Trauma in all its forms—internal and external, individual and collective—has been an enduring theme in 20th and 21st century art. The psychic effects of trauma on humans was famously investigated by Sigmund Freud a century ago and led to an entire field of inquiry now known as trauma studies. The proliferation of violent imagery, particularly since the increasing proliferation of mass media during and after World War II, has led to artworks that marshal consciousness of traumatic events and the cultural processing of them. These developments in art practice run parallel with the emergence of trauma studies, which confront the repercussions of many kinds of traumatic events: the Holocaust, global conflict, sexual violence, systemic racism, and gender discrimination.
Psychic Wounds brings together a cross-section of global artists from the mid-twentieth century to the present, all of whom have addressed trauma in their work. Artists in the catalogue include Gerhard Richter, Kazuo Shiraga, Louise Bourgeois, Kiki Smith, Glenn Ligon, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Carrie Mae Weems, Cindy Sherman, Bruce Nauman, Anicka Yi, and many others. With an introduction by the exhibition curator, Gavin Delahunty, the book also contains an anthology of critical writings on trauma by other curators, art historians, and theorists, among them Robert Storr, Griselda Pollock, Huey Copeland, and Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev.