Filter Dissertations and Theses By:
30,000 Reasons to Remember: Artistic Strategies for Memorializing Argentina's Disappeared
Year of Dissertation:
This dissertation traces the construction of memorials from 1976-2009 dedicated to the victims of state-sponsored terrorism under the 1976-1983 military dictatorship, now known collectively as the disappeared, and the creation of new paradigms in public art and memorialization practices in Argentina. I examine a typology of memorials to the disappeared and analyze the spatial power dynamics in the public realm under the dictatorship and in the democratic era. This dissertation is the first scholarly text to focus on the history of patronage and the range of visual forms in Argentine memorials to the disappeared. My research analyzes the relationship between a memorial's subject and the artists' chosen formal representational strategies. I explore the artists' use of various media and styles to memorialize the disappeared, including documentary photography, guerilla art, conceptualism, minimalism, abstraction, performance, and figuration. Aesthetic choices reflect the political platforms and goals of the memorials' main patronage groups: human rights organizations, cultural institutions, and the government. My investigation reveals that the memorials dedicated to the victims of state-sponsored terrorism are part of a contentious struggle in the politics of public space that began under the military junta and continues to this day. The production of Argentine memorials that honor the disappeared are a reflection of the present moment in which they are designed. Artists and human rights organizations created these works to challenge and alter the established government order and cultural institutional spaces became sites of resistance against the historical narrative put forth by the military and the ruling democratic presidents. Minimalism, on the other hand appears to have become a favored choice for government-sponsored memorials because it lacks and therefore erases an apparent narrative. This project stresses the importance of understanding and considering audience response to the major paradigms of Argentine memorial construction. In addition, the interdisciplinary nature of my research incorporates the study of Latin American art with public art, and memory studies, thereby providing a new lens through which to analyze contemporary Argentine art production.
Francis Picabia and the Problem of Nihilism
Year of Dissertation:
“Francis Picabia and the Problem of Nihilism ” offers an interpretation of Francis Picabia based on the work of Friedrich Nietzsche. Building on already established art-historical material, and on the tradition of Nietzschian interpretation in continental aesthetics, the dissertation offers a new reading of Picabia's hugely variegated, apparently contradictory career. The central claim is that Picabia's art was generated by the same problem that Nietzsche wrestled with in philosophy: nihilism, the devaluation of all transcendent values in modernity. The strategies Picabia developed to overcome nihilism often match those developed by Nietzsche. Each of the five chapters defines such a strategy and tracks the way it unfolded in Picabia's oeuvre, analyzing specific paintings and texts formally and contextually by way of contemporary criticism and intellectual currents.
Improving the Public: Cultural and Typological Change in Nineteenth-Century Libraries
Year of Dissertation:
Concurrent with New York City's emergence during the nineteenth century as the leading financial and cultural center in the United States, the city's public library architecture underwent a transition from buildings designed in romantic revival styles to monumental, neoclassical edifices that were intended by their architects and patrons to rival municipal libraries in other cities. New York's Astor Library, founded in 1848, was the first public library in the United States, and although its Romanesque Revival architecture was not a model for later libraries, its existence spurred the establishment of other public libraries. Before then access to all other libraries in the city required either membership in a particular group, such as a trade union, or a fee. The Neo-Grec design for the Lenox Library, founded in 1870, pushed public library design toward that of other emerging cultural institutions such as art museums in that it used similar forms. These two libraries, along with $2.5 million provided by the Tilden Trust, were consolidated in 1895 to form the New York Public Library. The public hoped that the new library would improve civic life by amassing a great collection and making it available to all, regardless of age, sex, or country of origin. These three institutions are the basis of this study of the library type as the embodiment of larger developments in the nineteenth-century architecture and culture of New York City. In this dissertation, I examine the development of the public library type--which entailed debates about both function and style--against the backdrop of New York's emergence as a world-class city. The New York Public Library was one of the last, large public libraries built in the United States during the Gilded Age. Other rival cities such as Boston and Chicago completed libraries prior to the consolidation of the New York Public Library. As a result, its architects had the benefit of studying these other institutions in order to determine what characteristics should be incorporated into the new building, and what should be avoided. New York Public Library represents the culmination of the public library type in New York City.
Arte povera in Turin 1967-1978: Contextualizing Artistic Strategies during the Anni di piombo
Year of Dissertation:
This dissertation presents an original analysis of four artists based in Turin, Italy: Giovanni Anselmo (b. 1934), Mario Merz (1925-2003), Giuseppe Penone (b. 1947), and Gilberto Zorio (b. 1944). Although these sculptors are ordinarily considered either individually or within the context of the 1960s-70s movement Arte povera, focusing on the sub-grouping reveals historical, tactical, and thematic connections that are otherwise unapparent. Their specific careers evolved within the social, artistic and intellectual context of Turin during a time of great political upheaval and philosophical foment. This study contributes to a new understanding of engagement by these four artists with Italian aesthetics and politics, and presents a framework through which to study Arte povera more generally. Critic Germano Celant was based in Turin in 1967, when he developed the notion of Arte povera as a national artistic phenomenon that began in 1967 and ended in 1971. From its inception, the label was applied to contemporary Italian artists whose projects explicitly aimed to de-invest the artwork of predetermined meaning, but it is often misunderstood as referring to an interest in "poor" materials. Rather than attempting to recast and debate the term Arte povera however, this dissertation primarily argues that the socio-political history of Turin, combined with a prominent school of phenomenological philosophy, inspired the rise of specific aesthetic strategies and their subsequent identification by figures such as Celant, Tommaso Trini, Mirella Bandini, and others. Anselmo, Merz, Penone, and Zorio, in particular, created objects and installations that used natural and industrial materials alike to engage viewers in modes of active perception, creating empowered viewing subjects. Seen in relief with contemporary philosophical ideas about multi-sensory experience forming the sensible world, such artworks appear as aesthetic analogues to the political mobilizations occurring in Turin's factories and streets. Using a periodization based on Italian political history rather than the artistic one considered by Celant, this study examines the projects of these four artists from the student movement's beginnings in 1967 to the climax of domestic terrorism in 1978. It situates each artist's material practice within the local philosophical and social context to reveal its latent political charge.
"I Am Elsewhere": Luigi Ontani and the Tableau Vivant in Italian Art, 1969-1979
Year of Dissertation:
"`I Am Elsewhere'" posits Luigi Ontani as a leading figure and pioneer of the postmodern tableau-vivant revival in Italy, 1969 to 1979. The tableau vivant as an artistic strategy and subject concerned artists both independent and affiliated with Arte Povera. The primary medium for these artists was photography and, secondarily, live performance, film, video, and painting. The main forerunners of this revival were painter Giorgio de Chirico and filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini. Ontani donned the visages of figures and characters from past paintings and sculptures, cultural history, and contemporary popular culture in tableaux primarily staged for the camera. He pioneered the use of color photography and video in the early 1970s. In the second half of the 1970s he performed his tableaux in front of an audience and executed a series of hand-tinted black-and-white tableau photos in collaboration with commercial photographers in India. This study combines object-based art history, cultural history, and critical theory. It connects Ontani's tableau works with camp aesthetics and queer theory, and investigates the economic, technological, social, political, cultural, and artistic circumstances out of which the tableau-vivant revival emerged and flourished in Italy. The tableau-vivant revival and Ontani's works are related to three contemporaneous socio-historical phenomena: image culture, or the saturation of everyday life with electronic and printed images starting in the early 1960s; the Italian gay liberation movement of the early 1970s; and internal terrorism from both left and right, afflicting the country from 1969 until 1980. This treatise problematizes the reductive view of contemporary Italian art as structured around the binary sequence Arte Povera-Transavanguardia. It addresses the phenomenon of the tableau-vivant revival, yet to be discussed in the literature on contemporary Italian art. The importance of this phenomenon cannot be underestimated since creating tableaux has become a central artistic strategy in the visual arts of the past thirty plus years, and is commonly considered a hallmark of postmodern aesthetics. "`I Am Elsewhere'" also contributes a study of one of the earliest extensive collaborations between an Italian and Indian practitioners in the postcolonial world.
Critical Positions in Recent South African Photography
Year of Dissertation:
This work presents a history of South African photography through an account of critical practices undertaken by individual photographers. Rather than the history of photography in South Africa, this project offers a taxonomy of a variety of strategies and tactics pursued by practitioners of the medium before and after the fall of apartheid. Told through case studies, it probes how these photographers were influenced by their political commitments, their dreams about their country's future and their beliefs about the efficacy of art as an agent of social change. To consider both the practice of particular photographers and their personal investment in the making of images, this dissertation blends a theoretical framework with biography and social history. While bodies of theoretical inquiry, like critical white studies and creolization theory, help put South African photographs into an international dialogue with other contemporary art, biographies ground the work in the lives led by photographers who have experienced the vagaries of South African history. Drawing on interviews and on an analysis of the history of photography in South Africa, this dissertation inquires what these photographs tell South Africans about themselves and what they tell the world about South Africa. Chapter One provides a short account of the history of photography in South Africa told through the lens of the work and careers of photographers Santu Mofokeng, Peter McKenzie and Jo Ractliffe. Chapter Two relates the work of David Goldblatt and Hentie van der Merwe to that of scholars pursuing an avenue of inquiry called critical white studies, scholars who posit whiteness as a socially constructed form of privilege. In Chapter Three, the documentary photography of Ernest Cole and the conceptual work of Berni Searle will be situated in relation to creolization theory. Chapter Four examines how photographers Mikhael Subotzky, Zanele Muholi and Nontsikelelo `Lolo' Veleko are articulating new concepts about what it is to be a post-apartheid South African photographer. Finally, I will conclude with a reflection on my own subject position: an American, deeply concerned about race, who is looking at South Africa in an attempt to understand his own history.
Donald Judd's Furniture, From Do-It-Yourself to the Art of Lifestyle
Year of Dissertation:
This dissertation is an interdisciplinary study of Judd's furniture design from the late 1960s to the early 1990s. It sheds light on the artist's anarchistic political stance and on the do-it-yourself cultural phenomenon as a model for his intentionally naïve-looking furniture generated through his collaboration with local carpenters in Marfa, Texas during the 1970s. Judd's furniture production developed to a more sophisticated, skilled mode of fabrication in the 1980s, while his furniture and artwork became increasingly intertwined at many levels including the philosophical, the formal, and the realms of fabrication, installation, and marketing. This dissertation demonstrates how Judd's furniture design became integral to the permanent installations he orchestrated in Marfa and how he eventually shaped a certain way of living in his carefully organized environments. The ambiguity in the distinctions between functional objects and art pieces in the Minimalist ambit stimulated a rise of usable sculpture created by a succeeding generation of artists including Scott Burton. With respect to their emphasis on the role of the viewer or user, and on leading art into the everyday, Judd's and Burton's art-furniture both originated from aspects of individual presence and action in society rather than from a taste for good design.
NATIVE AMERICAN CHIC: THE MARKETING OF NATIVE AMERICANS IN NEW YORK BETWEEN THE WORLD WARS
Year of Dissertation:
Focusing on four key figures - Morris de Camp Crawford, John Sloan, Amelia Elizabeth White, and René d'Harnoncourt - this dissertation analyzes museum and gallery exhibitions of Native American art mounted in the United States, particularly New York City, during the interwar period, and documents the immediate and lasting impact these shows and their promotion had on the emergence of "Indian Chic" in women's fashion and interior design. In the late 1910s, Crawford, a research editor for Women's Wear and honorary research associate at the American Museum of Natural History, mounted a campaign encouraging Euro-American designers to seek inspiration in museum collections, particularly Native American production. Crawford's efforts led to the AMNH's 1919 Exhibition of Industrial Art in Textiles and Costumes; a series of exhibitions at the Brooklyn Museum in the 1920s; and Mallinson Fabrics' 1928 "American Indian Series." Meantime, Sloan bolstered awareness of Native American art through exhibitions of Pueblo watercolors at the Society of Independent Artists exhibitions in the 1920s, and the groundbreaking Exposition of Indian Tribal Arts in 1931. White, a New York socialite living in Santa Fe, joined Sloan in his efforts, financing the EITA and promoting the incorporation of Native American art into modern Euro-American décor through her New York City gallery and exhibitions of her personal collection. In the mid-1930s, Indian Chic received government backing with the creation of the Indian Arts and Crafts Board. As its general manager, D'Harnoncourt promoted Indian art's suitability as inspiration for modern Euro-American design in two landmark exhibitions: the Indian Court at San Francisco's Golden Gate Exposition in 1939 and Indian Art of the United States at New York's Museum of Modern Art in 1941. These exhibitions created a sensation that was widely reported in the popular press, and U.S. consumers responded enthusiastically to Indian-inflected and -inspired clothing, accessories, footwear, cosmetics, and household goods and accent pieces. The notion of Native American Chic, created in the 1910s by Crawford and promoted by Sloan, White, and d'Harnoncourt throughout the interwar period, endures today.
Weighing the Body: Female Body Image in Contemporary Art
Year of Dissertation:
Numerous contemporary artists, particularly female artists, have at key moments in their careers chosen to examine the issue of female body image. The preoccupation with weight is preeminently visual, so artistic interventions can be particularly powerful. Yet no comprehensive study exists of artwork concerned with pandemic issues such as obesity, anorexia, bulimia, dieting, or female body image broadly. In this dissertation, I examine significant examples of such projects by locating works by key artists in social and historical context, including that of evolving feminist discourses on the body: Laura Aguilar (b. 1959), Eleanor Antin (b. 1935), Vanessa Beecroft (b. 1969), Maureen Connor (b. 1947), Lauren Greenfield (b. 1966), Ariane Lopez-Huici (b. 1945), Leonard Nimoy (b. 1931), L.A. Raeven (twins Liesbeth and Angelique Raeven, who work as a singular artist, b. 1971), Faith Ringgold (b. 1930), Rachel Rosenthal (b. 1926), Barbara Smith (1931), and Jana Sterbak (b. 1955). Many of the artists in question have incorporated their own bodies into their work, at times leading to certain contradictions that deserve discussion. That is, as they choose to diet or to display their eating disorders through their artworks, they may appear complicit in the very syndromes that they are ostensibly critiquing. In choosing to investigate or document extreme examples of thin and fat women, or in chronicling anorexic and bulimic bodies, these thirteen artists generally raise questions concerning societal pressures on the healthy female body. I argue that each of these artists has somehow questioned female bodily ideals while also complicating the idea of a "normal" female figure. Because the artists in question--though all from the United States and Europe--represent a variety of backgrounds, including Jewish, African-American, Latina, and white, it follows that their work evinces different cultural or sub-cultural understandings of, and approaches to body size. By focusing in a roughly chronological way on projects that date from the 1970s to the early 2000s, I examine how visual approaches to issues surrounding body image have shifted and developed over time as artists move from documenting their own dieting to heralding the fat body to others who justify eating disorders.
European Symbolism Transformed: The Case of Poland
Year of Dissertation:
This dissertation examines the intersection of concepts of nationalism and identity in Polish Symbolist painting in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It argues that characteristics of the Symbolist mode in painting, such as formal distortion and ambiguity, mysticism and pessimism, were ideally suited for the expression of complex ideas about nationhood and identity in Polish territory. These ideas related to the status of the Polish nation as a politically subjugate entity, as well as the newly contested status of the individual artist as spokesperson for the nation. The dissertation argues that Symbolist painters forged a compromise in their work between the demands of tradition and modernity by investing well-worn themes and motifs with new, more nuanced meanings. In so doing, they perfectly articulated the state of cultural and political suspension particular to the Polish situation. The dissertation makes comparisons between examples of Symbolist painting in Poland and that of selected Western European cities. An examination of similar themes and motifs across cultural borders demonstrates the impact of their transpositions to the Polish context. The dissertation also examines the influence of Symbolism on the Sztuka group, the preeminent modernist artists' organization of the period. It argues that Symbolism represented a crucial component of Sztuka's understanding of itself and its profile in a local and international context. Finally, the dissertation examines in detail the work of two Symbolist painters, Jacek Malczewski and Jan Stanisławski, against the backdrop of traditional scholarly categorizations of Symbolist painting into synthetism and thought-painting. It asserts that the mix of characteristics and strategies in these artists' work problematizes this categorization and encourages a reshaping of the scholarly discourse on Symbolism.