Pierre-Jacques Pernuit

2020 – 2021 Terra Foundation for American Art Predoctoral Fellow
Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne

Light In media res: The Art of Mobile Color in America, 1910–1970

The many-colored-light devices created by American artists between the 1910s and the early 1960s, such as Stanton Macdonald-Wright’s Color-Light-Machine, Thomas Wilfred’s Clavilux, or even Charles Dockum’s Mobile Color Projector, were considered a new medium for the fine arts by their creators and a cohort of critics. What was termed the new “art of Mobile Color” consisted of the projection of colored light through “visual organs” or other light devices of varying sizes onto screens in improvised, abstract compositions. Mobile Color artists considered their machines a technological improvement on the medium of painting and an alternative to such mediums as photography and film. The most emblematic example of Mobile Color is what the Danish-born artist Thomas Wilfred called lumia, an art which received significant institutional attention in postwar America.

My dissertation examines Mobile Color as an unexplored moment in the history of American art, critically overlooked as a significant early encounter between technology and avant-garde theories of abstraction. In the first half of the twentieth century, Mobile Color artists sought to implement technical solutions to aesthetic problems. My dissertation specifically examines the colored light machines that these artists created, interpreting them as a theory of art and technology put into mechanical form. I aim to contextualize Mobile Color within the art of its time by closely studying the discourse that accompanied these technological experiments at two different moments: their elaboration in the early decades of the twentieth century and their postwar exhibition in American museums.

Ali Printz

2020 – 2021 William H. Truettner Predoctoral Fellow
Tyler School of Art, Temple University

Appalachian Regionalism: Reimagining Modernism on the Periphery of American Art

“Appalachian Regionalism: Reimagining Modernism on the Periphery of American Art,” identifies the neglected Appalachian region as possessing its own unique regionalism in the history of American Art. I argue that artists working in Appalachia are distinct within the scope of modernism and beyond in that they have produced informed work that combines aspects of folklife, craft, and fine art, as well as religion, labor, and elements of flora and fauna characteristic of the region. Additionally, many of these artists have focused on elements of environmental exploitation, such as mining and timber clearcutting, and their pollutive, socioeconomic, and societal effects. By looking at these artists through a socio-art historical and ecocritical lens, one can trace both the toll that the industrial revolution took on the environment in one of the most exploited areas of the country and the need for its inclusion in Appalachian visual culture. Artists like David Gilmour Blythe, Robert C. Duncanson, Blanche Lazzell, and Charles Burchfield among countless others, focused on the Appalachian environment with a keen modernist eye, in hopes of giving agency to the beauty of the region and drawing attention to its cultural merits. The “Appalachian aesthetic” has been appropriated by American culture for centuries, but never given the credit that it deserves. In the wake of revisionist art histories that seek to be inclusive of marginalized peoples and misunderstood cultures, this project will explore the importance of Appalachian regionalism within American art and make the case for its addition to the canon of art history.

Z. Serena Qiu

2020 – 2021 Predoctoral Fellow
University of Pennsylvania

Visions of a Pacific Empire: The United States, China, and Japan at American World’s Fairs, 1876–1915

“Mounting Pacific Ambitions” asks how the United States’ spectacular displays of modernity at domestic world’s fairs around the turn of the century expressed transpacific imperial ambition. I assert that the United States crafted its self-image alongside and in response to the evolving imperial presentations of China and Japan on the international stage of expositions—especially as all three countries became increasingly bound in a competition that would reshape the image of Pacific empire from one of dynastic legacy to one of extraterritorial colonization. Through analyses of exposition-related architecture, print media, painting, craft objects, and human exhibits, I demonstrate how China, Japan, and the United States collectively enforced an increasing alignment between imperialism and modernization. Doing so reveals how the coincident emergence of transpacific travel, mass media technologies, and international spectacles in industrial America gave rise to an imperial aesthetic with geopolitical consequences.

Three chapters and a conclusion engage expositions between 1876 and 1915—each staged nearer to the Pacific coast than the last—to explore how the United States’ fervor for world’s fairs enabled competitive imperial posturing with China and Japan. Chapter one asks how American print representations of East Asian labor at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial belie anxieties about industrial progress. Chapter two traces negotiations of sovereignty through anthropological representations at the 1893 Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition. Chapter three asks how oil painting at the 1904 St. Louis Louisiana Purchase Exposition became a key instrument in legitimating imperialist cultural supremacy. The conclusion questions the United States’ iconographic self-positioning as the modern gateway between the Pacific and Atlantic worlds at the 1915 San Francisco Panama-Pacific International Exposition.

Giuseppe Rizzo

2020 – 2021 Predoctoral Fellow
Ruprecht Karl Universität

Transmission of Taste and Techniques for Bronze Sculpture from Florence to the United States, 1850–1900

My research will examine the transmission of taste and techniques for monumental bronze sculptures from Florence to the United States, where bronze became a favored medium for public symbols from the mid-nineteenth century onwards. It will examine the contribution of Clemente Papi, Royal Founder in Bronze (1843–1875), who created the most important bronze foundry in Europe in the 1830s and reintroduced the ancient lost wax technique. It will study the how Papi’s work was discussed, publicized, and taken up in the US. Papi exhibited statues at the 1853 New York World’s Fair and created the first US public statues in bronze, all made using the lost wax technique, including that of Daniel Webster (1858, Hiram Powers, Senate House, Boston) and The Falconer (1874, George Simonds, Central Park, New York). American sculptors and writers who spent time in Florence, such as Henry Kirke Brown, Wetmore Story, and Truman Howe Bartlett, looked to Papi and his foundry as a source of important information and inspiration about bronze and the lost wax technique, which was introduced in the US in the 1890s. Important American sculptors such as W.G. Turner, R.H. Park, P. Powers, F.E. Triebel, as well as the Florentine-American G. Trentanove, used Papi’s foundry after his death to cast their statues.

Allison Robinson

2020 – 2021 Predoctoral Fellow
University of Chicago

The Political Biography of Dolls: Pedagogy and Reform through Work Projects Administration Programming, 1933–1946

Histories of Progressive Era reform, such as that of the American Arts and Crafts Movement, traditionally end in 1929 and often far earlier. My dissertation argues that a second generation of craft adherents who came of age during the movement’s heyday repurposed its core tenets and used them to design programs through the Work Projects Administration. Entitled “The Political Biography of Dolls: Pedagogy and Reform through Work Project Administration Programing, 1933–1946,” my dissertation examines four WPA programs that used the surge in federal funding to introduce tax-supported institutions to Progressive Era ideas through dolls. I explore how WPA administrators borrowed design and production theories from the Arts and Crafts movement to make the dolls. I push my research further to bring race and childhood into the history of the Arts and Crafts Movement by investigating how the dolls portrayed stereotypes and different categories of identity, teaching children lessons about race, gender, and Americanness through play. I will combine documentary, material, and oral research to conduct my research, consulting resources crucial to my project at the National Museum of American History and the Archives of American Art.

Ana Rodriguez

2020 – 2021 SAAM Latinx Art Predoctoral Fellow
Courtauld Institute of Art

Outbound/Inbound: Tracing Puerto Rican Graphic Arts, 1940s–1960s

My research at SAAM concerns the work of Puerto Rican graphic artists from the immediate aftermath of the Great Depression to the 1950s and 1960s peak in printmaking on the island. I will focus on figures such as Lorenzo Homar, Rafael Tufiño, José Antonio Torres Martinó, and Carlos Raquel Rivera, who, as part of the “Generación del 50,” revolutionized the arts during the period of radical political transition marked by the 1952 designation of the island as an official US Commonwealth. Though deeply tied to the local context, Puerto Rican graphic artists also lived abroad and traveled extensively. My research challenges notions of the Puerto Rican graphic arts movement as a limited insular manifestation and traces the far-reaching networks that local printmakers established with international artists and workshops, particularly from the United States and Latin America, including Antonio Frasconi, Rufino Tamayo, and Ben Shahn, in addition to American New Deal artists Edwin and Louise Rosskam and Irene and Jack Delano, who settled on the island. These cross-cultural links unearth fresh aspects of local artists’ eclectic social-realist visual language, political reasoning, and commitment to social issues, while situating the Puerto Rican graphic arts movement within the wider cultural landscape of the postwar era.

This fellowship received Federal support from the Latino Initiatives Pool, administered by the Smithsonian Latino Center.

Sirpa Salenius

2020 – 2021 Terra Foundation for American Art Senior Fellow
University of Eastern Finland

Edmonia Lewis, Sallie Mercer, and Sarah Remond: Nineteenth-Century African American Women in Italy

This project fills a gap in transatlantic, gender, and African American studies by focusing on three black women who lived and worked in Rome and Florence during the second half of the nineteenth century: the sculptor Edmonia Lewis (c. 1844–1907), abolitionist and obstetrician Sarah Parker Remond (1826–1894), and Sallie Mercer (c. 1828–1894), the assistant of actress Charlotte Cushman. I will consult primary sources including correspondence, diaries, scrapbooks, and folders produced by these three women and by expatriates and travelers who met or heard of Lewis, Mercer, and/or Remond while living in Rome and Florence, so as to construct an understanding of the challenges and opportunities the three black women encountered when moving from the United States to Italy. I will also look at photographs, paintings, drawings, and sculptures of and by them to form a better understanding of their realities and the context in which they negotiated their identities. Thus, the project will explore Lewis, Mercer, and Remond in the context of travel, cultural encounters, and crossing of borders—be they national, cultural, intellectual or related to gender, class, ‘race,’ or sexuality. In Italy, where they had access to acculturation, education, professional success, and social ascent, Lewis, Mercer, and Remond could reinvent their identities, both as women and as African Americans.

Howard Singerman

2020 – 2021 Senior Fellow
Hunter College

Acts of Art and Cinque: Networks and Geographies of Black Art in Manhattan, 1969–1975

This project explores two gallery spaces established for African American artists in Greenwich Village in 1969: Cinque Gallery, founded by Spiral members Romare Bearden, Ernest Critchlow, and Norman Lewis, and housed in the Public Theater’s building on Lafayette Street; and Acts of Art, first on Bedford Street and then on Charles Street in the West Village. In 1971, Acts of Art was the site of the Black Emergency Cultural Coalition’s response to the Whitney Museum’s Contemporary Black Artists in America, an exhibition entitled Black Artists in Rebuttal to the Whitney Museum, and mounted the first exhibition of “Where We At,” a collective of Black women artists. In various published documents, the founders of both galleries make clear that the decision to open downtown was an intentional and pragmatic response to the geography of a still segregated mainstream art world. Through exhibition records and membership lists, interviews with surviving artists and community members, and the materials held in a number of collections both public and private, this project will map the networks of Black artists showing at Cinque and Acts of Art and working in the Village and the Lower East Side in the 1960s and 1970s. Further, it will situate those networks and institutions not only in relation to the white art world, but also to communities of artists in Harlem that consciously rejected that art world and its audiences.

Amanda Thompson

2020 – 2021 Predoctoral Fellow
Bard Graduate Center

Piecing Relations: Miccosukee and Seminole Patchwork, Craft, and the Mediation of Settler Colonial Encounters

The characteristic patchwork made by the Native Florida Seminole and Miccosukee peoples emerged as an art form in the early twentieth century at a time of heightened settler colonial impact on Seminole life ways. Makers crafted patchwork in response to the opportunities and limitations created under these conditions. Non-Native materials and technologies enabled the form just as imposed ecological change disrupted subsistence practices and legal restrictions limited economic engagement. As patchwork became a central aspect of Seminole cultural distinction, Seminole women identified the economic potential in its demonstration to and consumption by outsiders in the burgeoning tourist economy of southern Florida.

Patchwork has since been the focus of tourist attractions, missionization efforts, Bureau of Indian Affairs development schemes, and appropriation by settler hobbyist crafters and fashion designers. Examining the role of patchwork in the intercultural contexts of tourism, development, and appropriation, my research aims to understand how and why patchwork functions as a cultural mediator in settler colonial encounters. My project has two primary, interrelated arguments: that patchwork has been a site of Native agency in adaptation to the impacts of settler colonialism; and that the conceived correlation of Seminole patchwork to settler craft traditions both enabled the movement of patchwork in these contexts and made patchwork a site of negotiation for Native-settler relations. By seeking to understand the relationship between the reception of Native making and the discourses of settler craft traditions, I work to remedy the historical isolation of these two topics and identify how the dynamics of settler colonialism have conditioned the critical history of craft in the United States and marginalized Native cultural expressions.

Lauren van Haaften-Schick

2020 – 2021 Predoctoral Fellow
Cornell University

Collaboration, Critique, and Reform in Art and Law: Origins and Afterlives of "The Artist’s Contract" (1971)

The intersections of art and law are rarely considered. Yet, every jurisdiction has laws limiting the rights of collectors and granting protections to artists (and vice-versa), and contractual terms can impact how art is made, acquired, and exhibited. Artists have also engaged the law in order to critique and reform it. In the 1960s-’70s, as artists in the U.S. challenged accepted aesthetic forms through conceptual practices, they also questioned property and power relations concerning art by experimenting with agreements and dematerialized media, advocating for artists’ rights laws, and protesting inequity. My dissertation examines this period of legal experimentation and activism by following the circulation of the iconic The Artist’s Reserved Rights Transfer and Sale Agreement, developed by conceptual art curator-dealer Seth Siegelaub and lawyer Robert Projansky in New York in 1971. “The Artist’s Contract” was envisioned to become the standard agreement between artists and collectors when works are sold. Its aesthetic and linguistic form was influenced by conceptual art certificates that challenged art as commodity and as the property of collectors, and its purpose was spurred by artists’ activism to control who could own their work and how. It also emerged in tandem with the rise of the women’s movement in art. The Artist’s Contract has been seen by many as a failure, for its uptake was minimal and it did not yield an equitable art market. Nonetheless, it is an emblem of artists’ rights, foundational within the adjacent field of Art Law, and continues to be reanimated by artists today. My dissertation alters art history’s narrative that the Contract failed by tracing its circulations to reveal unmapped afterlives, as artists invoked it to advocate for resale royalties legislation, to critique the market, and to promote equal rights for women. By exposing these overlooked intersections of art and law, the Contract emerges as a vehicle for imagining how relations of ownership, authorship, equity, and power in art, law, and culture could be reconceived.

Rachel Vogel

2020 – 2021 Patricia and Phillip Frost Predoctoral Fellow
Harvard University

"The Machine that Makes the Art": Printmaking and Conceptual Practice, 1965–1980

The 1960s witnessed two simultaneous but seemingly contradictory artistic developments: the rise of conceptual art and the flourishing of the American Print Renaissance. Conceptualism launched a revolutionary attack on the existing art world by proposing that the idea was more important than the finished object. In contrast, the American Print Renaissance marked a return to the traditional techniques and skilled production that conceptual art supposedly eschewed. Given these divergent aims, perhaps it is no wonder that scholars have not yet addressed the fact that throughout the 1960s and 1970s, almost every major North American conceptual artist turned to the medium of print. My dissertation examines the pervasiveness of this phenomenon and argues that printmaking was critically important to how these artists thought about conceptual art.

Conceptual printmaking took on many forms, blurring the boundaries between traditional techniques and photomechanical processes. This project considers conceptual print workshops, collaborations between conceptual artists and master printers, and conceptual print publications, looking to examples from the New York Graphic Workshop, the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design Lithography Workshop, Crown Point Press, and publishers such as Printed Matter and Seth Siegelaub. Taken as a whole, these activities reveal the nexus of shared concerns between conceptualism and printmaking: distributed authorship, mediation, seriality, multiplicity, and the dissemination of information. By focusing on issues of collaboration, artistic labor, and process, this project challenges prevailing understandings and assumptions of both conceptual art and printmaking.

Sarah Bane

2019 – 2020 Joe and Wanda Corn Predoctoral Fellow
University of California, Santa Barbara

Join the Club: Regional Print Clubs in the United States During the Interwar Period

During the Great Depression, many artists and arts organizations required federal aid through programs such as the Works Progress Administration to survive. My dissertation contributes to a growing literature that addresses the position of private arts organizations during this turbulent time. Print clubs were one type of these private institutions that remarkably thrived during the Great Depression, with new groups founded throughout the United States and many membership levels reaching all-time highs in the 1930s. My dissertation addresses this anomaly: why did regional print clubs flourish when other arts organizations required federal support? I suggest that these clubs are critical sites for understanding how regional constituencies expressed specific aesthetic, political, and social distinctions through the circulation of fine art. Investigating three case studies from across the United States, my dissertation presents a nuanced investigation of how local, national, and international concerns intersected in private arts organizations during the interwar period. Bringing together artists, collectors, and community members keen to develop their knowledge of art, I suggest that these print clubs were regional formations of what would ultimately become a thriving art market in the United States following World War II.

Elizabeth Buhe

2019 – 2020 Postdoctoral Fellow
Fordham University

Sam Francis: Beside Painting

This book examines two intertwined elements of postwar American art: the abstract paintings of Sam Francis (1923–94) and the conviction that art can motivate change by working on the viewer. Contrary to dominant process-based readings of mid-century abstract painting as a progressive reduction of form or an arena for an artist’s actions, Francis shifted focus away from medium or artist onto the spectator. In Francis’s viewer-centered philosophy of painting, the embodied spectator gained self-knowledge by joining the personal with the collective in front of a canvas, thereby catalyzing self-realization. The act of beholding was an area of possibility in which the onlooker was invited to co-create meaning. As Francis put it, “these paintings approach you where you are;” they open up “the possibility for viewers to use their own imagination. One can project whatever one wants onto the white.”

By disregarding modernism’s antipathy to painting’s instrumentalization, Francis became a model for an overlooked strand of postwar art that stressed the social value of abstraction. His interest in painting’s impact on the spectator challenges longstanding modernist rubrics for abstraction that prioritize process and disinterested looking. As a result, the book partakes in recent revisionist histories that diversify the subject positions addressed within the field of art history. Focusing on the first two decades of his career, from 1950 to 1970, this study weaves together Francis’s diverse interests in phenomenological philosophy, psychology, psychedelic culture, and the perceptual experience of flight to posit the centrality of embodied viewership. “Sam Francis: Beside Painting fulfills a dual aim by providing the first critical monograph on Francis and by offering a viewer-centered paradigm for understanding abstract art more broadly.

Alba Campo Rosillo

2019 – 2020 Predoctoral Fellow (at National Portrait Gallery)
University of Delaware

Artistry and Industry: The Portraiture of George Peter Alexander Healy, 1830–65

Heather Caverhill

2019 – 2020 Terra Foundation for American Art Predoctoral Fellow
University of British Columbia

Mutable Modernisms: An Art Colony in Blackfoot Territory and the Lives of Its Works

In this study of the complicated crosscurrents of artistic modernisms in twentieth-century North America, I investigate the short-lived summer artists’ colony that assembled in Blackfoot Territory in the 1930s. Aamsskáápipikani artists from Blackfeet Nation (Montana), artists from Kainai Nation (Alberta) and visitors from across North America and Europe came together in Glacier National Park at an art school operated by German-American modernist Winold Reiss (1886–1953). My analysis of this milieu is threefold. Firstly, I consider the art colony within the broader history of Blackfoot artists’ engagements with ethnography, aesthetic primitivism, tourism and related colonial processes. Secondly, I examine the artistic production and the conditions of intercultural and transnational exchange at the Reiss Summer Art School. Thirdly, I trace the lives of the colony’s collective body of works, from their 1930s origins in Blackfoot Territory through different artistic, cultural and political contexts in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries—from their repurposing by successive generations of Blackfoot artists and curators to their wide circulation and reproduction in the realms of popular art, advertising and ethnography. I argue that new strains of modernism emerged from interactions among Blackfoot, settler and European artists in the 1930s colony. These modernisms were mutable: they generated different meanings depending on how they were mobilized and viewed.

This research project spans divisions in art history, bridging studies of indigenous, Canadian, American, modern and contemporary art. It develops methods guided by Critical Indigenous Studies to foreground indigenous experiences and knowledges. Challenging still dominant linear histories that tether modernisms to early European avant-garde developments, this investigation centres upon the local conditions of artistic production in Blackfoot Territory, as well as the significance of intercultural encounters in the 1930s art colony for works of later decades.

Lee Ann Custer

2019 – 2020 Douglass Foundation Predoctoral Fellow
University of Pennsylvania

Urban Voids: Picturing Light, Air, and Negative Space in New York, 1890–1930

In late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century New York City, “urban voids”—interstitial spaces in the city—were as significant as built forms. While studies of New York during this period tend to highlight its extreme density, period texts reveal efforts to regulate building growth and to preserve natural light and air—precious elements in the gritty urban environment. Modern American painters recorded the lived experience of the residual spaces that these constraints produced—authorless voids that could not be captured by traditional forms of depicting the city, such as maps, aerial views, and architectural renderings of single buildings. Through four case studies of the work of George Bellows, John Sloan, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Aaron Douglas, I argue that these highly contested spaces offered opportunities for artists to deploy innovative approaches to form, subject matter, and style, and to convey the socio-political implications of new spatial conditions in the city. By considering Ashcan, avant-garde, and Harlem Renaissance artists, the project looks comprehensively at American modernism’s response to urban space and documents a countercurrent to the long-held narrative in which early modernist art inevitably culminates in abstraction.

Davida Fernández-Barkan

2019 – 2020 Predoctoral Fellow
Harvard University

The Mural at a Crossroads: The Paris International Exposition of 1937

The Paris Exposition internationale des arts et techniques dans la vie moderne (International Exposition of Art and Technology in Modern Life) of 1937 is perhaps the most striking manifestation of the dramatic increase in mural production across the Americas, Western Europe, and the Soviet Union in the 1930s. Through an analysis of the work of such diverse artists as Eduard Buk Ulreich (United States), Alfonso Xavier Peña (Mexico), Aleksandr Deineka (Soviet Union), and Sonia Delaunay (France), this project brings to light the conversations about public art in which these artists took part and demonstrates the importance of the mural for the governments who commissioned their work. Government representatives in the United States, Mexico, the Soviet Union, and France—aware of one another’s efforts—oversaw large-scale programs of mural production  during the 1930s as a means of raising morale, creating solidarity, and providing social support for artists in the context of global economic depression and dramatic political shifts. A key aspect of the mural exhibition program with which this project contends is its remarkable stylistic heterogeneity, a quality that helps to expand traditional, teleological understandings of modernism. Significantly, stylistic differences did not conform to geographic boundaries, a fact explained in part by the transnational practices of the artists who created the murals and who traveled widely and looked to the work of mural artists in other locations. A focus on these murals allows for a first-time opportunity to highlight the cosmopolitan dimensions of the exhibition, rather than the nationalist aspects that have been emphasized in the past. More broadly, in contrast to previous, geographically constrained accounts of muralism in the 1930s, this project opens the mural to truly transnational readings.

Christine Renee Garnier

2019 – 2020 Predoctoral Fellow
Harvard University

Amalgamating the West during the American Silver Age

From eastern mints to western frontiers and from remote mines to international exhibitions, silver quickly flowed between hands and landscapes during the Silver Age, a moment during the rise and fall of silver mining in the American West during the second half of the nineteenth century (ca. 1848–1905). This movement knitted together opposing notions of space and identity, including the fraught authenticity of the sculpted indigenous body and industrial machine epitomized in silver-based photography. While historians have chronicled financial and design histories of the metal separately, the broader social and imperial significance of silver and its movements in this historical moment has received little scholarly attention. Yet, silver had operated as a medium to explore metaphors developed around material, social, and racial amalgamation since the initial colonization of the Americas. Silver’s technological frontiers continuously linked active landscapes of contested indigenous sovereignty with industries of luxury and aesthetic value, often producing objects that formally and materially challenged the very notion of the frontier in the United States. 

Drawing on emerging dialogs in American art on ecology and community, this dissertation project considers how the physical and symbolic properties of silver were linked to debates on resource speculation and indigenous sovereignty during the rise of silver mining and bimetallism in the United States. I examine the historical arc of the mining boom through four case studies: silver peace medals issued for land treatises with Native American nations, Timothy O’Sullivan’s mining photographs of the Comstock Lode in 1868, Meriden Britannia Company’s silver-plated sculpture The Buffalo Hunt for the 1876 Centennial Exhibition, and photographs of Navajo (Diné) silversmiths at the end of the century. The formal and material qualities of these diverse case studies reveal shifting aesthetic concerns around power, industry, and landscape from numerous perspectives in the American West.

Faye Raquel Gleisser

2019 – 2020 Postdoctoral Fellow
Indiana University Bloomington

Guerrilla Tactics: Art and the Cultural Domestication of Militancy in America, 1967–1987

“Guerrilla Tactics” examines the cultural domestication of militancy in North America during the 1970s and 1980s to offer a new historical narrative for U.S.-based artists’ deployment of low-tech tactics of intervention during this period. Through four chapters, I cross-analyze instances of media hijacking, misinformation, hostage-taking, and clandestine practices in conceptualism and performance art staged by Adrian Piper, Chris Burden, Pope.L, Tehching Hsieh, and the art collectives Asco and Guerrilla Art Action Group. My book argues that these artists participated in the wider roster of varied cultural practices that “brought home” the mythology of “Third World” insurgency in the U.S. between 1967 and 1987. During the period that I call the decades of the domestication of the militant—framed by Che Guevara’s death in 1967 and his rise to mythic status, and the development of “guerrilla marketing” in the mid-1980s—the glamorization of a mobile, partially-visible militant in American film, protest culture, and fashion provides an understudied context in which to situate artists’ inculcation of an emergent guerrilla imaginary. Amidst the increasing visibility of militant subjects and the simultaneous containment of militant actions, I contend that the phenomenon of guerrilla tactics in art was forged by shifting ideas of lawlessness and resourcefulness, and by artists’ own awareness of their status in a society ordered by patriarchal whiteness and abelism. Such a history of tactics reveals how racial, gender, and class bias enabled the artworks and shaped their reception; it also makes clearer how the legacies of low-tech intervention, which limn our contemporary assessments of endurance and creativity in art, sustain Cold War­–era notions of citizenship, civility, and personhood in the present. In so doing, the book posits an expanded notion of what constituted the “political” during the 1970s and ’80s, and addresses how coded ideas of risk-taking continue to influence American history and cultural experience today.

Hanna Hölling

2019 – 2020 Terra Foundation for American Art Postdoctoral Fellow
University College London

Fluxus and the Material Legacy of Intermediality

This project examines the lives and afterlives of Fluxus objects, events, and ephemera as seen through the collection of materials in the Nam June Paik Archive at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC. Fluxus transformed irrevocably the landscape of artistic practice and challenged the dominant preconception of artwork as something that endures unchanged. While many histories of the post-war avant-garde focus on the implications of the nascent conceptualism and performativity for other artistic genres, this project considers the fundamentally material aspects of forms initially not destined for perpetuation. Building on many years of study of Paik as a Fluxus participant and one of the most prolific artists of the past century, I trace the material and conceptual transformations of Fluxus in the 1960s–70s. Through the lens of art history, conservation, and media and performance studies, I examine the coexistence of ephemerality and materiality in Fluxus. I am interested in the materialisation and mutability of Fluxus intermedia, and how change affects the shifting interpretation of their meaning. Rather than focusing on Fluxus intermedia as extant in-between media categories, I investigate the (in-between) state of transition in Fluxus works with potential implications for how we conceive of artworks in general.

Josie Johnson

2019 – 2020 Terra Foundation for American Art Predoctoral Fellow
Brown University

Before the Iron Curtain: Margaret Bourke-White’s Early Soviet Photographs

In 1930, the young American photographer Margaret Bourke-White (1904–1971) traveled to the Soviet Union on her first trip abroad. Her auspicious visit occurred during a moment of improving Soviet-American relations and increased experimentation with photography as a mass medium. Despite her self-proclaimed ignorance of Russia, Bourke-White capitalized on these favorable conditions and created a suite of images that would be published and exhibited extensively, propelling her rise to stardom as America’s most famous female photojournalist of the twentieth century.

This dissertation examines the creation and afterlife of Bourke-White’s Russian photographs. I compare a set of diverse venues that displayed her work, from Bourke-White’s first book, Eyes on Russia (1931), to Soviet propaganda magazines (1930–1934), to a set of photomurals in the Soviet consulate in New York City (1934). I situate these photographs between the American traditions of documentary photography and commercial photography, on one hand, and their supposed political and stylistic opposites of the Russian Avant-Garde and Socialist Realism on the other. This survey reveals how Bourke-White’s striving for stylistic innovation and political neutrality left her photographs open to a wide variety of interpretations as they traversed disparate ideological and aesthetic contexts.

Tara Kaufman

2019 – 2020 William H. Truettner Graduate Fellow
Temple University

Antarctic Encounters: Perceiving Ecological Change in Frank Wilbert Stokes’s Landscapes

In 1902, American artist Frank Wilbert Stokes embarked on his third voyage to polar regions, this time to the Antarctic. The motivations for the expedition that he joined proved to be particularly complex when its leader, Swedish geologist Otto Nordenskjöld, revolutionized the understanding of the region’s climate and ecology at the same time that his captain, Carl Anton Larsen, established the first Antarctic shore station for the whaling industry. While the first accomplishment deepened our current understanding of the region’s biodiversity, the latter developed an industry that was dependent upon its disruption. In perceiving the Antarctic landscape as a potential resource for economic gain, this expedition subjugated polar ecologies to the environmentally destructive practices of human industry precisely when the scientific understanding of the region’s ecological history had just begun. By linking Frank Wilbert Stokes’s work to that of the expedition’s, I argue that his Antarctic landscapes, particularly those that include the region’s wildlife, display the entangled and often contradictory ambitions of scientific exploration and industrial development. A particular painting by Stokes, titled Emperor Penguin, Admiralty Inlet Snow Hill, Antarctic (n.d.), offers an elevated and romanticized depiction of the species that perhaps indicates the work’s position as an homage to Nordenskjöld’s celebrated discovery of ancient penguin fossils. However, it also serves as a statement of environmental change. Located between the viewer and the expanse of ocean in the background, the emperor penguin is represented literally cornered within the composition, standing as a witness to the shifting dynamics between the Antarctic and the global pursuits of science and industry. Using an ecocritical methodology, I will position Stokes’s work in its social, economic, and environmental context in order to articulate the romantic and nationalist perceptions that were held in the global race to investigate this allegedly unexplored frontier. My research will bridge the boundary between the work of an artist from the United States and the global dynamics in which he took part, as well as between the past and the present. In employing a contemporary ecocritical lens, my project will consider the ways in which Stokes’s depictions of polar landscapes at the turn of the twentieth century prefigure the current critically-endangered condition of both Arctic and Antarctic ecosystems.

Robin Lynch

2019 – 2020 Terra Foundation for American Art Predoctoral Fellow
McGill University

Packaging Environments: The Art and Design of the Container Corporation of America

Focussing on the art and design programs of the Container Corporation of America (CCA) from the late 1930s to 1970, my project at SAAM tracks the conceptualization and employment of the terms “environment” and “ecology” across both the corporate and artistic practices of the company. In examining the cultural programs of the CCA, my project asks what the stakes are in turning to the “environmental” and “ecological” in artistic and corporate methods, and concurrently why this became such a prevalent method within this context. I argue that both the artists and corporate actors were invested in developing “ecological” approaches informed by biological theory, that expanded into a collaborative enterprise centred around ideas about the environment. I further situate this interest in environment and ecology within a burgeoning military-industrial-cultural complex at the end of World War II and the beginning of the Cold War in the United States. In this context, I consider how the term “environment” becomes a concept used to signify the ability to administrate, represent, and mobilize territory, using art and design as a key medium to construct and communicate space.

Tracing the history of the CCA through the lens of the environment further contributes to our understanding not only of artists such as László Moholy-Nagy and Herbert Bayer, but also how these artistic practices aligned, diverged, and melded with industry in the United States. Unpacking the specificities of this relationship can help ask other important questions, including how these kinds of partnerships are embedded in geo-political issues related to resource extraction, colonialism, and understandings of the natural world.

Kyungso Min

2019 – 2020 Big Ten Academic Alliance Smithsonian Institution Predoctoral Fellow
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Post-Translational Belonging: The Languages of the Future in Transnational New Media Art After 1984

This dissertation project offers a region-specific account of how transnational new media art created after Korean-American artist Nam June Paik’s first satellite project, Good Morning, Mr. Orwell (1984), gestures toward the shaping of global sites of intimacy not reliant on a shared language. A hypnotic array of synthesized images, electronic sound, human bodies, and nonverbal actions presented an entirely new form of interactive experience in Paik’s satellite trilogy in the mid-1980s. I demonstrate that Paik’s three operational strategies in this series—transnational experiment, transprofessional collaboration, and collective spectatorship—are tactically employed by the later generation of East Asian new media artists. By embracing the idea of the post-translational and the practice of the transnational as methodological strategies, this dissertation prompts a necessary rethinking of the hegemony of language-based communication.

Opened with Paik’s performance bidding farewell to George Orwell’s dystopian vision of technology, the year 1984 in my study marks the shaping moment for transnational new media arts and theories that materialize a desire for new modes of global communication. I first investigate the ways in which Paik’s satellite events developed new media art space as a dynamic site of community building beyond the geopolitical hierarchies of languages. The second part then turns to case studies on how six contemporary artists—Fujihata Masaki, Xu Bing, Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries, dumb type, Manabe Daito, and MOON Kyungwon & JEON Joonho—present scenarios of the act of language translation, where the existing criteria, hierarchies, and prejudices embedded in conventional language systems are destabilized or even deactivated. Three main directions for such an endeavor include the sensorial reformulation of the technologies of reading, the extension of bodily surfaces as communicative interfaces, and the reconception of collectivity through technological rhetoric of the imaginary future. I call this utopian striving “the languages of the future” and argue that this positing of a post-translational horizon is essential to understanding contemporary new media art’s worldmaking aims under digital globalization.

Dina Murokh

2019 – 2020 Wyeth Foundation Predoctoral Fellow
University of Southern California

‘A Sort of Picture Gallery’: The Visual Culture of Antebellum America

My dissertation examines the “picture gallery” as a conceptual framework for understanding popular forms of antebellum visual culture such as gift books, fine illustrated volumes, subscription prints, and periodicals. I draw on abolitionist author and orator Frederick Douglass’s idea of the “soul of man” as “a sort of picture gallery,” which he articulated in various lectures on pictures, as a period theorization of the picture gallery outside of the physical walls of an architectural space and closely aligned with the interior of the individual. Taking the proliferation of physical picture galleries in the early nineteenth-century United States as a point of departure, I explore how antebellum Americans engaged with revised forms of such spaces through reproductions of works of art. I ask how these reproductions constituted personal picture galleries that conditioned the kind of inward-facing “self revelation” that Douglass thought pictures could stimulate in order to perpetuate moral, social, and political progress. My dissertation explores four central case studies of the expanded picture gallery that span the 1830s through the early 1860s: Edward L. Carey’s gift book series, The Gift (1835–1845), Thomas McKenney and James Hall’s History of the Indian Tribes of North America (1837–1844), the American Art-Union’s subscription prints and other distributed reproductions (1839–1852), and William “Ethiop” Wilson’s serial article, “Afric-American Picture Gallery” (1859), together with early issues of Harper’s Weekly (est. 1857). By examining how the concept of the picture gallery structured the making and viewing of these various forms of visual culture, my dissertation offers a new means of understanding the role of art in brokering the relationship between the individual and the nation in antebellum America.