Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

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  • The Search For The Sublime Irish Landscape: The Provinces Versus The Metropolis In The Work And Lives Of Francis Danby, James Arthur O'Connor, and George Petrie

    Author:
    Elizabeth Martin
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Patricia Mainardi
    Abstract:

    THE SEARCH FOR THE SUBLIME IRISH LANDSCAPE: THE PROVINCES VERSUS THE METROPOLIS IN THE WORK AND LIVES OF FRANCIS DANBY, JAMES ARTHUR O'CONNOR, AND GEORGE PETRIE The purpose of this dissertation is to examine the lives and works of three Irish artists within different parameters than has traditionally been done so within Irish art-historical discourse. Most scholars who have focused on Irish artists of the past two hundred years have taken a monographic approach. By contrast I shall consider the developmental trajectory of Francis Danby, James Arthur O'Connor, and George Petrie from a thematic methodology that will consider specific metropolitan versus provincial influences on their work, travel, and most significantly, their adoption of the Sublime as a means of transcending their regional training and allowing them to be considered within a wider, international context. In the nineteenth century many Irish artists felt compelled to leave their homeland with the hopes of finding financial and professional success abroad. The majority of them chose London for their destination and as such, hoped to transcend the limitations of the provincial training they had received within Dublin artistic circles. In 1813, Francis Danby, James Arthur O'Connor, and George Petrie left Dublin together with the hopes of finding financial and artistic success in London. Although they arrived together, they did not all remain. Petrie returned to Ireland almost immediately, O'Connor did so a few weeks later (although he would ultimately move to London in 1822), and Danby made his way to Bristol to hone his skills before making his London debut several years later. Within the parameters of Romanticism, each artist evolved from topographic painters to artists who adopted their own version of the Sublime for their landscape views. My analysis will encompass how each artist chose the different versions of the Sublime to differentiate themselves and to propel their careers forward in a more innovative and international manner. Study of their development enables us to consider them as artists from the provinces who ultimately were able to transcend their limited training and engage with the formal and theoretical metropolitan advances of the Sublime.

  • Critical Positions in Recent South African Photography

    Author:
    Kevin Mulhearn
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Geoffrey Batchen
    Abstract:

    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

    Author:
    Nina Murayama
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Anna Chave
    Abstract:

    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.

  • European Symbolism Transformed: The Case of Poland

    Author:
    Lillian Orenduff-Bartos
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Emily Braun
    Abstract:

    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.

  • John Ferren and the Development of Abstraction

    Author:
    Marshall Price
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Katherine Manthorne
    Abstract:

    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

    Author:
    Daniel Quiles
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Romy Golan
    Abstract:

    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.

  • From the Ground Up: Holger Cahill and the Promotion of American Art

    Author:
    Jillian Russo
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Katherine Manthorne
    Abstract:

    A biography of Holger Cahill, director of the Works Progress Administration Federal Art Project (WPA/FAP) from 1935-1942, my dissertation chronicles his influence on American art as an art critic, curator, and administrator. An Icelandic immigrant, who was born in 1887 in Skogarstrand, Iceland near the Arctic Circle, Cahill grew up in the Midwest. Alienated from his family as a young man, he spent his adolescence as an itinerant worker, an experience that shaped his Populist artistic philosophies and his curatorial approach. Cahill, influenced by the Progressive theories of John Dewey, conceptualized art as an inclusive component of daily life with which everyone should have an opportunity to participate. Settling in Greenwich Village, Cahill formed relationships with artists John Sloan, Stuart Davis, Mark Tobey, Joseph Stella, and Arshile Gorky, as well as with gallery owner Edith Gregor Halpert, collector Abby Rockefeller, and Newark Museum director John Cotton Dana. From 1922-1929, Cahill worked as Dana's assistant at the Newark Museum, where he helped build the museum's collection of Modern American art and met future Museum of Modern Art curator Dorothy C. Miller, whom Cahill married in 1938. At the Newark Museum, he pioneered the first museum exhibitions on American folk art, "American Primitives" and "American Folk Sculpture." In 1932-1933, Cahill served as temporary director of exhibitions at MoMA, where he collaborated with Alfred H. Barr, Jr. on the exhibition "American Painting and Sculpture 1862-1932" and organized the exhibitions, "American Folk Art: Art of the Common Man in America" and "American Sources of Modern Art." Cahill applied his democratic aesthetic theories most broadly through the structure and programs he implemented as director of the Federal Art Project. In particular, I argue, the New York City FAP and the WPA/FAP Exhibition Division contributed to the development of a pluralistic art scene during the 1930s and early 1940s. Through its program of local and national exhibitions, the Exhibition Division extended the art world into new communities and offered exposure to established and unknown artists. Throughout his leadership of the FAP, Cahill served as a link between artists and the New Deal administration and as a mentor to many members of the avant-garde.

  • Painterly Representation in New York, 1945-1975

    Author:
    Jennifer Samet
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Patricia Mainardi
    Abstract:

    Although the myth persists that figurative painting in New York did not exist after the age of Abstract Expressionism, many artists in fact worked with a painterly, representational vocabulary during this period and throughout the 1960s and 1970s. This dissertation is the first survey of a group of painters working in this mode, all born around the 1920s and living in New York. Several, though not all, were students of Hans Hofmann; most knew one another; some were close friends or colleagues as art teachers. I highlight nine artists: Rosemarie Beck (1923-2003), Leland Bell (1922-1991), Nell Blaine (1922-1996), Robert De Niro (1922-1993), Paul Georges (1923-2002), Albert Kresch (b. 1922), Mercedes Matter (1913-2001), Louisa Matthiasdottir (1917-2000), and Paul Resika (b. 1928). This group of artists has been marginalized in standard art historical surveys and accounts of the period. In general, this is because figurative painting of this period does not fit into a teleological reading of art history, with abstraction perceived as the ultimate progression and goal of painting. As Pop Art, Minimalism, and Conceptualism gained force, the figurative painters were increasingly marginalized in the art world. The aim of this dissertation is to re- contextualize these artists into the New York art world of their time by discussing their training as abstractionists, their aesthetic theory, their teaching, their critical reception, and their careers. I focus particularly on the ways in which they reconciled the principles of abstraction with representational content. Although abstraction and representation were increasingly polarized in the art world, the painters themselves, and several critics and writers on their work were able to see the possibilities for a more dialectical synthesis of the two.

  • Beyond "Meaningless Work": The Art of Walter De Maria, 1960-1977

    Author:
    Molleen Theodore
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Anna Chave
    Abstract:

    This dissertation investigates the work of the American artist Walter De Maria (b. 1935). De Maria is known predominately through photographs of his sculptural land work, The Lightning Field (1977), but the breadth and complexity of De Maria's practice has not received sustained critical scrutiny. I consider De Maria's writings, including his would-be manifesto "Meaningless Work" (1960), drawings, wood boxes, steel sculptures, installations, land works, music, film, and photography projects, as well as his connection to the development of minimal art, conceptual art, and land art, and his relationship to his collectors and patrons. By examining the many facets of De Maria's production and reception and by focusing on work from the 1960s and 1970s, this dissertation deepens the current understanding of his practice during the time of its development and articulation. Additionally, through detailed archival research, this study moves away from the personal and anecdotal treatments De Maria's work has received thus far and toward an understanding of his practice contextualized in its time.

  • Like Turtles, Islands Float Away: Emergent Distinctions in the Zoomorphic Iconography of Saladoid Ceramics of the Lesser Antilles, 250 BCE to 650 CE

    Author:
    Lawrence Waldron
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Eloise Quinones Keber
    Abstract:

    The late first millennium BCE to early first millennium CE saw the beginning of the Ceramic Age in the Caribbean islands. The ceramic culture that effected this transition was the Saladoid, members of which departed from northeastern Venezuela and the northwestern Guianas and settled the Antilles from Trinidad to Puerto Rico. As the hunting, gathering, fishing, and non-intensive horticulture of the older Caribbean peoples gave way to the intensive agriculture and full-fledged pottery industry of new migrants from South America, Caribbean culture was transformed. This study explores the ceramic indicators of cultural change, not for the obvious differences they trace between older "Archaic" peoples and newer Ceramic ones in the Caribbean, but for the differences they evince between the Ceramic peoples that settled the islands and the ones they departed in South America. This study demonstrates the emergence of a new regional identity. The study presents three kinds of evidence of this regional distinction. First, it presents quantitative surveys of over two thousand ceramic objects in sample collections and compares incidence counts of zoomorphic motifs between the mainland and the Caribbean islands. Zoomorphic iconography adorns much of the pottery of the Saladoid and other early Ceramic cultures of the Caribbean. Ceramic zoomorphs appear as effigy vessels, incised and painted details on vessel walls, and most commonly, as adornos, the modeled handles and lugs of vessels. Secondly, the study tracks qualitative differences between islands and the mainland, chief of these being morphological changes in ceramics, particularly as relate to technique, style and iconography. Finally this study attempts to decipher the cultural meanings assigned to these zoomorphic ceramics, particularly as they relate to known traditional narratives, ritual and daily life. This iconographic and iconological analysis gives insight into the ethos that drove the changes in ceramics and also illuminates some of the motives behind migration to the Antilles. Through an analysis of formal types, an exploration of aesthetics and iconography, and a partial reconstruction of iconology and cultural context, this work approaches the first Ceramic peoples of the Antilles as curious explorers, deliberate pioneers and shrewd architects of a uniquely Caribbean culture.