Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

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  • The Seventh Regiment Armory Commission and Design: Elite Identity, Aesthetic Patronage and Professional Practice in Gilded Age New York

    Author:
    Chelsea Bruner
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Kevin Murphy
    Abstract:

    This dissertation is an exploration and analysis of the Seventh Regiment Armory, a privately funded, purpose-built headquarters for the nineteenth century's most elite volunteer militia. This project demonstrates how the conception and funding of the building were a direct response to Gilded Age labor-capital conflict--a means by which even non-member elites could participate in the most contentious socio-political debates of the day. Simultaneously, the Armory's commission and design reflected a new level of professionalization in the design profession(s) and specialization in architectural typology, and I argue that transformations in politics and professional practice were not discrete phenomena, but were manifestations of elite class consolidation in the face of unprecedented social change. This study tracks the evolution of the Seventh, establishing a connection between military proficiency and elite identity as reflected in a series of facilities used over the years. I connect the Seventh's policing duties with other elite initiatives to compel fiscal and social "reform" while establishing Aestheticism as a visual and stylistic corollary to those endeavors. Implemented by the first generation of American design professionals--architects, engineers and even artists--the class-based component of professionalism was brought to the fore in the late 1870s by the nascent labor movement, and this project explores the heretofore unexamined role that striking workers played in further catalyzing class consolidation among elite patrons and their peers in the design professions. The Armory was an exemplar of these professional and stylistic transformations. This analysis illuminates the continuity between the Seventh's interiors and other contemporaneous projects that are united (to a remarkable degree) stylistically, but otherwise typologically and geographically varied, further linking Aestheticism to the broader project of class consolidation and identity formation. By the mid-1880s, the style had fallen out of favor, thus the Armory is significant as a rare, extant example. It was the precedent for a subsequent boom in armory construction and inspired a number of imitators locally and across the country, but its sumptuous interiors were never matched. The Armory is an important and heretofore unexplored monument to a moment of incredible transformation in the country and city's history.

  • On the Fringe of Italian Fascism: An Examination of the Relationship between Vinicio Paladini and the Soviet Avant-Garde

    Author:
    Christina Brungardt
    Year of Dissertation:
    2015
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Emily Braun
    Abstract:

    Vinicio Paladini's career as an artist, architect, and cultural critic illuminates the paradoxes of the Italian avant-garde between the World Wars. He emerged as an early proponent of communist-Futurism in 1922 and attempted to integrate futurist techniques with the Marxist theories of Antonio Gramsci. In addition, Paladini provided a direct point of contact between the Russian and Italian avant-garde, traveling to Moscow and reporting to the Italian public on Soviet artists' developments in film, photomontage, and architecture. Yet he struggled to merge his leftist ideology with his artistic practice as Fascism spread throughout Italy. Although he has been largely neglected in studies of Italian modernism, Paladini was well known to fellow artists and architects in the 1920s and 1930s, but he quickly became a pariah due to his unwillingness to compromise his ideals for regime recognition. Mussolini's pluralistic patronage, however, provided Paladini and leftist intellectuals with opportunities to continue contributing to the state-sponsored artistic milieu. A study of Paladini's career imparts valuable insights into why and how leftist intellectuals worked under the auspices of the fascist government. His participation in fascist-affiliated groups, such as Futurism and Rationalism, and contributions to government approved journals implicated his work in regime propaganda, yet also allowed him a public platform for the expression of his revolutionary ideas. Despite the origins of his art in Soviet Constructivism and communist agit-prop, he influenced the style, iconography, and propaganda efficacy of the futurist machine aesthetic, the state-sponsored film industry, and regime exhibition design in Italy. Clear divisions between left and right-wing factions within post-war art movements, such as Italian Futurism and Rationalism, are difficult to draw. Rather, it is vital to consider how Paladini consciously blurred the lines between the two in the wake of World War I and in response to Fascism. By examining the shifts within his leftist agenda and how it became commandeered by fascist propaganda, or unwittingly served it, my research documents commonalities in the politicized aesthetics by both left and right.

  • Let The Record Show: Mapping Queer Art and Activism in New York City, 1986-1995

    Author:
    Tara Burk
    Year of Dissertation:
    2015
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Kevin Murphy
    Abstract:

    Although scholars increasingly scrutinize late twentieth-century American art produced in relation to social movements organized around feminism, anti-racist politics, health activism, and LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) identity, scholars usually fail to address the importance of printed ephemera as a medium of artistic expression. Within art history, an oversight of the structural capabilities of ephemera (i.e. its different modes of recirculation, its impact on the mobilization of activist projects, and the ways in which its placement and distribution can transform spaces) makes it difficult to grasp the full scope of artists' contribution to social movements and broader social moments such as the culture wars. This dissertation counteracts the privileging of video art in accounts of AIDS activist art and introduces visual ephemera as an innovative and influential medium by examining three art activist collectives that represent distinct phases of artistic expression and modes of address. First, the Silence=Death Project, which created an eponymous poster in 1986 to unify and mobilize an activist response to the AIDS crisis. Second, Gran Fury produced sex positive imagery and changed media representations of people with AIDS, and homosexuals in general. The work of these two collectives contributed to the groundswell of sex positive, confrontational activities that emerged around the AIDS activism of ACT UP (the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power formed in New York in 1987). As a result in the early 1990s activism focused more broadly on sexuality, rather than exclusively on HIV/AIDS, emerged in the groups Queer Nation and Dyke Action Machine, explored in chapter 3. The lesbian public art collective fierce pussy, discussed in chapter 4, offered a feminist and lesbian critique of both queer and mainstream representational politics in the 1990s. Finally, the concluding chapter serves as an epilogue and looks at the individual practices of two artists associated with these groups (Gregg Bordowitz and Zoe Leonard) and a late work by fierce pussy. By placing the output of these collectives within the socio-historic, cultural, and aesthetic contexts of New York in the 1980s-1990s, this dissertation is a case study of political art during the divisive culture wars of the late twentieth century.

  • Unfamiliar Streets: The Photographs of Richard Avedon, Charles Moore, Martha Rosler, and Philip-Lorca diCorcia

    Author:
    Katherine Bussard
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Geoffrey Batchen
    Abstract:

    This dissertation begins from the premise that the streets of street photography matter. Streets are considered here as both sites and subjects for this genre of photography. Such an analysis demonstrates that streets are specific cultural, political, economic, and social environments, and that street photography often anticipates the affective quality of their reception by viewers. A key aim of this dissertation is to articulate a much-needed alternative to the dominant discourse on street photography as codified by Henri Cartier-Bresson, canonized by Garry Winogrand, and uncontested in most existing scholarship on the genre. Without spontaneity, speed, instantaneity, stealth, and mobility guiding the discussion, it becomes possible to redirect the terms of that discourse and to acknowledge that the construction and production of many street photographs corresponds--or fails to correspond--to the ways in which the street both frames and determines urban experience. Case-study chapters on the photographs of Richard Avedon, Charles Moore, Martha Rosler, and Philip-Lorca diCorcia address the historical dynamics that animated and complicated the specific city streets that serve as their sites and subjects. Published during the heyday of postwar consumerism, Avedon's late 1940s photographs for Harper's Bazaar utilize Parisian streets as deliberate locations of material desire and trade on a nostalgic image of that city. Moore's photo essay for Life magazine on the civil rights demonstrations in Birmingham in 1963 capitalizes on widespread awareness of the street as a site of political protest at the outset of a decade that would make the two synonymous. Rosler's removal of human subjects from street photography in her seminal work, The Bowery in Two Inadequate Descriptive Systems (1974-75), prompts the viewer's negotiation and reevaluation of urban poverty and homelessness. And diCorcia's projects in Times Square have yielded street photographs that unite the social and architectural space of urban change in America's most iconic public square. Taken together, the work by these four photographers provides not only a generational span across postwar American street photography; it offers a survey of types of street photography that diversify, expand, and complicate the existing discourse, thereby necessarily changing the practice of the genre's history.

  • Boom and Dust: The Rise of Latin American and Latino Art in New York Exhibitions Spaces and the Auction House Market, 1970s-1980s

    Author:
    Taina Caragol Barreto
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Katherine Manthorne
    Abstract:

    Art of the Fantastic: Latin American Art 1920-1987 Hispanic Art in the United States: Thirty Contemporary Painters and Sculptors

  • Contemporary Art and Internationalism at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1952-1988

    Author:
    Rachel Chatalbash
    Year of Dissertation:
    2015
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Anna Chave
    Abstract:

    This dissertation maps the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum's important yet uncharted exhibition history during the period of the directorships of James Johnson Sweeney (1952-1960) and Thomas M. Messer (1961-1988), comparing the museum's approach to exhibiting contemporary art to that of rival institutions. An argument is made for the singularity of the Guggenheim's exhibition program in light of its commitment to internationalism and pluralism. Through its dedication to internationalism, the Guggenheim imported and promoted artwork from regions overlooked by comparable institutions, especially Latin America and Eastern Europe, while encouraging international dialogue among artists and institutions. Pluralism, in its early application at the Guggenheim, allowed for the exhibition of art that expanded then-current conceptions of modern art. This dissertation also demonstrates the limitations of the Guggenheim's internationalism and pluralism, mainly its inability to see past its Western-centric view when creating exhibitions of international art, and an uncritical implementation of pluralism that often resulted in a seemingly arbitrary assortment of exhibited work without a meaningful curatorial framework. Through extensive use of archival sources, this dissertation examines dozens of the Guggenheim's exhibitions of contemporary art, providing an understanding of the programmatic nature of the Guggenheim's exhibition history over more than three decades. Finally, this dissertation contextualizes the Guggenheim's later global corporate model as having been predicated in part upon this earlier history.

  • Mural Painting and Social Change in the Colonial Andes, 1626-1830

    Author:
    Ananda Cohen
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Eloise Quinones Keber
    Abstract:

    Mural painting in colonial Peru (1534-1824) grew out of both indigenous Andean and European pictorial traditions that coalesced into a hybrid art form deployed to serve a variety of functions. Unlike paintings on canvas and panel, for which there existed no precedent in the Pre-Columbian Andes, mural painting was practiced in South America for at least 2,000 years before the Spanish invasion in 1532. Murals produced in the post-conquest period retained continuity with pre-Columbian traditions in terms of their technical aspects, while their iconography and style shifted dramatically to suit the needs of the Spanish colonial enterprise. First and foremost, colonial Andean mural painting served as an important visual tool in the religious conversion of indigenous peoples by encasing the interiors of churches with didactic illustrations of Catholic doctrine. In addition to their religious aspect, however, murals also transmitted social and political values to their local communities. This dissertation thus focuses on the intersections of mural painting and social transformation in the highland Cuzco region of Peru. It offers case studies of several Cuzco-area mural programs that span from the mid colonial period to the early years of independence: the churches of Andahuaylillas (ca. 1626), Urcos (mid-17th century), Pitumarca (18th century), Huaro (1802), and the wheat mill murals of Acomayo (1830s). Despite their wide temporal distribution, the murals under discussion are united in their intimate engagement with their local contexts. The present study examines subtle shifts in iconography, style, and the creation of multivalent religious imagery as important strategies undertaken by muralists to obliquely reference the sociopolitical issues with which indigenous communities were engaged. It draws on field research, archival documents, seventeenth- and eighteenth-century religious texts, and secondary source materials from art history, anthropology, and ethnohistory in order to offer new interdisciplinary perspectives for the study of colonial Andean mural painting.

  • Passive Fascism? The Politics of Austrian Heimat Photography

    Author:
    Elizabeth Cronin
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Geoffrey Batchen
    Abstract:

    This dissertation focuses on Austrian Heimat [homeland] photography during the 1930s. Seemingly apolitical, this regional and popular photography of bucolic landscapes, quaint villages, peasants in traditional dress, skiers, and mountaineers was fundamental in shaping Austrian identity. Both the pre-war fascist and the postwar democratic governments easily appropriated and encouraged its dissemination. It fully fit within the vision of building a new Austrian nation comprised of distinct regional identities. Of central importance to my dissertation is the question of how the preference for the local, which is strongly visible in these photographs, intersects with the desire to be part of a nation. It permeated people's lives during the 1930s and again in the 1950s, helping to establish the image of Austria as a peaceful Alpine nation. Examining a little-recognized, yet highly influential movement within Austria not only offers a new perspective on the development of modern Austrian identity, but also stresses the importance of including regional movements in histories of photography. Chapter One provides the political context for Austrian Heimat photography during the 1930s, bringing to light how the Austrian government encouraged Heimat photography and tried to unify Austria through a policy of cultural superiority and an image of an Alpine ideal. Chapter Two examines the beginnings of Heimat photography in the Heimat preservation movement and the development of Heimat photography in Germany and Austria during the 1920s and 1930s. Chapter Three considers Austrian Heimat photography as an integral part of government-supported tourism that promoted the country as an Alpine haven and a winter sports paradise. Chapter Four examines several different Heimat photobooks published during the 1930s as a basis for comparing the political attitudes of Heimat photographers towards the Austrian government and National Socialists. Chapter Five is a reflection on how the National Socialist government was able to appropriate the nationalist sentiment and romanticized viewpoints seen in the Austrian Heimat, transforming them into representation of the German Heimat. Chapter Six concentrates on post-War Austrian Heimat photobooks which featured much of the same traditional subject matter from pre-War Alpine Heimat. Amidst a cultural atmosphere of denial and victimhood the Heimat remained popular. Finally, the conclusion stresses the importance of cultural histories of photography and suggests further areas research.

  • Trecento Visuality and the Visual Arts: The Role of Glass and the Influence of Optics on Italian Art of the Fourteenth Century

    Author:
    Sarah Dillon
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    James Saslow
    Abstract:

    This project explores several facets of Trecento visuality as related phenomena and argues that the theoretical and spiritual conceptions of vision were inextricably linked to developments in optical technology, the practical experience of vision, and the visual arts. It does so by elucidating the role of sight and light in private devotional practices by examining religious art, especially reliquaries, which incorporate transparent glass. Early modern transparent glass had many functional uses--ranging from storage vessels to lenses, it was relatively cost-efficient, it was mentioned by ancient authors and natural scientists, and it was employed in religious symbolism. An examination of the many cultural associations that glass held in Trecento Italy demonstrates the ways a viewer used transparent glass in order to meditate their relationship with their world and their religious beliefs through their visual experiences and spiritual insights.

  • MarĂ­a Izquierdo: Religion, Gender, Mexicanidad, and Modern Art, 1940-1948

    Author:
    Celeste Donovan
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Katherine Manthorne
    Abstract:

    This dissertation examines the religious imagery in the art of the Mexican painter María Izquierdo (1902-1955). Among the first women in Mexico to earn her living as a professional painter, Izquierdo was an internationally renowned artist in her lifetime and remains one of the most notable artists in twentieth-century Mexican art history. Hers is a legacy that was not easily attained; working within a profession and nationalist discourse that was intensely masculine, she was persistent in her efforts to carve out a legitimate and respected space for women and for herself. Between 1940 and 1948 Izquierdo produced many paintings that incorporated popular and traditional Catholic artifacts and iconography that likewise touched upon feminine cultural experience, such as still-lifes of domestic shrines to the Virgin Mary and portraiture that evoked Madonna and Child motherhood imagery. My study revises the critical commonplace that Izquierdo's religious imagery reflects one facet of a collective Mexican cultural identity. Rather, I argue that these paintings expose an intricate web of social constructions involving ethnicity, gender, nationalism, and modernity. Examining public statements by the artist and the unique historical, economic, and sociocultural context of the decade of the 1940s, Izquierdo's domestic altars, Madonna imagery, self-portraiture, and related paintings constitute a strategic response to women's issues, the Catholic experience, the particular rhetoric of mexicanidad of that decade, and her concerted efforts to advance her professional career and notoriety. By joining her carefully crafted public persona to a strategic use of religious iconography that tapped into values intimately connected to a wide audience, Izquierdo accomplished what no woman before her had done. She reframed the role of women in the cultural narrative of the nation and successfully positioned herself as a great artist synonymous with Mexican culture itself.