Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

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  • Four Parts Together, or Shaping Shapelessness: The Cultural Poetics of Inka Spatial Practice

    Author:
    Jeremy George
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Eloise Quinones Keber
    Abstract:

    Abstract FOUR PARTS TOGETHER, OR SHAPING SHAPELESSNESS: THE CULTURAL POETICS OF INKA SPATIAL PRACTICE by Jeremy James George Adviser: Professor Eloise Quiñones Keber This dissertation investigates the shaping of highland Andean culture through spatial practice--the phrase that theorist Henri Lefebvre used to describe how a society produces, reproduces, and extends its own idea of space for its own ends. The inquiry focuses on four select paradigms of spatial practice: defining the cultural poetics of spatial practice as a structural and semiotic methodology; analyzing pre-Columbian Inka (Inca; ca. 13th-16th c.) architectonic (sculptural) stone forms; interpreting spatial paradigms in the seventeenth-century manuscript of Peruvian chronicler Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala; and re-defining the "active surface" of contemporary Cuzco (Cusco), Peru, the ancient capital of the Inka. By centralizing spatial practice in successive temporal thresholds and various material mediums, this project creates an interpretive model for diachronic cultural analysis as a social, historical, and representational concern. After establishing that Inka spatial practice is rooted in a concept of replicating and transforming centers, the dissertation examines aspects of centeredness in Guaman Poma's manuscript, El primer nueva corónica y buen gobierno (ca. 1615) (The First New Chronicle and Good Government). The 398 line drawings of this key document codify colonial spatial practice as a socio-cultural mechanism of change, resistance, and imagination for its singular author-artist. Analysis of its thirty-eight city images underscores the role of architecture and urbanism in the flux of contestation, resistance, and subversive transformation. By concluding with a survey of the active surface of today's Cuzco, identified by its veneering, performances, processions, and virtually constructed ideas of Inkaness, I argue that the reproduction of contemporary spatial practice is both a formal reflection and a critical aberration of historically established centering principles. As such, Cuzco is a distinct heterotopia, to borrow the language of Michel Foucault, meaning liminal, interstitial, simultaneously mythic and real, a web of relations manipulating manifestations of past, present, and future. The consequence, then, is that there is now no mythology of originality in the Inka heartland, and only the originality of mythology remains. This means that the cultural identity invested in the center-based spatial practice is now re-invested in a surface veneer, relegated there as a contingent, reconstructed, fantastical idea of Inkaness.

  • SPECTATORSHIP AND THE SCREEN AS INTERFACE: FRENCH ART USING TELEVISION, VIDEO, AND THE PROJECTED IMAGE FROM THE LATE 1960s TO THE PRESENT

    Author:
    Stephanie Jeanjean
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Claire Bishop
    Abstract:

    This dissertation reconstructs key moments in the history of video-based art in France from the late 1960s to the present day, focusing on the changing relationship between the viewer and the screen, as tested by artists using television, video and the projected image. This study examines the relationship between art and politics by considering how cultural policy along with socio-economical and techno-political frameworks have affected the concept of an ideal viewer. I argue that in France, from the late 1960s to today, the idea of spectatorship changes from a politicized subject who receives a clear message to an autonomous participant invited to interact with the screen as interface, in increasingly apolitical projects. Little known in France and rarely addressed in Anglophone scholarship, the history of French video-based art, and of its politics of spectatorship, constitutes an alternative narrative that departs from the dominant Anglo-American model, and suggests a different understanding of what constitutes a socio-politically informed art practice. Accordingly, this research reconsiders the little-known beginnings of video in France in the late 1960s and 1970s, examining the work produced by militant feminist collectives such as Video Out and Les Insoumuses, and the development of a sociological approach to video, focusing on Fred Forest. It then explains a shift that occurred in the late 1970s and 1980s, when video lost its socio-political edge and was guided by formal concerns, here represented by Robert Cahen and Thierry Kuntzel. This change accompanies the institutionalization of video as Video Art, which was inspired theoretically by semiology and postmodernism, and formally by the medium-based orientation of early US video. Finally, I turn to recent works from the 1990s to today: Matthieu Laurette and three artists associated with Relational Aesthetics (Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Pierre Huyghe and Philippe Parreno). I argue that the criticism of Relational Aesthetics by Anglo-American scholars and critics rightly points out the lack of explicit socio-political engagement in these practices, but overlooks the specificities of the French context and the critical dimension of these works that aimed to make the spectator conscious of his or her position as viewer in relation to spectacle.

  • PHOTOGRAPHER AS PARTICIPANT OBSERVER: LARRY CLARK, NAN GOLDIN, RICHARD BILLINGHAM, AND NOBUYOSHI ARAKI

    Author:
    Hyewon Yi
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Anna Chave
    Abstract:

    This dissertation examines the tactics employed by four art photographers--Larry Clark, Nan Goldin, Richard Billingham, and Nobuyoshi Araki--whose approach is analogous to that of the so-called Gonzo journalists who notoriously blurred the line between author and subject. Operating from deeply insider positions, they brought topics of excess to the fore, often shocking viewers with the apparent lack of moral judgment or rationality on offer in their highly personal, autobiographical works. My study provides, by way of background, a genealogy of participant observation approaches in anthropology and journalism. It then traces how the anthropologists' approach to ethnographic research on exotic others came to be applied to domestic subjects in the West during the 1970s. The 1960s and 70s saw explicitly subjective reporting techniques flourish in journalism; and I argue that participant observer photography was born of this cultural climate. Britain's strong documentary photography tradition saw a shift toward the subjective and the individual during the 1970s and 80s, while more personalized forms of photography quickly arose in Japan in the early 1970s. Thus, the shift toward a subjectivized or autobiographical photography can be seen as a trans-cultural and trans-national phenomenon. The chapters devoted to the principal artist-subjects of this dissertation examine their respective social and cultural contexts, and identify their particular modes of practice. Larry Clark's initial, insider position gave way to what I term a voyeuristic position, especially in films that depict with gritty realism the darker side of juvenile delinquency. Nan Goldin remained within her intimate circle to make works in what I call an integrated mode, an approach that reflected the culture of 1980s bohemian life in New York City. Following both the subjective documentary tradition in Great Britain and its family photography tradition, Richard Billingham's photobook, Ray's a Laugh, and video, Fishtank, were created by a detached observer whose approach I regard as a dissociated mode. As for Nobuyoshi Araki, he assumed a reflexive and performative mode, particularly in pornographic images that blurred factual recording with staged elements. The vaunted authenticity of participant observation photography falls prey to the paradox that once an artist achieves recognition, her or his subjects become more aware that they are exchanging privacy for exposure. Insider participant observation photography has flourished into a second generation of artists who face the challenges of their subjects' awareness of the presence of the camera and the commercialization of the phenomenon, as exemplified by the emergence of so-called heroin chic in 1990's fashion photography.

  • The Rat Bastard Protective Association: Bruce Conner and His San Francisco Cohort, 1958-1968

    Author:
    Anastasia Aukeman
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Anna Chave
    Abstract:

    This dissertation is a theoretical and historical account of the art-making activities of the Rat Bastard Protective Association, a small, close-knit community living and working in mid-century San Francisco. Assemblage was a common denominator within the group, which included Wallace Berman, Joan Brown, Bruce Conner, Jay DeFeo, Wally Hedrick, and Manuel Neri, along with other, less constant members. The first book-length study devoted to the Rat Bastards, this project explores the political, social, and aesthetic concerns in their assemblages. It also reexamines the term assemblage, to take into account process and intent along with medium and technique. Allowing for this performative dimension impels a re-evaluation of these artists' works, its impact on subsequent developments, and its place among process-based practices in art since the 1950s.

  • 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.

  • Landscape Aesthetics and the Sublime in France, 1748-1830

    Author:
    Thomas Beachdel
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Patricia Mainardi
    Abstract:

    This dissertation examines the expression of the sublime in French painting between the years 1748 and 1830, a period spanning ancien régime, Revolution, Terror, Directory, First French Empire, and Bourbon Restoration. It reveals the existence and persistence of a grand classical strain of the sublime derived from Longinus's first century On the Sublime that was passed into the eighteenth century by Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux's 1674 French translation, Traité du sublime [Treatise on the Sublime]. These works stress noble greatness and elevation more than the fear and terror more commonly associated during this period with the sublime as articulated by Edmund Burke in his 1757 A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful. In addition to establishing the existence and examining the articulation of the sublime in eighteenth-century France that is primarily based on the conveyance of noble elevation and greatness, this dissertation also suggests that the French sublime is unique in that it incorporates the influence of the Burkean sublime of fear and terror. Thus, the sublime in France is what I call multivalent; it can express both greatness and fear, elevation and terror. This complex admixture is significant for its rich and varied range of meanings particularly in the context of landscape painting, a relatively unimportant category of painting at the beginning of the eighteenth century, but which became a major genre in France between 1740 and 1790. This time period that forms the core of this dissertation, not incidentally, also saw the emergence of an intense focus on the subject of aesthetics, including the aesthetic category of the sublime. In his commentary on work submitted to the Paris Salon, the French critic Denis Diderot devotes roughly a quarter of his Salon of 1767 to the work of Claude-Joseph Vernet (1714-1789) and Hubert Robert (1733-1808). In his elaborate discussion of these artists, one who had a penchant for painting wild seascapes and shipwrecks and the other who had a proclivity for painting ruins, Diderot lent critical weight not only to the genre of landscape but also to the connection between their work and the sublime. This is significant in that unlike England with its well-documented sublime landscape tradition, eighteenth-century France has been viewed as virtually bereft of a sublime tradition due to its close ties to the Classical landscape tradition. The sublime is a powerful and nuanced concept that expressed a cultural and political ideology tied to the grandness and continuity of France. More than an inert aesthetic category, the sublime is also an incredibly flexible and powerful conduit of a wide range of ideas. It can be seen expressed in Vernet's emphasis on the heroic individual in his paintings of shipwrecks, Pierre-Jacques Volaire's (1729-1799) emphasis on the natural power of volcanic eruption as a vital new way of viewing the natural world, and in Robert's painting of the Louvre in ruins that attests to the cultural monumentalization of France projected into the future. Finally, the elevation, or apotheosis, of the cultural and political--sublime greatness--of Restoration France was inscribed on the ceiling of the 1826 Musée Charles X in the institutionalization of that sublime ideology.

  • Luxury and Loyalty: Anne de Montmorency as Patron of the Arts

    Author:
    Anne Vuagniaux
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    James Saslow
    Abstract:

    This project examines the art patronage of sixteenth-century French aristocrat Anne de Montmorency. Credited as being a great diplomat, statesman, political advisor, and military hero, this aspect of his life has been neglected in the scholarship on the period. There is evidence, however, that his patronage was key in the development of what art historians today consider a distinctly French Renaissance style. This study provides a comprehensive view of one of the most influential art patrons of the late Renaissance and addresses architecture, sculpture, painting, and decorative arts media. Current scholarship on developments in the arts of the sixteenth century focuses on Italy's influence on the rest of Europe and the New World. While this influence was significant, Montmorency's patronage also reveals a desire to maintain continuity with local French traditions. Montmorency serves as a case study in the process by which powerful figures utilized the visual arts to express their identity and affirm their power in the Early Modern Era.

  • Paris-Vienna: Modern Art Markets and the Transmission of Culture, 1873-1937

    Author:
    Christian Huemer
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Patricia Mainardi
    Abstract:

    Organized chronologically in four chapters, this dissertation provides a broad-based account of the cultural transfers between Paris and Vienna at a time of increased artistic mobility. Focusing on the period between the 1873 World Exposition in Vienna and the 1937 Exposition of Austrian Art in Paris, the study seeks to elucidate what specific works of art were transferred from one cultural region into the other, and how they were appropriated within different regimes of value. While Paris managed to establish itself as the capital of the modern art market with exports on a large scale, Vienna faced tremendous difficulties in its attempt to become a major player in the European art world. How the cultural optimism before the Vienna World Exposition turned into a deep and sustained economic depression is examined in chapter one. Consequently, a number of Austrian artists decided to seek their fortune in Paris where the powerful art dealer Charles Sedelmeyer managed some of their careers. Chapter two shows how the grandes machines, theatrically presented and toured internationally by dealers, became the target of criticism. While the Vienna Secession intensified contacts to French artists, dealers, and collectors, intimate displays and clear narratives were able to disguise the commercial character of its shows. The role of Carl Moll for the importation of French modernism is considered in chapter three. Not only did he serve as director of the Galerie Miethke but was also instrumental in the foundation of a museum of modern art in Vienna. The study closes with a discussion of the impressive Exposition of Austrian Art at the Jeu de Paume which is exemplary for the French government's active foreign cultural politics after World War I and the collapse of the Habsburg Empire. A powerful gallery-system, able to implement and sustain Austrian art on foreign markets, never developed in Vienna where private patronage and artists associations continued to play a much more significant role.

  • An Alternative by Any Other Name: Alternative Comics between the "Mainstream" and the Avant-Garde, 1976 to the Present

    Author:
    Doug Singsen
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Claire Bishop
    Abstract:

    "Alternative comics" is a term that describes comic books produced since the mid-1970's that occupy a space at the intersection of mass culture and the avant-garde and represent an example of what I call, following literary scholar David M. Earle, the popular avant-garde. While acknowledging the problematic nature of the avant-garde as a model, this dissertation maintains that the popular avant-garde comprises a contradictory but real set of cultural practices. Alternative comics are conventionally defined by critics and academics by the absence of superheroes and other action-oriented mainstream comics genres, but this dissertation argues that the genres and other practices of mainstream comics have in fact been integral to many of the most critically acclaimed and influential examples of alternative comics. These comics incorporate mainstream genres through the use of what I term disjunctive genre hybridity, a technique in which "undigested fragments" of different genres are combined in ways that disrupt the fictional reality or norms of these genres, a concept that, like the popular avant-garde, has applications beyond the field of comics. In addition to alternative comics, disjunctive genre hybridity has also been used by some mainstream cartoonists, demonstrating the fluid boundary between alternative and mainstream comics. Another link between them is the fact that alternative cartoonists often portray themselves or their alter egos as fans and collectors, roles that have been central to the culture of mainstream comics since the 1970's, despite the fact that alternative cartoonists see fans, including themselves, as pathetic, socially marginal figures, echoing the derogatory stereotype of the fan prevalent in popular culture. Mainstream comics also figure prominently in the history of The Comics Journal (1977-), the most important magazine of comics criticism, which is often upheld as the most prominent advocate of alternative comics, although it was originally a conventional mainstream "fanzine" (fan magazine) that focused primarily on mainstream and groundlevel comics throughout the 1970's and 1980's, alternately criticizing and praising them, and only shifted its critical focus to alternative comics in the 1990's.

  • Beyond Polychromy: John Gibson, the Roman School of Sculpture, and the Modern Classical Body

    Author:
    Roberto Ferrari
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Patricia Mainardi
    Abstract:

    This dissertation is a study of the life and career of the British sculptor John Gibson (1790-1866), whose Roman studio near the Piazza del Popolo was a frequently visited site for Grand Tourists during the nineteenth century. I argue that, for Gibson, classicism was modern, and thus he developed new methods for creating and disseminating the modern classical body in nineteenth-century sculpture. Gibson is considered by scholars to be the first nineteenth-century British artist to reintroduce polychromy in marble sculpture, as exemplified by his best-known work, the so-called Tinted Venus, 1851-53, which was displayed in London at the International Exhibition of 1862. Because this tinted statue challenged sculpture's purity of form, the subsequently negative historiography of this work has obfuscated Gibson's numerous other accomplishments in the history of nineteenth-century art. In this dissertation I discuss many of his other free-standing marble statues of modern classical subjects, such as Cupid Disguised as a Shepherd Boy, ca. 1830, a popular work commissioned in marble nine times for different patrons, and The Hunter and His Dog, 1840-41, a statue considered by his contemporaries to be his masterpiece for its balance of idealism with a close study of nature. I also examine a selection of his portrait busts and monumental statues, bas-reliefs, drawings, and work in other media, such as porcelain statuettes and engravings, for a broader perspective of his exploration of the modern classical body. Rather than ignore his polychrome sculptures, however, I offer new readings of them to show how they intersected with these other important aspects of his career. Although I focus on one artist and use published and unpublished archival sources to discuss Gibson and his work, my methodology is pluralistic. I engage biography with nineteenth-century exhibition history and critical art reviews, and I link patronage and art production to gender studies and queer theory. I also engage with sculpture in its international context, as Gibson himself would have been exposed to it in the cosmopolitan art center that was Rome. Thus, the work of Antonio Canova and Bertel Thorvaldsen, the two leading sculptors in the Roman school, are components of this dissertation, as are the works of native British sculptors such as John Flaxman and Joseph Nollekens to demonstrate what Gibson learned from his early teachers and how he evolved to craft his own version of the modern classic in Rome. I contextualize his work with that of his contemporaries in Rome, such as the British sculptor Richard James Wyatt, the Dutch sculptor Mathieu Kessels, and the Italian sculptor Adamo Tadolini, for a better assessment of Gibson's sculptural practices. I also discuss his patronage by aristocrats like Queen Victoria and Czar Alexander II, politicians such as Sir Robert Peel, and bourgeois industrialists such as the Liverpool manufacturer Richard Vaughan Yates, as well as the global dissemination of his work during his lifetime, which was exhibited internationally throughout Europe, Russia, Australia, North America, and India. In the introductory chapter, I establish my argument, that through a reexamination of Gibson's life and career beyond his experiments with polychrome sculpture, one can better assess his importance to the history of sculpture itself by reconsidering how he redefined the modern classical body. The second chapter is a biographical overview that demonstrates how Gibson's roots in the British school of art influenced his ideas about classicism as a form of modernity. Chapter three considers Gibson's studio practice, from the close examination of his account books to his influence on his most famous pupil, the American sculptor Harriet Hosmer. Chapter four focuses on the homoerotic male body in Gibson's oeuvre. An advocate of the writings of Johann Joachim Winckelmann, Gibson created heroic and ephebic male nudes, such as Mars Restrained by Cupid, 1819-25, a work that suggests issues as diverse as homosocialism and queer subjectivity. Chapter five discusses Gibson's interest in reproductive media and how, in shifting his role from a hands-on sculptor to a designer, he explored reproductive technologies in cameo production, ceramics, and printmaking to disseminate images of the modern classical body to the rising bourgeoisie. The final chapter explores Gibson's legacy, including his influence on New Sculptors such as Hamo Thornycroft. Ultimately, this dissertation argues that through a reexamination of the life and work of Gibson, one can begin to move past the pejorative sensibilities of Neoclassicism itself as merely historicist and reconsider classicism as a form of modern art in the nineteenth century.