred domain nurtured their creative endeavors and spirits...The book is a stark reminder that the world's ever-shapeshifting perils (be it unrestrained greed, surveillance, or rise of autocracies) must contend with the might and resolve of united communities on the margins, chosen families, and the authentic, creative self.

--Flaunt Magazine

A rich study of the couple's life and work. McDowell enters into this household--a term for the creative, domestic space that she also uses as a byword for the couple's romantic-artistic relationship as they moved from house to house and city to city--to observe how it offered an alternative queer domestic model to the traditional one that dominated American life in the 1950s and how, in turn, it gave the couple a space and model for making their art.

--Brooklyn Rail

McDowell's book is a quartet of essays in which she meditates on the relationship between Duncan and Jess and their art and the spaces they shared, especially the Victorian house at 3267 20th Street in San Francisco, where they moved in the late 1960s and remained until their deaths.

--New York Review of Books