October 27, 2021 – Mariola Alvarez

Assistant Professor of Art History
Tyler School of Art and Architecture, Temple University

“Abstract Painting and Diaspora in Brazilian Postwar Art”

This paper examines the evolution of postwar Brazilian abstract art considering in particular how Japanese immigrant artists negotiated between the influences of Japanese artistic and cultural traditions, the Brazilian debates between the concrete and informalist art schools, and the global proliferation of abstraction after the Second World War. Japanese Brazilian artists did not fit neatly into the Western model of artmaking, and moreover, called into question the national model at the center of the discipline of art history. Applying diaspora theory to the study of their art, I analyze their work as a way to de-center the U.S. narrative about postwar abstract art.

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November 1, 2021 – Amy Knight Powell – 7PM Monday evening colloquium

Amy Knight Powell
Associate Professor of Art History
University of Southern California

“A Picture of an Interior in the Slave-fort at Elmina c. 1669”

In 1669, a forgotten Dutch painter named Pieter de Wit depicted the private quarters of the Director-General of the Dutch West India Company in Africa, luxurious rooms situated on the upper floor of the slave-fort in Elmina—well above the barracoons in the dungeon. This depiction of a seventeenth-century colonial interior offers a glimpse into the early modern formation of the racialized ideology of liberal personhood, which deploys domestic space as a metaphor for the interiority of the human subject.

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November 10, 2021 – Amanda Phillips

Amanda Phillips
Associate Professor, Islamic Art and Material Culture
Department of Art, University of Virginia

“Seeing Labor: Textiles, Art, and Artisanship”

Textiles sit between several fields of study, and even between disciplines. Individual objects may be treated as works of art, while written sources and archaeology attest to the scale of their production, trade, and consumption, suggesting some types are best understood as commodities. Taking this tension into account, this talk makes a preliminary step in exploring how art historians and scholars of material culture might use extant objects to understand how artisans worked, and to propose some new ideas about processes and decision-making or perhaps even authorship. It uses several examples—a large silk hanging made ca. 1400, velvet upholstery woven ca. 1600, and a blue and white cotton made ca. 1700s—to work through ideas of labor, skill, and technology, and some possible implications for the study of art and craft.

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November 17, 2021 – Monica Huerta

Assistant Professor of English and American Studies
Princeton University.

“What’s in a Face?”

This talk is drawn from a larger research project in progress, Face Poetics. The larger project will reach back into the long, multi-disciplinary history of studying how to read faces to theorize the ethical quandaries of facial recognition technologies in the present moment and in light of current struggles against their use and implementation. The larger project’s goal is to theorize what humanistic visual inquiry and analysis can contribute to conversations at the cross roads of critical race and science and technologies studies, which tend to center political and sociological questions (for some important reasons). “What’s in a Face” will give an overview of larger scope of the project, while zeroing in on some of the problems for humanistic ways of knowing presented by the question of how twenty-first century power works when it interfaces with algorithmic knowledges.

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March 3, 2021 – Grégory Pierrot

Grégory Pierrot
President, Amiri Baraka Society
Associate Professor, English Department
University of Connecticut at Stamford

From Rude Boys to Proud Boys: A Short History of Hip, Fashion and Fascism

The presidential debates and the subsequent failed coup of January 6th made a household name of the Proud Boys, the militia created by journalist-turned-fascist-goon Gavin McInnes. Seemingly diverse in its membership, claiming “Western chauvinism” rather than white supremacism, the Proud Boys and their intentions may seem puzzling from the outside. Still, recent events have convincingly exposed their commitment to fascist action and beliefs. 21st American fascism is a self-aware structure, powered by an engine dedicated to whitewashing the cultural references that fuel it. This presentation proposes a diagnostic.

(Group photo of 60s/70s rude boys/skinheads taken by Toni Tye. Photo of Enrique Tarrio of the Proud Boys taken by Maranie R. Staab).

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March 10, 2021 – Ellie Ga

American artist, writer and performer

Strophe: A Screening and Studio Visit with Ellie Ga

Strophe, a Turning is Ellie Ga’s ode to a message in a bottle. The video lets drifting objects carry her unexpectedly to the Greek island of Symi, and then to the shores of its neighbor Lesvos where she joins a team of volunteers aiding asylum seekers and refugees. The poetics of accidental drift turn into an urgent reckoning with political and humanitarian reality.

Co-sponsored by the Special Collections Department

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March 17, 2021 – Alicia Caticha

Assistant Professor
Department of Art History
Northwestern University

“Sculpting Whiteness on the Eighteenth-Century Dining Table”

With the emergence of material culture studies, the eighteenth-century aristocratic dining table has become an important locus for understanding the history of porcelain, French culinary practices, and modes of elite sociability, yet little has been written on the intermingling materials used to create these elaborate tablescapes. With the advent of biscuit soft-paste porcelain at the Sèvres Royal Porcelain Manufactory, matte white unglazed statuettes were placed side by side expensive sugar sculptures as the centerpieces of elite dining tables. The replication of whiteness—the primary characteristic aesthetically linking porcelain and sugar—has been read as evidence of the prevailing importance of Academic sculpture and the explicit antique connotations of marble. However, the eighteenth century’s fetishization of porcelain and the violent conditions of sugar’s production must be put in dialogue with the white forms adorning the dinner tables of the aristocratic elite. In doing so, this paper argues that the replication of whiteness in materials with colonial and imperialist histories alludes to a deeper political and social ideology of a society attempting to assert ideas of racial difference and hierarchy while simultaneously representing the expanding global purview of eighteenth-century Europe.

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