Eccentric, realist, populist, procedural: the politics of figuration in American Art 1929-1980.
18th and 19th May 2018, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.
Dorotheenstraße 26, 10117 Berlin, Hörsaal 207
This event is free of charge and requires no registration.
This conference addresses figuration in American art as a broad tendency that encompasses representational approaches as well as artworks that are underpinned by the human figure in a procedural sense, even where the body might appear obscure or highly mediated. Through the periodisation of this conference, the aim is to address figuration in relation to various flashpoints of social crisis in the United States, beginning with the impetus towards realism and its variants during the Depression, and then traversing towards the mid-century moment when American abstract art gained global prominence at the onset of the Cold War. Despite marking an apparent erasure of the figure, we know that non-representational artworks continued to be read in relation to the body in the 1950s-1960s, whether positively as in Harold Rosenberg’s analysis of action painting, or negatively as in Michael Fried’s accusations of a lurking anthropomorphism within minimalist sculpture. Through the 1960s and 1970s, the figure persisted in a whole range of painting, sculpture and performance practices which went beyond a strictly representational or realist paradigm and instead sought out mimetic and/or mediated ways of approaching the figure. This conference explores these issues in relation to the various struggles over who counts as human during the period. How did figuration act as a means to humanise, or conversely de-humanise individuals and social groups? How has representation of the human figure frequently been situated as a responsibility to bear, or conversely, a burden to shed, within struggles around race, class, sexuality and gender in the United States?
Friday 18th May
17.00 Welcome: Charlotte Klonk (Humboldt Universität zu Berlin)
17.15 Introduction: Larne Abse Gogarty (Humboldt Universität zu Berlin)
17.30 Andrew Hemingway (Professor Emeritus, University College London) “’The subject can take sides, not the quality‘ (Jean Hélion, 1938): Anti-Stalinism and Abstract Painting in the Late 1930s”
Respondent: Kerstin Stakemeier (Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Nuremberg)
19.00-20.00 Drinks reception.
Saturday 19th May
Panel 1: The figure, race and the nation
Chair: Larne Abse Gogarty
10.00 Anne Monahan (Fashion Institute of Technology) “Horace Pippin, Labor, and Cotton”
10.20 Joanne Crawford (University of Leeds) “The Figure in Waiting: Abstract Expressionism and the suspension of the ‘revolutionary moment’ (1952)”
10.40 Respondent: Selamawit Terrefe (Universität Bremen)
Panel 2: Biology, the networked body and eroticism
Respondent and chair: Jenny Nachtigall (Akademie der Bildenden Künste, München)
12.00 Eva Ehninger (Humboldt Universität zu Berlin) “Against the Biological Metaphor: Robert Smithson’s Crystalline Figuration”
12.20 Helene Viltalta (University College London) “Lee Lozano and the Networked Body”
12.40 James Boaden “The Body, the Figure, and the Self in Hannah Wilke and Vito Acconci”
Panel 3: Tactility, materiality and humanism
Respondent and chair: Jordan Troeller
14.30 Lauren Kroiz „Harold Cousins and Plaiton Sculpture“
14.50 Paisid Aramphongphan “Paul Thek: Body Mass Index”
15.10 Emilia Terraciano “Let’s twist again: the anthropomorphic sculptures of Senga Nengudi”
16.00 Coffee break
16.30 Darby English, “Making a Body American”
Respondent and chair: Larne Abse Gogarty
17.30-18.00 Questions and closing discussion.
Dr. Larne Abse Gogarty
Terra Foundation for American Art Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow
Institut für Kunst- und Bildgeschichte, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin.
Georgenstraße 47, Room 3.28
Postal address: Unter den Linden 6, 10099 Berlin
Tel: 030. 2093-66235