Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • María 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.

  • 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.

  • The Church and Convento of Santo Domingo Yanhuitlan, Oaxaca: Art, Politics, and Religion in a Mixtec Village, Sixteenth through Eighteenth Centuries

    Author:
    Alessia Frassani
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Eloise Quiñones Keber
    Abstract:

    The mission-building campaign undertaken in the Americas in the years following the Spanish conquest (1521-1546) is the largest and most ambitious evangelical and artistic enterprise in the history of the Catholic Church. In the span of just a few decades, Spanish mendicant friars, at the head of the missionary efforts, established hundreds of conventos (missions) in both colonial cities and provinces. These institutions did not merely accommodate friars. Planned to carry out doctrinal, educational, and liturgical activities, they soon became booming economic and cultural centers. This dissertation focuses on the convento in the Mixtec town of Yanhuitlan in Oaxaca, southwestern Mexico, and is the first to provide a comprehensive study of a mission and its historical development. Previous art historical scholarship has usually granted separate attention to the architecture, painting, and sculpture of the Mexican missions, overrating formal qualities and neglecting the fact that all aspects of the convento were part of the same larger artistic and religious program. The sixteenth-century missionary complex consists of the main church, adjoining cloister, and residential and working areas; it houses several colonial altarpieces and a collection of wooden polychrome sculptures. It was the most important artistic enterprise undertaken in Yanhuitlan in the early decades after the conquest and has remained since then the main focus of artistic and religious activities. First, the alliance of Mixtec leaders with Dominican friars and Spanish authorities made possible the erection of the mission, which became a powerful statement of the new hegemonic status of Yanhuitlan in the region. In the following centuries, activities of the confraternities became the most important impulse of art patronage. Spanish in origin, these institutions became gradually independent from the local parish and colonial authorities, filling the vacuum left by a waning traditional leadership. My dissertation integrates on-site investigation and archival and ethnographic research to address the various strategies of appropriation, manipulation, and display of Spanish, Mixtec, and hybrid art forms in the context of political colonization and religious evangelization.

  • Photography as Process: A Study of the Japanese Photography Journal Provoke

    Author:
    Yuko Fujii
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Geoffrey Batchen
    Abstract:

    This dissertation evaluates the significance of a series of four critical Japanese photography publications, referred to here as Provoke. First published in 1968, Provoke consisted of a run of three quarterly journal issues, each bearing the same title as the series: Provoke. The series ceased publication in 1970 with the fourth Provoke publication, entitled Mazu tashika rashisa no sekai o sutero: Shashin to gengo no shisô [First, abandon the world of pseudo-certainty: Thought on photography and language]. Actively drawing on Western theory and literature, Provoke members--photographers Nakahira Takuma, Takanashi Yutaka, and Moriyama Daidô; critic-photographer, Taki Kôji; and poet Okada Takahiko--aimed to create visual images that would reveal a world indescribable by conventional language. The term are-bure-boke, which means grainy, blurred, and out of focus, was coined to describe their radical photographs, many of which look as though they were taken by accident and appear to be of nothing in particular. I argue that Provoke members not only challenged the aesthetics of existing photography genres, but also illuminated the very notion of photography itself. Their deconstructivist attitudes gave rise to photographs that were taken in the midst of unrehearsed settings, as well as developed and edited in rather random operations. Their process-oriented photography went hand in hand with the periodical style of the series, revealing the evolution of members' photography and ideas as each of the four publications was published. Rather than consider photography an end product of photographers' visualization, Provoke members demonstrated photography's intricate intertwining with the production process, beginning with taking photographs, extending through to developing prints, and ending with publishing the publications. I explore the material aspects of Provoke and First, Abandon the World of Pseudo-certainty as well as examine the publications' photographs. By doing so, I also argue that the publications are more than journals and a book: they belong to a multi-faceted medium including photobooks and artists' book. The publications' strong graphic take on photography and the photographers' engagement in the relationship between photography and language made the photographic publications unique among other commercial photography magazines and photobooks.