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Critical Positions in Recent South African Photography
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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.
Owning the Exotic: Production of Hispano-Islamic Lusterware and its Reception in Western Europe, 1350-1650
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Lusterware, tin-glazed pottery decorated with striking iridescent designs, was first made in Basra, Iraq, in the ninth century. These luxury ceramics and the specialized technique involved in their creation spread rapidly throughout the Islamic world, with the Iberian Peninsula ultimately becoming a center for production. This dissertation examines the social, historical, and artistic circumstances surrounding Hispano-Islamic lusterware production and provides insight into its reception in Western Europe during the height of its consumption from 1350 to 1650. Given that available scholarship on Hispano-Islamic lusterware is primarily concerned with archaeological excavation, trade practices, and formal analysis, our understanding of what this pottery meant to the artists who created it and to the patrons whose tastes it satisfied has remained unclear. My dissertation clarifies these aspects by viewing both the creation and patronage of this lusterware as driven by its conception as an exotic luxury item in the Iberian Peninsula as well as in Northern Europe and Italy. Moreover, while waning lusterware consumption in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Europe, and Spain in particular, has been viewed as evidence of a change of taste imposed by the growth of an Italian Renaissance aesthetic, I demonstrate that new types of attainable exotica, such as Chinese porcelain and New World ceramics, also diminished lusterware's popularity.
John Ferren and the Development of Abstraction
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This dissertation presents the first comprehensive examination of the life and work of John Ferren. Compiled using extensive primary materials, this study argues for a reassessment of Ferren's position within the modernist canon. Born on the West Coast in 1905, Ferren was raised in Los Angeles and spent his formative artistic years in San Francisco in the mid- to late-1920s. He first visited Europe in 1929, making his way through France, Italy, and Germany. He returned two years later, intending to remain permanently. During this period Ferren became an integral part of the Parisian avant-garde, one of the few Americans to do so, and helped codify the burgeoning langauge of geometric abstraction. He quickly gained an impressive international career, exhibiting on both sides of the Atlantic, but coming to the U.S. at the dawn of the War for one of his exhibitions, he was unable to return to Europe. Following the War, Ferren became central to the development of Abstract Expressionism as a charter member of the Artist's Club, serving as its president for one year in 1956. He organized exhbitions of Abstract Expressionism and more importantly became a vocal advocate for the movement through a series of articles detailing its genesis and eventual demise. In many ways, Ferren countered the very image of a hard-living painter in the 1950s by cultivating an interest in ideas and the intellect, with a sophistication not often found among his peers. Despite his advocacy for the movement and important exhibitions at the Stable Gallery and elsewhere, he remained outside the canonical figures of Abstract Expressionism. In the early 1960s, as the asthetic paradigm began to shift quite radically, Ferren returned to a geometric approach to painting that now incorporated his interest in advanced mathematics with visual perception. This late period was one of the artist's most creative and certainly most productive. It was, also, as I argue, one of his most significant contributions to the development of painting as he was one of many artists at the time who were truly re-defining the notion of what painting could be.
Between Code and Message: Argentine Conceptual Art, 1966-1976
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This dissertation historicizes and theorizes the emergence and refinement of conceptual art in Argentina between the years 1966 and 1976. The conceptual turn, commonly understood as the shift from painting and sculpture to multimedia event- and language-based artistic practices in the 1960s and 1970s, took on an activist dimension in this context. A group of artists in Argentina collaboratively developed an educational role for art in the face of the dictatorship's control over a relatively new and increasingly powerful mass media. Argentine conceptual art as it is understood here can be traced back to one figure in particular, Oscar Masotta, a cultural theorist, pedagogue, and occasional artist who argued that artists such as Andy Warhol were engaged in a semiotic project of stripping away the content, or message, of the popular image to reveal the code, or underlying structure, that allowed the message to be delivered. Masotta and a circle of artists with whom he was working expanded this technique to include other systems that could be similarly analyzed: genres of art such as the happening, exhibition space, the art institution, the mass media, and the state. This process of extricating code and message has a crucial consequence: once analyzed, the system at hand can no longer deliver its message, either because its code has become too conspicuous or because it has been dissembled into parts. In 1968, Masotta's techniques were incorporated into a larger collaborative project titled Tucumán Arde, which staged protest exhibitions against the dictatorship's economic policies at union halls. For the artists involved in this project, it was not enough to merely analyze codes. A replacement message had to be substituted for the one that had been undermined. This dissertation traces the shared development of these conceptual strategies up to and after 1968, and the abandonment of art by most of the artists involved in Tucumán Arde. With worsening political conditions in Argentina in the 1970s, the conceptual strategies utilized by Masotta and Tucumán Arde were adapted to address political oppression from an increasingly powerless position.
Apotheosis of the Public Realm: Civic Classicism in New York City's Architecture
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In the years around the consolidation of Greater New York in 1898, a renewed interest in republican political theory among progressive liberals coincided with a new kind of civic architecture. For the first time in American history, cities and the urban public emerged as crucial parts of democratic citizenship, at least for progressives such as Frank Goodnow, Frederic Howe, and Herbert Croly. At the same time, New York City was promoted as the nation's cultural and commercial capital: the "American metropolis," in Croly's words. Architects, too, played a key role in articulating the city's and the urban public's new status and visibility. New York City was a site for the simultaneous reimagining of citizenship, the public realm, and architectural and urban form. In this context, an informal school of architecture in New York that I call "civic classicism" developed three distinctive design modalities to reform the city's public space: the ensemble of buildings in a garden-like terrace, the continuous street wall around a historic square, and the free-standing monument juxtaposed to the gridiron urban plan. By attending to issues of publicity--of public space and visibility--broadly considered, architectural works by Carrère & Hastings, Cass Gilbert, and others are shown to be linked to the civic, political concerns of their time. The dissertation thus moves beyond the conventional biases in the historiography of this architecture, which has treated the work in mostly pejorative terms. Chapter one traces the course of the nineteenth-century American "architectonic public realm"--that is, the ways in which political thought and architectural and urban form conditioned one another-- as a foundation for understanding the changes around 1898. In Chapter two, Herbert Croly's political theory and architectural criticism are studied together to reveal the connections between his republican politics and his pragmatic architectural aesthetics, which championed civic classicism's suitability to the modern city. Chapters three, four, and five examine the three architectural modalities at the Staten Island Civic Center, Bowling Green, and the New York Public Library, respectively. The conclusion briefly suggests some reasons why civic classicism declined in the 1920s and after.
MANIERA DEVOTA/MANO DONNESCA: WOMEN, VIRTUE AND VISUAL IMAGERY DURING THE COUNTER-REFORMATION IN THE PAPAL STATES, 1575-1675
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The history of women's participation in religious movements during the Early Modern period in Europe has long been less commented upon in modern scholarship than that of their male counterparts. This project will enlarge our understanding of the participation of women in the visual program of the Counter-Reformation in the Papal State of Bologna. The study focuses on Bologna since the city had an unprecedented large group of active women artists as well as being a crucial site of Catholic reform. Knowledge of Bologna's women is still incomplete; therefore this dissertation is structured as a series of interlinked case studies, some of which rescue forgotten artists, while others add a new dimension to better-known figures. This research thus takes a necessarily broad approach, combining aspects of iconography, patronage, gender studies, and reception studies; it also integrates media neglected in previous studies such as prints and embroidery. The goal is to insert these artists into the larger philosophical and theoretical context of the city's intellectual history, first by investigating the links between religion, science, and naturalism; and second, by unpacking critical terms from the historiography of style that came to bear on their work. Lastly, the project explores the city's concern with women's virtue, as it is a constant thread woven into visual imagery of all media, from the sixteenth into the seventeenth century. The synthesis of all this material will produce a wider view of the still understudied and ill-documented relationship between women, religion and the visual arts in the complex period of the Counter-Reformation.