Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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  • Sunappu: A Genre of Japanese Photography, 1930-1980

    Author:
    Yoshiaki Kai
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Geoffrey Batchen
    Abstract:

    This dissertation discusses the development of sunappu photography from the 1930s to the end of the 1970s, demonstrating its importance to the history of Japanese photography and art. Sunappu is a Japanese photographic term that began to be used in the mid-1930s, derived from the English word "snapshot." In the broader meaning of the term, it signifies instantaneous photography taken with a hand-held camera. Sunappu, however, often took on narrower connotations, referring specifically to candid photographs of people unaware of the presence of the camera. First and foremost, sunappu describes a photographic technique. However, it also constitutes a genre of Japanese photography with historical roots stretching back to the mid-1930s. Although the term sunappu has been commonly used in the Japanese photo world, there has been little attention paid to the concept of sunappu itself. That is, the significance of sunappu as an idiosyncratic genre of Japanese photography has been neglected. This dissertation argues the following points: firstly, sunappu is an indigenous tradition within Japanese photography that is epistemically different from the Anglophone snapshot. Many Japanese photographers, including established figures such as Ihei Kimura, Ken Domon, Shômei Tômatsu, Daido Moriyama, Shigeo Gochô, and Nobuyoshi Araki, worked in this tradition, inheriting and transforming it simultaneously. Secondly, sunappu is at once a technique, a genre, and a discourse. As such, it has a unique status within photographic history. Thirdly, sunappu photography addressed the issues which were shared by contemporaneous art and literature more significantly than usually believed. This aspect of sunappu made it a cultural phenomenon whose relevance goes beyond the relatively insular world of Japanese photography. More specifically, photographers utilized the technique of sunappu, i.e., candid photography, to grapple with central issues affecting art and literature at that time, such as the controversy over Riarizumu in the early 1950s (Domon), the Americanization of Japanese culture in the 1960s (Tômatsu and Moriyama), and the representation of everydayness in the early 1970s (Gochô and Araki).

  • The Legacy of Constructivism in Poland: Geometric Abstraction Before and Behind the Iron Curtain

    Author:
    Karolina Kawalko
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Rose Carol Washton Long
    Abstract:

    This dissertation situates the legacy of Constructivism in Polish painting during the 1920s and in the mid-1950s, both before and behind the Iron Curtain. The material and ideological conditions of geometric abstract art are examined within the context of the East and West and across the pre- and postwar divide. I address the troubled reception of Constructivism through the prism of the artist Henryk Stazewski (1894-1988), one of the key contributors to the history of Polish art before and after World War II. If during the prewar years Stażewski attempted to invest painting with collective, universal, and international force, in the postwar period he choreographed the process of reception by exhibiting his works at home. I argue that Stazewski was aware of the ambivalent status and depoliticization of geometric art rooted in Constructivist aesthetic, and wanted to restore its socially constructive and political dimension by - paradoxically - isolating himself in an already isolated state. While geometric abstract art can be defined and interpreted in many different ways, I examine it in Eastern Europe's specific historical circumstances and anlayze how it became a symbol of resistance and dissent against totalitarian regime. Since abstract art was perceived as "autonomous," and thus unrelated to contemporary social and political events, geometric abstraction, in contrast to the politically engaged Socialist Realism, signified not only a certain kind of freedom but also political opposition during the years of Stalinism. Despite the official hostility and frequent critical denunciation of geometric abstraction as both outmoded and apolitical, this art was in fact a powerful vehicle for affecting political change.

  • The Legacy of Constructivism in Poland: Geometric Abstraction Before and Behind the Iron Curtain

    Author:
    Karolina Kawalko
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Rose Carol Washton Long
    Abstract:

    This dissertation situates the legacy of Constructivism in Polish painting during the 1920s and in the mid-1950s, both before and behind the Iron Curtain. The material and ideological conditions of geometric abstract art are examined within the context of the East and West and across the pre- and postwar divide. I address the troubled reception of Constructivism through the prism of the artist Henryk Stazewski (1894-1988), one of the key contributors to the history of Polish art before and after World War II. If during the prewar years Stażewski attempted to invest painting with collective, universal, and international force, in the postwar period he choreographed the process of reception by exhibiting his works at home. I argue that Stazewski was aware of the ambivalent status and depoliticization of geometric art rooted in Constructivist aesthetic, and wanted to restore its socially constructive and political dimension by - paradoxically - isolating himself in an already isolated state. While geometric abstract art can be defined and interpreted in many different ways, I examine it in Eastern Europe's specific historical circumstances and anlayze how it became a symbol of resistance and dissent against totalitarian regime. Since abstract art was perceived as "autonomous," and thus unrelated to contemporary social and political events, geometric abstraction, in contrast to the politically engaged Socialist Realism, signified not only a certain kind of freedom but also political opposition during the years of Stalinism. Despite the official hostility and frequent critical denunciation of geometric abstraction as both outmoded and apolitical, this art was in fact a powerful vehicle for affecting political change.

  • ENTFESSELTES BAUEN (BUILDING UNLEASHED): HOLISTIC EDUCATION IN HANNES MEYER'S BAUHAUS: 1927-1930

    Author:
    Dara Kiese
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Rose-Carol Washton Long
    Abstract:

    The prevalent view of the Bauhaus is based on Gropius' tenure from 1919 to 1928. This dissertation examines the school under second director Hannes Meyer (1928-1930) in terms of pedagogy, production and presentation to the public. Discussion about Meyer's political views and Gropius' own well-publicized version of the history have overshadowed his accomplishments. This dissertation widens the purview of his project to encompass pressing contemporary cultural and philosophical currents. Rooted in late 19th century ideals of mutual cooperation and holism, Meyer's Bauhaus marked a pivotal moment for architectural and design education. Stressing the individual's complex needs, community, egalitarianism and financial self-sufficiency, he created a model for a more open design process. Inspired by interdisciplinary and sometimes conflicting methodologies--from Gestalt theory to social sciences and biology to anarchism and ecology--Meyer's contributions were innovative in focus and methodology to discover how best to meet the needs of the contemporary user or consumer. Chapter One, "`New World,' New Hire: Meyer's `Functional, Collectivist-Constructive' Teaching Philosophy in 1927," gives an account of Meyer's first year at the Bauhaus as the head of the architecture department to show how disagreements with other faculty members and ongoing debates have shaped the prevalent understanding of his subsequent directorship. Chapter Two, "Der Mensch als Einheit. Meyer's Guest Lectures as theoretical humanism" details how he changed the focus of attention from Bauhaus "style" to serving the needs of man by better understanding him through study of the humanities, social sciences, philosophy and applied, holistic and Gestalt psychology. Chapter Three "Meyer's New Building Theory: `the architect is dead,' but the building lives" investigates the theoretical bases of Meyer's approach and then considers its practical manifestations in the pedagogical components of the architecture program. Finally, Chapter Four "Bauhaus Wanderausstellung: Discursive Space and DIY Design" examines Meyer's public presentation of Bauhaus pedagogy and production in the 1929-30 traveling exhibition and public lectures. He employed the same approach to the public sphere by equipping people with the discursive and practical tools necessary to imagine and create their own suitable and sustainable environments, leading to many aspects of contemporary architecture and design practice.

  • TRADITION AND INNOVATION IN THE ITALIAN RENAISSANCE WORKSHOP: FROM PERUGINO TO RAPHAEL

    Author:
    Jennie Jee-Hyun Kim
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    James Saslow
    Abstract:

    Throughout Pietro Perugino's career, pupils, assistants, and collaborators associated with his shops in Perugia and Florence were critical to his highly productive enterprise. The drawings of Perugino and his Florentine and Umbrian associates are a unique source of linear genealogy documenting the role of the master, the contributions and participation of the workshop, and the artistic exchange that occurred in the process. This dissertation examines the workshop practices of Perugino and his pupils as independent artists, using evidence furnished by workshop drawings. The drawings, byproducts of the daily operations of these workshops, reveal both continuity in practice over generations and the ways in which each generation adapted to changes in the artistic climate. The reconstructions, in addition, have the potential to shed additional light upon the intersection between tradition, theory, and practice, as well as socio-economic conditions, such as training, collaboration, and organization in the Renaissance workshop. The market for copies, variations, and replicas is considered in the context of the notion of imitazione and meaning and cultural value of copies unique to Perugino's time. And the different grades of workshop production are illuminated by Perugino's methods of production and design. Using evidence furnished by workshop drawings, this dissertation also examines the formative influence of the practices of Perugino on artists trained in his workshop. Among artists that came under his tutelage, two dominant tendencies emerge: a derivative style in Perugia among local artists under the shadow of Perugino's monopoly and an independent style, found outside of Perugia, reflecting the influence of Perugino's workshop instruction. The careers of two significant pupils, Berto di Giovanni in Perugia and Raphael in Florence and Rome demonstrate the transmission of the experience of Perugino's workshop through two very different career trajectories, and will be used as case studies. Characteristics of their practice that reflect the heritage of Perugino such as the systematic use of drawings, employment of tools and techniques of replication and the master's exemplum, and principles of organization will be evaluated to trace continuity and innovation in workshop practice.

  • John Martin (1789-1854) and the Mechanics of Making Art in a Commercial Nation

    Author:
    Lars Kokkonen
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Patricia Mainardi
    Abstract:

    This dissertation reinterprets the career of the English artist, John Martin (1789-1854). Challenging the popular characterization of him as an apocalyptic visionary opposed to modern commercial and industrial society, this study argues that Martin, in fact, was the only major artist of his time to speak out in favor of the modern science of political economy and its core concepts of competitive individualism, self-interest, and technological innovation. While many of Martin's artist contemporaries incessantly - and futilely - petitioned the government for financial assistance for "historical painting" on the grounds that state protection was necessary if the highest category of painting (according to the civic humanist theory of art) was ever going to flourish in commercial Britain, Martin argued that "historic painting" was "dead as an art," and continually adapted his style, media, and subject matter to meet the demands of the art market. This dissertation contends that once we consider Martin's career from the perspective of someone who believed adamantly in modern political economy, his status in the history of British art as a Romantic visionary who believed that modern commercial society was immoral and corrupt will fall away. My first chapter examines attempts by the Royal Academy between 1800 and 1815 to secure government funding for historical paintings by Academicians. It then goes on to discuss Martin's involvement in establishing the rival Society of British Artists in the interest of free competition among private exhibiting societies. The second chapter examines how Martin and others who had founded the SBA testified before a select committee of the House of Commons that the Academy was attempting to restrain free trade and extinguish competition by seeking a monopoly on public funds. The third chapter interprets Martin's Thames and metropolis improvement plans as celebrating, not condemning, the spread of capitalism, industrialization, and urbanization. The fourth chapter provides a detailed examination of John Ruskin's statements about Martin over a forty-five year period, demonstrating how Ruskin's contempt for capitalism - and those who supported it - informed his criticisms of Martin's work. The last chapter considers the effect that Martin's belief in laissez-faire capitalism had on his work in general and on his painting in particular.

  • Catharine Lorillard Wolfe: Collecting and Patronage in the Gilded Age

    Author:
    Margaret Laster
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Kevin Murphy
    Abstract:

    Until now, Lorillard-tobacco heiress, philanthropist, and art patron Catharine Lorillard Wolfe (1828-1887) has been largely overlooked in the study of the cultural life of post-Civil War America. Nevertheless, as one of the founders of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and a preeminent collector of contemporary European art that she bequeathed to the Museum, she made her mark in the 1870s and 1880s as a prominent tastemaker in Gilded-Age New York. At the same time, Wolfe extended her artistic reach to the seaside resort of Newport, Rhode Island. With her architects, the firm of Peabody & Stearns, she embarked on the construction of a great summer house that enabled her to showcase her architectural and artistic sophistication. Her patronage of leading artists and designers of the English Aesthetic and Arts & Crafts movements there helped propel their work into the American visual consciousness. There were two components to Wolfe's patronage, each encompassing a specific residence, a particular locale, and a distinct aesthetic. Few art patrons, especially unmarried women, have had such a direct impact on the Gilded Age's cultural landscape in this dual way. Using a method derived from material culture and patronage studies, and the archival and contextual analysis of objects and buildings, this dissertation analyzes the range and significance of her contribution to the two sites she inhabited. The study of Wolfe's projects and her ability to negotiate between the domains of city and resort enable one to assess how one member of New York's elite was able to use the amassing of material culture to elevate her status in the city at a time when social classes were being redefined. It was also a transformative period in Newport, which was on its way to becoming the premier resort on the Eastern seaboard. Wolfe's creation of a great house there became an important signifier of her status and made a permanent mark on the built environment of Newport. This dissertation contributes to our understanding of art consumption, display, and identity formation, and how they functioned in different contexts and in different ways through the acts of collecting and patronage.  

  • Framing the Nation: Nation Building, Resistance, and Democratization in Korean Photography, 1945-2008

    Author:
    Jung Joon Lee
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Geoffrey Batchen
    Abstract:

    This dissertation examines photography in Korea since 1945, focusing on the medium's relation to the processes of nation building, civic resistance, and democratization. The dissertation evaluates a number of types of photograph, ranging from war photographs to family portraits to art photography. These assessments are informed by the ways in which photography has articulated, and in turn been shaped by, social, political, and technological shifts in Korean society. Korea's history since 1945--a history of liberation, war, nation building, and civic struggle against authoritarian military governments--parallels the culture's development of photography and its various practices. The relationship between photography and nation building and photography and democratization is thus crucial to the history of both the nation and the medium: photography does not merely re-present Korean life; it is an integral part of it. The investigation is organized chronologically, following the progression of South Korea's social and political development and treating the distinct formative periods in the nation-building process as backdrop and cultivator for the photographic works that emerged from each era. The history of photography in Korea since 1945 is the history of the struggles and trials of a society functioning under ideological conflict, state control, and a culture emerging from normalized militarism. This dissertation argues that the photographic practices that have developed since independence are fundamentally about the relationship between the state and the people. An understanding of this relationship, and how photography articulates it, is dependent on understanding the socio-political progress of the nation and how these photographic practices have become specifically Korean. The dissertation provides an understanding of this progress. With the sharp increase in interest in "national photography" since the turn of the millennium, issues of subjectivity have become even more apparent. Embracing the importance of interdisciplinary methodologies, this dissertation emphasizes issues of subjectivity and power dynamics as part of the produced knowledge and contextualizes Korean photographic practices within the historical significance of nation building, civic resistance, and democratization.

  • 30,000 Reasons to Remember: Artistic Strategies for Memorializing Argentina's Disappeared

    Author:
    Marisa Lerer
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Katherine Manthorne
    Abstract:

    This dissertation traces the construction of memorials from 1976-2009 dedicated to the victims of state-sponsored terrorism under the 1976-1983 military dictatorship, now known collectively as the disappeared, and the creation of new paradigms in public art and memorialization practices in Argentina. I examine a typology of memorials to the disappeared and analyze the spatial power dynamics in the public realm under the dictatorship and in the democratic era. This dissertation is the first scholarly text to focus on the history of patronage and the range of visual forms in Argentine memorials to the disappeared. My research analyzes the relationship between a memorial's subject and the artists' chosen formal representational strategies. I explore the artists' use of various media and styles to memorialize the disappeared, including documentary photography, guerilla art, conceptualism, minimalism, abstraction, performance, and figuration. Aesthetic choices reflect the political platforms and goals of the memorials' main patronage groups: human rights organizations, cultural institutions, and the government. My investigation reveals that the memorials dedicated to the victims of state-sponsored terrorism are part of a contentious struggle in the politics of public space that began under the military junta and continues to this day. The production of Argentine memorials that honor the disappeared are a reflection of the present moment in which they are designed. Artists and human rights organizations created these works to challenge and alter the established government order and cultural institutional spaces became sites of resistance against the historical narrative put forth by the military and the ruling democratic presidents. Minimalism, on the other hand appears to have become a favored choice for government-sponsored memorials because it lacks and therefore erases an apparent narrative. This project stresses the importance of understanding and considering audience response to the major paradigms of Argentine memorial construction. In addition, the interdisciplinary nature of my research incorporates the study of Latin American art with public art, and memory studies, thereby providing a new lens through which to analyze contemporary Argentine art production.

  • Francis Picabia and the Problem of Nihilism

    Author:
    David Lewis
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Emily Braun
    Abstract:

    “Francis Picabia and the Problem of Nihilism ” offers an interpretation of Francis Picabia based on the work of Friedrich Nietzsche. Building on already established art-historical material, and on the tradition of Nietzschian interpretation in continental aesthetics, the dissertation offers a new reading of Picabia's hugely variegated, apparently contradictory career. The central claim is that Picabia's art was generated by the same problem that Nietzsche wrestled with in philosophy: nihilism, the devaluation of all transcendent values in modernity. The strategies Picabia developed to overcome nihilism often match those developed by Nietzsche. Each of the five chapters defines such a strategy and tracks the way it unfolded in Picabia's oeuvre, analyzing specific paintings and texts formally and contextually by way of contemporary criticism and intellectual currents.