Shifting Terrain Conference Speakers’ Bios and Abstracts
Ellie Armon Azoulay
Ellie Armon Azoulay, born in 1987 in Paris, studied history and philosophy at Tel Aviv University and is currently completing her M.Res. in Exhibition Studies at University of the Arts London, Central Saint Martin. Since 2009 she has been an art correspondent for Haaretz newspaper and a freelance writer for various art magazines and publications including Artpress, Flash Art, Aperture, Camera Austria, and Artslant. At present, she is working on a research project concerning decolonizing practices in the public sphere within artistic and cultural contexts. She is currently based out of Paris and recently published Local Wind, a collection of essays about catalogues and books published by Israeli artists in the 1970s and 1980s (Tel Aviv: Public School Editions, 2014). In September 2015 she began a research, curatorial, and production internship at the Bétonsalon Centre for Art and Research in Paris.
The title of this talk is taken from the title of a show Edith Gregor Halpert organized for her Downtown Gallery in 1941. This blunt title, outwardly aimed at the public but intended mostly for collectors, museum directors, and curators, basically asked what made a collection of seven celebrated artworks so unsellable. Halpert’s provocative question was elaborated upon in the show’s accompanying press release. She also handed out questionnaires to the visitors, inviting them to participate in the conversation and share their thoughts on this matter.
This persistent and uncompromising inquiry was not merely an aggressive marketing approach: Halpert was acting out, refusing to accept given power-relations or the influence of market-driven, critical, or personal tastes. I read this exhibition as one example (out of many) of her urge and commitment to take on responsibilities exceeding her gallerist duties. When she first opened her gallery, Halpert had to improvise, to invent and fill the missing roles by herself. She conducted research when there was none to rely on, she acted as curator when she felt the artworks needed context or interpretation, and she pushed forward new approaches to collecting to museums, private collectors, and companies. Her gallery’s roster was filled with immigrants, minorities, and other victims of discrimination, whom she defended regularly amidst great political pressure.
Nadya Bair is a doctoral candidate in art history at the University of Southern California (USC), specializing in the history of photography and twentieth-century art; she also holds a Graduate Certificate from the Visual Studies Research Institute at USC. Her dissertation, “The Decisive Network: Magnum Photos and the Art of Collaboration in Postwar Photojournalism, 1947–1962,” examines how an international group of war photographers partnered with photo editors, publishers, and curators to expand the aesthetic, geographic, and entrepreneurial boundaries of press photography in the wake of World War II. She is a recipient of the ACLS-Mellon Dissertation Completion Fellowship for 2015–2016.
With the story of World War II at an end and news photography commissions on the decline, what was a group of international photojournalists to do? Magnum Photos, a photographic cooperative founded in 1947 with offices in Paris and New York, developed a number of solutions to this problem, including partnering with American corporations to document their activities in the mode of illustrated news. This paper offers a new perspective on the work of Magnum photographers whose acclaimed images from around the world often resulted from generative relationships with American business partners and the help of Magnum’s editorial staff on both sides of the Atlantic. The photographers’ process of winning commissions from companies such as Standard Oil and Pillsbury, and then distributing their images for publication and display in a variety of settings beyond the corporation, demonstrates that Magnum consciously took advantage of the blurred boundaries between editorial, promotional, and artistic photography in the 1950s. This talk illustrates how studying production history can help uncover the networks of collaboration that were central to creating American visual culture. Such networks not only challenge claims of artistic autonomy, but also elucidate the extent to which labels such as “American,” “European,” “artistic,” and “commercial” were mobilized strategically in the postwar period.
Estelle Blaschke (M.A., History of Art, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin; Ph.D., History, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales/Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne) is a postdoctoral researcher funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation at the Université de Lausanne. From 2009 to 2011 and in 2014 she was a fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin. Her doctoral dissertation, “Photography and the Commodification of Images: From the Bettmann Archive to Corbis (1924–2010),” was awarded the 2012 Research Prize by the German Photographic Society. In 2012 and 2013, she co-curated the group exhibition and research project Double Bound Economies: Reading an East-German Photo Archive 1967–1990, which toured in Leipzig, Geneva, Zurich, and Berlin.
The history of microfilm ties into the earliest and deepest imaginaries present since the invention of photography: the dream of collecting everything, of providing access to vast archives and collections, and of rendering objects mobile by means of their reproduction. By investigating seminal projects and events between 1920 and 1950, this paper sheds light on the formation of transnational networks of people, companies, research units, and governmental institutions that solidified the idea of microfilm as the global information technology of the future. While the modern history of microfilm is rooted in Europe, it was developed, tested, and advanced in the United States in the form of large-scale copying programs for foreign manuscripts, books, newspapers, and pictorial materials, as well as government and business data. This paper reflects on the intellectual, economic, and political apparatuses that were put in place to enhance the ways in which scientific and historical sources were shared, diffused, preserved, and appropriated through photography.
Emily Casey is a doctoral candidate in the history of art at the University of Delaware. Her dissertation, “Waterscapes: Representing the Sea in the American Imagination, 1760–1815,” explores how eighteenth-century British Americans visualized their place in a global world through representations of the sea in art, literature, and material culture. Emily has received numerous grants and fellowships to support her research from the University of Delaware, the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, the Peabody-Essex Museum, and the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London. She is the 2015–2016 Terra Foundation Predoctoral Fellow in American Art at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Emily received her B.A. from Smith College. In addition to her research, she has worked at the Smith College Museum of Art, Winterthur Museum, and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
What did the sea mean to Americans at the end of the eighteenth century? One possible response to this question comes from a surprising source: the National Gallery of Art’s canonical portrait of the Washington family by Edward Savage (1789–1796). On its surface, the painting seems to bear no relation to the sea. Set at Mount Vernon, George Washington’s plantation, the painting depicts the first president joined by his wife, Martha, and her grandchildren; spread upon the table is a map for the new capital of Washington, D.C. The painting celebrates the transformation of a war hero into a political leader and of a swampy wilderness into civic order. However, at the margins of the painting, a blank globe and the figure of a slave emerge, and with them, another story. My presentation will find the oceanic undercurrent in this painting, and explore how the United States’ participation in a maritime world shaped the country and its peoples’ identities just as much as its possession and expansion of American territories.
Melody Barnett Deusner
Melody Barnett Deusner is Assistant Professor of Art History at Indiana University, Bloomington, where she teaches nineteenth- and early twentieth-century American art and its circulation through social, economic, and technological networks. Deusner holds a Ph.D. and an M.A. in art history from the University of Delaware, and was the 2010–2012 Terra Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow in American Art at Northwestern University. She will be a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Birmingham (U.K.) from January through July 2016. Her published essays include “Whistler, Aestheticism, and the Networked World,” in Palaces of Art: Whistler and the Art Worlds of Aestheticism (Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press, 2013), and “‘In seen and unseen places’: The Henry G. Marquand House and Collections in England and America,” in “Anglo-American: Artistic Exchange between Britain and the USA”, a special issue of Art History (September 2011). Her current book project is entitled A Network of Associations: Aesthetic Painting and Its Patrons in England and America.
“Constructing the ‘Deadly Parallel’: Paintings, Politics, and the Comparative Eye in Turn-of-the-Century Clubland”
At New York’s Comparative Exhibition of Native and Foreign Art (1904), American paintings were subjected to a side-by-side comparison with international artworks in a practice that reviewers called the “deadly parallel”—a phrase that evoked contemporary accounting methods. The Comparative Exhibition introduced a wider public to the art-hanging and viewing practices developed in small private exhibitions at the Lotos Club (one of many exclusive men’s social organizations of the period). In this talk, I aim to analyze these strategies of artistic engagement in relation to the broader array of activities in which clubmen were involved. Although the Lotos claimed to be purely a social and cultural club, it served from its earliest years as a crucible for diplomatic engagement. Visiting writers, politicians, and military leaders were toasted at club dinners, where the speeches typically compared American and foreign ways of life side by side (in a “deadly parallel”) and frequently veered into highly charged topics, especially America’s increasingly aggressive and interventionist activity in Latin America. This paper reactivates the Lotos Club’s tonalist paintings as agents in these conversations and demonstrates new possibilities for probing the dynamic intersections of American art with the business and policy-shaping activities that flourished in the turn-of-the-century club world.
Jacqueline Francis teaches U.S. art history at California College of the Arts and researches critical questions around minority identities and identifications in visual culture. She is the author of Making Race: Modernism and “Racial Art” in America (2012) and co-editor of Romare Bearden: American Modernist (2011). Her essays have been published in The Image of the Black in Western Art (Volume V), The Encyclopedia of Aesthetics, and American Art. From 2012–2014, Francis was on the Executive Committee of the College Art Association. She has lectured at Harvard University, King’s College-London, the National Gallery of Art, and at scholarly conferences in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and Japan. She is presently a board member of San Francisco’s Queer Cultural Center, a resource for international LGBT creative expression. She also serves on the advisory boards of Panorama: Art and Visual Culture of the United States and Third Text: Critical Perspectives on Contemporary Art and Culture.
In a College Art Association conference paper of 2000, I coined the term “critical race art history” to describe the comparative study of the ways in which representation and other forms of artistic expression visualize race and make race “real.” Critical race art histories present observable facts and visible realities. Yet, unsurprisingly, they haven’t fixed, displaced, or replaced the seemingly universal urge, and even need, to racialize. Critical race art history, a practice focused on the shifting and ongoing operations of racialization, must accept their inevitability. Perhaps our work cannot be done in the name of multiculturalism, diversity, and inclusion—outcomes always offered as lasting cultural transformations. In this symposium paper, I discuss the pedagogy of critical race art history (and visual cultural studies), not with the objective of transcending racialization, but instead, to sit with it and to be productively stuck.
Amelia Goerlitz, Symposium Organizer
Amelia Goerlitz is the Fellowship and Academic Programs Manager in the Research and Scholars Center at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, where she has worked since 2003. Goerlitz has organized a number of seminars and scholarly symposia for the museum, including the five-part series Terra Symposia on American Art in a Global Context. Goerlitz holds an M.A. in art history from the University of Texas at Austin, with an emphasis on modern and contemporary Latin American art. She contributed essays to the Jack S. Blanton Museum’s Latin American collection catalogue (Univ. of Texas Press, 2006) and co-edited and contributed to East-West Interchanges in American Art: A Long and Tumultuous Relationship (Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press, 2012).
Rita Gonzalez is Curator of Contemporary Art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where she curated Phantom Sightings: Art After the Chicano Movement, Asco: Elite of the Obscure (part of the Getty’s 2011 Pacific Standard Time festival), Lost Line: Contemporary Art from the Collection, and Agnes Varda in Californialand, among other exhibitions and programs. Her curatorial collaboration with filmmaker Jesse Lerner, Mexperimental Cinema, was the first survey of Mexican experimental film and video. It traveled to museums and film festivals internationally and resulted in the first bilingual publication on the subject. Gonzalez has written for media and art journals including Wide Angle, Poliester, COIL, Signs, and RIM. Her essays have appeared in Still Moving: Between Cinema and Photography (Duke Univ. Press, 2008), Recent Pasts: Art in Southern California from the 90s to Now (JRP|Ringier Zurich, 2005), and California Video: Artists and Histories (Getty Publications, 2008).
“‘This Is Not America’: Positions and Politics in the Curating and Collecting of Contemporary American Art”
In 2017, the Getty Foundation will present Pacific Standard Time (PST): LA/LA, an initiative based throughout Southern California featuring over forty exhibitions devoted to Latin American and Latino Art. Unlike the first iteration of PST in 2011–2012, with its tight Southern Californian regional parameters and strict periodization from 1945–1980, LA/LA is a broader construct that will include a variety of curatorial programs ranging from Luxury Arts in the Ancient Americas at the Getty Museum to Talking to Action, an exhibition on social practice in Latin American contemporary art at the Otis College of Art and Design’s Ben Maltz Gallery. Also unlike the first PST, Los Angeles is not the subject matter but is instead offered as a platform for generative dialogues among previously established institutional networks, including LA/LA advisors connected to the Museum of Fine Art Houston’s International Center for Art of the Americas and the Cisneros Foundation, to name just two.
My paper will present Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA as a case study in progress, with an emphasis on how Latino art is being framed in this institutional initiative. The first PSTprogram included five exhibitions specifically on Chicano/Latino artists and also featured Chicano and Latino artists in numerous other group exhibitions ranging from State of Mind: New California Art Circa 1970 to Mapping Another L.A.: The Chicano Art Movement. Examining the critical and institutional responses to PST I, as well as thinking through the scholarly and curatorial conversations that are shaping PST: LA/LA, my paper will address the complicated brokering of identities and the differing, yet at times overlapping, stakes for the fields of Latino and Latin American artistic production and scholarship.
Jennifer Greenhill, Moderator
Jennifer Greenhill is Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Southern California. From 2007 to 2015, she taught at the University of Illinois in the Art History program and in the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory. Trained at Williams College and Yale University, she specializes in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century American art and visual culture, with an emphasis on intermedial and intercultural objects, race and the politics of visuality, and intersections between elite and popular forms of expression. In 2014, Greenhill served as the Terra Foundation for American Art Visiting Professor at the Institut national d’histoire de l’art (INHA) in Paris, France. She is the author of Playing It Straight: Art and Humor in the Gilded Age (Univ. of California Press, 2012) and co-editor of A Companion to American Art (Wiley-Blackwell, 2015). Greenhill’s current book project, The Commercial Imagination, focuses on mass-market illustration in the early twentieth century.
Jessica L. Horton
Jessica L. Horton is Assistant Professor of Art History at the University of Delaware. Her essays on modern and contemporary art, Native American politics, globalization, and ecology have appeared in A Companion to American Art, Parkett, Shapeshifting: Transformations in Native American Art, and Fritz Scholder: Super Indian, as well as in the journals American Art, Journal of Transnational American Studies, and Third Text. She has held fellowships at the Getty Research Institute, the Smithsonian American Art Museum/National Museum of the American Indian, the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, the Terra Foundation for American Art, and the Social Science Research Council. Her book, Places to Stand: Native American Modernisms on an Undivided Earth, forthcoming from Duke University Press, concerns artists who reformulate modernity as a shared ground in the wake of the American Indian Movement.
“Oil, Sheepherding, and Outer Space: Contemporary American Indian Paintings in and around Iran, 1964–1966“
In 1965, gouache paintings of Navajo sheepherders, Pueblo craftswomen, and Apache equestrians hung on makeshift walls at the University of Tehran, their stories translated into Persian. Reportedly more than 10,000 Iranian students, faculty, and other visitors saw the United States Information Agency (USIA)–sponsored exhibition, Contemporary American Indian Paintings, before it continued on to the National Iranian Oil Company’s recreation center in Abadan, the next stop on a three-year tour of Greece, Algeria, Turkey, Iran, and Israel. This and other Cold War exhibitions of Native American art were charged with a two-pronged mission distinct from other American art displays of the period: to counter Soviet critiques of America’s oppression of indigenous peoples with an image of benevolent guardianship and peaceful modernization, and to thereby deflect international media attention from sovereignty struggles in the U.S. Through a close reading of one work on this tour, I suggest that exhibitions of Native American art aired conflicting views of global relations before the eyes of visitors abroad who were often already skeptical of U.S. intentions. More than advertisements for the success of liberal policy, traveling arts mobilized indigenous cultural values, notably the collective coordination required to bolster self-determination under the ongoing U.S. occupation of Native lands. Contemporary American Indian Paintings quietly undermined the USIA’s moral message from the inside out, anchoring global debates over capitalism in longstanding and contested geographies of colonialism.
Yuko Kikuchi is a Reader in Art and Design History at TrAIN (Research Center for Transnational Art, Identity and Nation) and the Camberwell, Chelsea, and Wimbledon (CCW) graduate school at University of the Arts London. Her key works include Japanese Modernisation and Mingei Theory: Cultural Nationalism and Oriental Orientalism (RoutledgeCurzon, 2004), Refracted Modernity: Visual Culture and Identity in Colonial Taiwan (Univ. of Hawai’i Press, 2007), and two special issues: “Transnational Modern Design Histories in East Asia,” Journal of Design History 27, no. 4 (2014) and “Negotiating Histories: Traditions in Modern and Contemporary Asia-Pacific Art,” World Art 5, no. 1 (2015). Dr. Kikuchi will convene the International Conference on Design History and Studies in Taipei in 2016, and is editing the Critical Reader of East Asian Design. As the 2015–2016 Terra Foundation Senior Fellow at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, she is writing a book about Russel Wright and American intervention in Asian design during the Cold War.
Russel Wright was an American designer who promoted American Modern design and the Good Design movement from the 1930s through the 1950s. While he is well known in the American design context, his involvement in promoting the idea of “Asian Modern” design in the postwar period through the U.S. foreign aid program in Asia is little known. My presentation introduces Wright’s design interventions in countries such as Japan, Taiwan, and Vietnam in the 1950s and 1960s, and argues that Asia played an important role in Cold War cultural diplomacy and in defining a modern American design identity. The paper aims to enhance our understanding of the interdependence and entanglement of American and Asian design developments during the Cold War period, with a particular focus on the idea and style of Asian Modern.
Johanne Lamoureux is a professor in the Department of Art History and Film Studies at the Université de Montréal. She is also currently the director of the Department of Studies and Research at the Institut national d’histoire de l’art (Paris). Lamoureux has authored several books and numerous articles; has served as chief editor of the journal Intermédialités (2007–2009); and has acted as a freelance curator for the National Gallery of Canada (2005–2008) and the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec (1998–2003). Her fields of expertise are museum studies, contemporary art, and historiography. Her most recent research project regroups museum curators and academic scholars and investigates new uses of art museum collections. The project is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
As has been acknowledged many times before, art history, as a discipline and a narrative, has been shaped by the discourse of nationalism—a discourse that forms the common denominator among different narrative traditions of art history across the globe. This statement comes with the necessity of thinking about transnationalism in a comparative fashion that will not simply add nationalist narratives to one another (and consequently reinforce the nationalist impulse of the discipline). Instead, I would like to draw attention to the ways in which, for both France and the United States, the transnational turn questions not only the nationalist framing of their own respective art-historical narratives, but also questions a very specific status they share: that of having been, at a certain point in their history, a model and a fantasy of the universal, meant to embody what others were striving to emulate. Transnationalism could very well entail for them a kind of “little death,” or a process of mourning, before becoming a stimulating perspective for the reconfiguration of discursive practices in art history.
Ethan W. Lasser
Ethan W. Lasser is the Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr. Curator of American Art and the Head of the Division of European and American Art at the Harvard Art Museums. Lasser’s curatorial and scholarly work focuses on questions of art-making across multiple media. His recent exhibitions and publications have considered the relationship between contemporary artists and their tools; the craft of industrial production; and the ideas about making at stake in John Singleton Copley’s iconic portrait of the Boston silversmith Paul Revere. Lasser’s forthcoming exhibition, From the Philosophy Chamber: Harvard’s Lost Collection, 1766 to 1820, explores the wide-ranging collection of portraits, prints, scientific instruments, and Native American artifacts that Harvard College amassed in the late eighteenth century. Lasser holds a B.A. from Williams College and a Ph.D. in the history of art from Yale University.
In November 2014, the Harvard Art Museums reopened after a six-year renovation and expansion project. In the new museums, the collections of European and American art are presented by period and theme rather than culture. American paintings, photographs, prints, and pieces of decorative art are installed alongside works from Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands. As the first large-scale permanent installation of historic art to respond to the global turn, the new galleries at Harvard open up a range of transatlantic and transpacific narratives and, at the same time, give rise to a host of curatorial questions. This paper will assess the interpretative possibilities that this integrated approach opens up and consider the challenges that it poses for the future study of American art history.
Jennifer Jane Marshall
Jennifer Jane Marshall (Ph.D., UCLA, 2005) is Associate Professor of North American Art at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Her book, Machine Art, 1934 (Univ. of Chicago Press, 2012), received the Dedalus Foundation’s 2013 Robert Motherwell Book Award. She has published articles related to folk art, direct carving, the backlash against Rodin, and Procter & Gamble’s soap carving contests. Prior to arriving at Minnesota, Professor Marshall served as Acting Assistant Professor at Stanford University, and held a postdoctoral fellowship at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Her current book project, William Edmondson: Life and Work, has been funded by a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Centering on William Edmondson (ca. 1874–1951), a self-taught sculptor from Nashville, Tennessee, who achieved national prominence in the late 1930s, this talk will pursue three main objectives. First, it will reflect on how international scholarly interest in materiality has brought new critical attention to artist-makers like Edmondson, whose hand-working of limestone so nicely dramatizes the distributed agency of artistry, in which creative will might seem equally a factor of materials as of muscles and mind. Next, the talk will explore the international context of ideas that first produced the conditions of Edmondson’s art-world visibility in the mid-1930s: the direct-carving movement, anti-modern modernism, folk-art fever, primitivism, and the humanist tradition of the against-all-odds artist, plucked from rustic obscurity. Finally the international circulation of works by Edmondson (as well as images of and stories about him) will be contrasted with what remained unmoved: Edmondson himself (who stayed at home) and a dwindling number of his stone monuments still in situ, eroding on their Tennessee hills.
Claudia Mattos-Avolese is Professor of Art History at the Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP), President of the Brazilian Committee of Art History (CBHA), and a member of the Comité international d’histoire de l’art (CIHA). She holds a Ph.D. from the Freie Universität Berlin, and publishes primarily on nineteenth- and twentieth-century Brazilian art and art theory. Mattos-Avolese is currently preparing a book on art and ecology in Brazil and editing another on Brazilian art history for Getty Publications. Her latest essays include “Geography, Art Theory, and New Perspectives for an Inclusive Art History,” Art Bulletin (October 2014), and “Existe-t-il un art brésilien?” Perspective 2 (2013). She recently co-organized the conference “New Worlds: Frontiers, Inclusion, Utopias,” which took place in Rio de Janeiro, August 25–29, 2015.
This paper will present a series of personal reflections on art history today that take my own position as a scholar working in the field into account. I will start by suggesting that when thinking of theory and practice in art history, we should replace the terms “national” and “international” with the concepts of “local” and “global.” This implies a dismissal of uniform and artificially built geographic identities, without overlooking the existing tensions between specifically local perspectives on the discipline, and the adoption of a more “universal” approach to the field. By considering some examples of this tension between local and global—which, of course, can occur within national boundaries, as in the case of the relation between Native art and western traditions in the U.S. and elsewhere—I will argue that the big challenge for art history today is to develop less monolithic narratives and to work in the direction of a more complex and polyphonic art-historical writing. I will also speak to the question of power, subjacent to the contemporary structure of the field, insisting on the necessity to rethink the power relations that structure the field today. My argument here will be that power in contemporary art history lies within theory. Rather than with the objects, authority lies in the hands of those who frame them through discourse. I will end by suggesting that the discipline of art history should become more inclusive, giving voice to alternative narratives and learning how to sustain them side by side.
Asma Naeem (Ph.D., University of Maryland, 2010) is Associate Curator of Prints and Drawings and Time-Based Media Art at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. Naeem’s research interests focus on issues of power, identity, and technology, and range from the eighteenth century to the present. She has published articles in American Quarterly, American Art, and the Chicago Art Journal. Her master’s thesis focused on the work of diasporic Muslim artists Shirin Neshat and Shahzia Sikander. She is currently preparing her dissertation, “‘The Imagery of the Ear’: Listening, Sound, and Sound Technologies in American Art, 1848–1898,” for publication. The manuscript examines the work of Winslow Homer, Thomas Eakins, and Thomas Wilmer Dewing against the backdrop of technological history from the Civil War through the Gilded Age. At the National Portrait Gallery, she is currently organizing a show on the work of Los Angeles–based artist Don Bachardy and another entitled Black Out: Silhouettes Then and Now.
“Global” and “American” are not fixed in an oppositional binary. This paper calls for an American art history that destabilizes normative concepts of nationalism and identity by emphasizing the cultural fluidity of artists whose lives extend beyond the boundaries of the United States. I also ask for closer scrutiny of global events previously understood to have little to do with American art.
Offered as case study is my current project, which interweaves the work of American photographer Margaret Bourke-White (1904–1971) and two diasporic, South Asian–American artists, Zarina (b. 1937) and Shahzia Sikander (b. 1969), in terms of their responses to the 1947 division of British-ruled India into the sovereign, Hindu-majority country of India and the newly-created, Muslim-majority country of Pakistan. To date, scholars have not analyzed this rupturing of one of the world’s most populous countries, commonly referred to as Partition, through the lens of American historiography, consequently leaving undisturbed rigid colonialist boundaries and monolithic understandings of South Asian ethnicities and American identity.
Rather than follow traditional historical narratives, I propose a new paradigm for examining artistic production within our field, one that focuses on transcultural exchanges, deterritorializes, and leaves space for the hybridity of identities resulting from centuries-long patterns of global mobility and migration. Rather than focus exclusively on what the artist brings back to the States or how her work changes, I propose we also consider, using models of displacement and entanglement, what the artist leaves behind in the foreign land, and how we can complicate understandings of artistic practices abroad.
Davide Nerini is a first-year Ph.D. student at the Université de Lausanne’s Center of the History of Culture, where he investigates the interactions between photography and the field of library and information science during the first half of the twentieth century. His dissertation is part of a broader collaborative research project entitled “Encapsulating World Culture: The Rise and the Imaginary of Microfilm (1920s to 1950s),” which focuses on the understanding of photography as a medium of diffusion of visual and textual information. After earning a bachelor’s degree in Film Studies from the Freie Universität Berlin and the Université de Lausanne, Nerini received his master’s degree in art history from the Université de Lausanne in 2014, where he wrote his thesis on the work of the art historian, librarian, and photographer Paul Vanderbilt. During the same year, he worked as a research fellow at the Swiss Institute for Art Research based in Zurich and Lausanne.
“Disseminating Lots of Photographs: Paul Vanderbilt and the Microfilming Project of the FSA-OWI Collection at the Library of Congress, 1942–1946”
In the mid-1940s, the young art historian, librarian, and photographer Paul Vanderbilt was assigned to manage the well-known photographic file of the Farm Security Administration and of the Office of War Information (FSA-OWI). Appointed in 1942 as a Visual Information Specialist, Vanderbilt opted for the then-innovative information technology of microfilm to expand and to create remote access to the collection. The photographic corpus—counting some 200,000 items—was selected, codified, and reproduced in several scroll-like standardized microcopies to supply geographically dispersed repositories in the United States and abroad. While the FSA-OWI photographs had already received a great deal of attention since the late 1930s through their orchestrated display in magazines, books, travelling exhibitions, and museums, Vanderbilt’s microfilming project at the Library of Congress aimed to turn one of the most emblematic American photography collections of the twentieth century into a major transnational resource of historical documents. Driven by Vanderbilt’s “theory of total documentation,” the essential purpose of his endeavor was to find new ways of dealing with the whole of recorded knowledge, going beyond the limitations of a single institution to improve the traditional channels of information circulation.
Elisabeth Otto is a Ph.D. candidate in art history at the Université de Montréal, where she is currently working on her dissertation, “Art Histories of Unlearning: Emily Carr (1871–1945) and Gabriele Münter (1877–1962).” After finishing her M.A. in Business Economics, Otto studied art history, archaeology, and philosophy in Regensburg, Munich, and Montréal. In the first year of her Ph.D., Otto was a Fellow in Canadian art at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Since 2014, she has been a teaching assistant in the Université de Montréal’s Department of Art History and a research assistant in the Department of Comparative Literature in collaboration with the Warburg Institute in London. Besides her research on women artists and twentieth-century Primitivism, she is interested in the interrelations between European and North American art and art histories, in particular the mobility of artists, scholars, and aesthetic concepts in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
In the fall of 1928, Mark Tobey taught a master class in Emily Carr’s studio. Decades later, he would claim that he had only gone from Seattle to Victoria to “help her out,” even though at that time, Carr was already on her way to attaining her status as the iconic Canadian artist we know today. In 1927, Carr participated in the Exhibition of Canadian West Coast Art: Native and Modern and became, together with the members of the Group of Seven, one of the most important representatives of Canadian modernist landscape painting. At this crucial point in her career, Mark Tobey’s preoccupation with mass and volume, impacted by his discovery of Cubism, met Emily Carr’s need to find an adequate style in which to depict the immense British Columbian trees and totem poles. What is more, Tobey’s painting Emily Carr’s Studio (1928) not only evidences the influence of Tobey’s Cubist technique on Carr’s work, but also reveals their shared fascination for the Native cultures of the Pacific Northwest Coast. Tobey, who admired and collected Native art, had found in Carr a congenial artist, one who had been pursuing her ethno-artistic project of painting a full collection of totem poles along the West Coast of British Columbia with dedication since 1907. Mark Tobey and Emily Carr’s artistic exchange proves that the Pacific Northwest was a vibrant cultural environment in which a distinct and original modern art driven by a mutual interest in First Nations art could develop, regardless of national borders.
Jennifer L. Roberts, Session Chair
Jennifer L. Roberts is the Elizabeth Cary Agassiz Professor of the Humanities at Harvard University. An art historian specializing in North American art from the colonial period to the present, her current research and teaching emphasizes craft and materiality theory, print studies, and the history and philosophy of science. She is the author of three books: Mirror-Travels: Robert Smithson and History (Yale Univ. Press, 2004), Jasper Johns/In Press: The Crosshatch Works and the Logic of Print (Hatje Cantz, 2012), and Transporting Visions: The Movement of Images in Early America(Univ. of California Press, 2014). Roberts is also a co-author of the Prentice Hall textbook American Encounters: Art, History, and Cultural Identity (2007). She is currently working on a book exploring British and American printmaking and a project theorizing kinetic art history.
Sandra Salles holds a master’s degree in Social Anthropology and Ethnology from the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), having also specialized in Latin American Studies at the Université de la Sorbonne Nouvelle–Paris III. She has a B.A. in history, obtained at the Universidade Federal de Juiz de Fora, Brazil. She is a first year Ph.D. student in the history of art (non-European Art program) at the Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP), where her research focuses on contemporary African and African American art. She is investigating the conception and reception of the exhibition The Short Century: Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa 1945–1994, held at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and at the Museum of Modern Art PS1 in 2002 and organized by Okwui Enwezor, a U.S.-based Nigerian curator. Salles has been working at the Museu Afro Brasil in São Paulo since 2010, developing projects and conducting research alongside the curatorial team.
In 1994, a work from the Lynch Fragments series by the North American artist Melvin Edwards was included in the exhibition Heirs of the Night, held in three Brazilian cities—São Paulo, Belo Horizonte, and Brasilia—under the curatorship of Emanoel Araujo, a Brazilian artist, curator, and museum director. The exhibition sought to explore different expressions of the black imaginary in Brazil, making comparisons with the art of the Caribbean and that of North America while also highlighting parallelisms and continuities with respect to African art. On this occasion, Edwards’s sculpture was displayed alongside works that clearly reflected the African diasporic aesthetic championed by the curator, such as those by renowned contemporary Afro-Brazilian artists Mestre Didi and Rubem Valentim, to name only two, as well as costumes and objects employed in religious rituals.
Sculptures from the Lynch Fragments series were later exhibited in other shows, always curated by Araujo, who continued to display them among other works related to the Afro-Brazilian universe, accentuating the formal links between them. Presently, five works in the series are on view in the long-term exhibition at the Museu Afro Brasil in São Paulo, which is run by Araujo.
This paper, part of a larger study concerning works by African American artists in the collections of Brazilian art museums, examines the display of the Lynch Fragments from an Afro-Brazilian perspective, and seeks to comprehend how the extent of their reception is simultaneously expanded and limited by this curatorial narrative.
Vanessa R. Schwartz, Session Chair
Vanessa R. Schwartz is Professor of History, Art History, and Film at the University of Southern California, where she also directs the Visual Studies Research Institute. She specializes in European and American visual culture, especially film, photography, and design. She is the author of Spectacular Realities: Early Mass Culture in fin-de-siècle Paris; the prize-winning It’s So French! Hollywood, Paris and the Making of Cosmopolitan Film Culture; and Modern France: A Very Short Introduction in Oxford University Press’s Very Short Introductions series. She has co-edited several volumes, most recently, Getting the Picture: The Visual Culture of the News. She recently received a fellowship at the Cullman Center at the New York Public Library, the Lindbergh Chair at the National Museum of Air and Space, and a Guggenheim fellowship to complete her book, Jet Age Aesthetics: Media and the Glamour of Motion.
Paul Chaat Smith
Paul Chaat Smith is a Comanche author, essayist, and curator. His work is focused on the contemporary landscape of American Indian politics and culture. He is a co-author (with Robert Warrior) of Like a Hurricane: The Indian Movement from Alcatraz to Wounded Knee (New Press, 1996), and the author of Everything You Know about Indians Is Wrong (Univ. of Minnesota Press, 2009). Smith joined the National Museum of the American Indian in 2001. His projects include James Luna’s Emendatio at the 2005 Venice Biennial, Fritz Scholder: Indian/Not Indian, and Brian Jungen: Strange Comfort. Although he spends most of his time crafting game-changing exhibitions and texts, he also enjoys reading obsessively about the early days of the Soviet space program, watching massive amounts of televised sports, and writing about himself in the third person. Like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, he turned pro right after high school and has no college or university degrees.
The twenty-first century has seen a rapid movement towards a global view of American art. It has suddenly become parochial to speak of American art as something disconnected from the rest of the world. Curiously, this shift has taken place just as contemporary Native American artists have increasingly looked to international venues, often to the bafflement of the museums, galleries, and scholars who show Native art. The transnational turn, I believe, offers challenges, traps, and rewards for Native artists. I will look at how Indian artists have navigated this new arena, and how their successes and failures might enrich the field of American art history itself.
Alex J. Taylor, Session Chair
Alex J. Taylor is the Terra Foundation Research Fellow in American Art at Tate, where he oversees a wide-ranging program of scholarship concerning post-war American art. Taylor received his D.Phil. in the History of Art from the University of Oxford, where his research focused on corporate art patronage in the 1960s. He has held fellowships from the University of Chicago, Duke University, the Getty Research Institute, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Taylor’s recent essays on the late careers of Alexander Calder and Henry Moore have appeared in Henry Moore: Sculptural Process and Public Identity (Tate, 2014), Oxford Art Journal, American Art, and Art Monthly Australia. He has worked widely as a writer and a curator in Australia, and is the author of Perils of the Studio (Melbourne: Australian Scholarly Publishing/State Library of Victoria, 2007).
Veerle Thielemans is the European Academic Program Director at the Terra Foundation for American Art. Her major responsibility is the oversight of the foundation’s academic initiatives and partnerships in American art history, including teaching and research projects, international symposia, and seminars in Europe. Since 2001, she has been directing the Terra Summer Residency in Giverny, a two-month research program for emerging artists and doctoral fellows in American art and visual culture history. She is also actively engaged in creating an international discussion forum on American art history at the Terra Foundation’s resource center in Paris. Born in Brussels, Thielemans completed a degree in art history at the University of Louvain to pursue further studies at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris, followed by a doctoral degree at Johns Hopkins University. She taught courses in French nineteenth-century art in American study-abroad programs in Paris, such as the Columbia University Paris Programs.
Today’s task is to explore American art history on its own terms as well as in its intersections across the globe. Of these aims, the Terra Foundation has made the second the driving force of its activity by juggling a mixture of its own curatorial and academic initiatives with major exhibition and fellowship support for others, both inside and outside the United States. What are some of the challenges that arise from such strongly mission-driven philanthropic efforts to help rewrite the history of the visual arts of the United States in international terms? Breaking out of national borders involves bringing geographical boundaries and everything that comes with them into closer view. Better scholarly equipment may be necessary to create a truly “polyglot” art history. On the basis of experience both presenting and discussing American art history in corners of the world where there is often only rudimentary knowledge of this material, I will make a few observations on the results of working “in the terrain,” and where one might go from here.
Fred Turner is Professor of Communication and, by courtesy, of Art and Art History at Stanford University. He has written extensively about art, technology, and American culture since World War II. He is the author of several books, including From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism and, most recently, its prequel, The Democratic Surround: Multimedia and American Liberalism from World War II to the Psychedelic Sixties. You can find his papers and much more at http://fredturner.stanford.edu.
Today we find ourselves surrounded by screens—on our iPhones, our tablets, our desktop computers. Little do we know that we are living out the multimedia dreams of several dozen Cold War social scientists, a handful of Bauhaus artists, and the musician John Cage. This talk will track those dreams and the aesthetic politics that drove them, from World War II to the psychedelic sixties, with an eye to laying bare the long-buried cultural roots of today’s multimedia revolution.
Jennifer Van Horn
Jennifer Van Horn specializes in the fields of early American visual and material culture. She is Assistant Professor of Art History at George Mason University and also teaches in the Smithsonian-Mason M.A. Program in the History of Decorative Arts. In 2015–2016 she will be a postdoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, investigating the role of slaves and slavery in shaping early American portraiture. Her first book, Civility in a New World: Material Culture and the Making of America, will be published by the Omohundro Institute (Univ. of North Carolina Press) in 2016. She has an article forthcoming in the Winter 2016 issue of the journal Early American Studieson George Washington’s dentures, and has also published articles in Winterthur Portfolio and American Art.
The wooden leg donned by statesman Gouverneur Morris is the sole surviving artificial limb worn in early America. This paper combines analysis of Morris’s prosthesis with representations of wooden legs in satirical prints, portraits, and scientific texts that circulated around the British Atlantic to uncover how Americans redefined the relationship between materiality and morality, person and thing, as they framed a new ideal of republican manhood. The number of amputees rose dramatically in the Revolutionary War, yet the prostheses these men adopted, and their power to re-make citizens, remain unstudied. When Morris wore his leg in London and Paris as a representative of the new republic, his prosthesis provided a striking example of material things’ important role in performing American virtue. I argue that the wooden leg, a good tied to both heroism in battle and male inadequacy, was central to early Americans’ efforts to define the role of objects in the new republic through the bodies of amputees.
ShiPu Wang, Session Chair
ShiPu Wang, Associate Professor of Art History and Visual Culture at the University of California, Merced, is the author of Becoming American? The Art and Identity Crisis of Yasuo Kuniyoshi (Univ. of Hawai’i Press, 2011). He has published his research in major journals both in English and Chinese, including American Studies; the special “Art and Cultural Institutions” issue of AAPI Nexus; Yishu-Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art; and several issues of the Journal of Aesthetic Education by the Taiwan National Center for Arts Education. His essay, “Japan against Japan: U.S. Propaganda and Yasuo Kuniyoshi’s Identity Crisis,” appeared in the Spring 2008 issue of American Art and won the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s 2008 Patricia and Phillip Frost Essay Award. Wang was a 2014 Terra Foundation for American Art Senior Fellow at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, where he worked on his second book, The Other American Moderns.
Cécile Whiting, Keynote Speaker
Cécile Whiting is the Chancellor’s Professor in the Department of Art History and Professor in the Graduate Program in Visual Studies at the University of California, Irvine. She specializes in the history of American art with a focus on the mid-twentieth century, about which she has published three books: Antifascism in American Art (Yale Univ. Press, 1989), A Taste for Pop: Pop Art, Gender, and Consumer Culture (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1997), and Pop L.A.: Art and the City in the 1960s (Univ. of California Press, 2006). Pop L.A. was awarded the 2009 Charles C. Eldredge Prize for Distinguished Scholarship in American Art from the Smithsonian American Art Museum.