Theodore Roszak, ‘The Unknown Political Prisoner (Defiant and Triumphant)’ 1952
Theodore Roszak
The Unknown Political Prisoner (Defiant and Triumphant) 1952
Tate
© Theodore Roszak/VAGA, New York and DACS, London 2019

Seeking to bring together leading scholars in the UK, USA and Europe and to encourage new research and fresh perspectives, the project hosted four day-long workshops, often in partnership with academic institutions. The topics addressed included exhibitions of American art during the Cold War, the idea of the American canon, the role of the market in the making of American art, and the complexities of collaborative relationships and artistic processes.

The project culminated in a major international conference, titled ‘Border Control: On the Edges of American Art’, held at Tate Liverpool in May 2017. With twelve speakers from around the world, the conference focused on the ideas of borders and limits, and the crossing of these.

Find out more about the workshops and conference and read the abstracts.

Border Control: On the Edges of American Art

Ellsworth Kelly, ‘Saint Martin Landscape’ 1979
Ellsworth Kelly
Saint Martin Landscape 1979
Tate
© Ellsworth Kelly

Major international conference

Thursday 25 and Friday 26 May 2017
Tate Liverpool

Convened by Julia Tatiana Bailey (Tate) and Alex J. Taylor (University of Pittsburgh)
Supported by the Terra Foundation for American Art

This major international conference led by Tate Research was a two-day event bringing together historians of art and visual culture to share new scholarship exploring the crossed boundaries and expanded limits of art from the United States. Border Control: On the Edges of American Art was presented as the culmination of the three-year Tate Research project Refiguring American Art and coincided with a related display at Tate Liverpool.

KEYNOTE

Cécile Whiting
Chancellor’s Professor, University of California, Irvine

The Panorama and the Globe: Expanding the American Landscape in World War II

During World War II, maps that pictured troops advancing and retreating across national borders, along with photographs and newsreels documenting death and destruction in locations around the world (including the naval base of Pearl Harbor, the tropical rainforests of Guadalcanal, and the beaches of North Africa), prompted a change in painted representations of landscape in the United States. My larger project looks at how American artists recast the terms of landscape painting as it had been practiced in the 1930s, broadening its scope from the local to the international, and from the pastoral to the anti-pastoral. At the Border Control conference, I will present one aspect of the project in which I analyze the ways in which artists depicted landscapes joining the national and the international. In particular, I will examine paintings by Thomas Hart Benton and John Steuart Curry that adopted a panoramic mode, literally and metaphorically widening the horizontal scope of their paintings, to encompass both the United States and Europe. As a counterpoint, I will discuss the painting The Rock in which Peter Blume attempts to fit the globe into his landscape.

PAPERS

Session 1: Performing the Political

Monica Steinberg
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Southern California

Political Re-presentation: Artist-Candidates and the Boundaries of the Electoral Process

This paper, extracted from a larger article-in-progress examining artists running for political office in the 1960s and 70s, takes as its principal case study West Coast-based artist Lowell Darling’s 1978 candidacy for governor of California. Deploying common electioneering strategies of the era, Darling campaigned within the boundaries of USlaw, yet did so in a way that highlighted just how far those boundaries stretched. For example, Darling’s campaign staff distributed paraphernalia emblazoned with the slogan ‘Vote Beyond the Grave,’ which pointed to ongoing electoral fraud. To shake hands and kiss babies, the artist used an enlarged, artificial hand mounted on a stick and a pair of rubber lips—deconstructing the intersection of the personal and the political. Receiving 1.8% of the total votes, Darling’s campaign followed established electoral models as a means of spotlighting the legal boundaries of those models. The project questioned the limits of performance art by placing the artist as an actual contender within the American political system. Thus, I argue that Lowell Darling’s candidacy, alongside contemporaneous endeavors by Bruce Conner, Susanna Dakin, and Vermin Supreme, tested the boundaries of the law by operating within and critiquing its parameters, and ultimately, re-presenting the problematics of electoral representation.

Catherine Spencer
Lecturer, University of St Andrews

Simultaneous Experience: Performance Art and Psychological Border Zones

During the 1960s and 1970s, American performance art was profoundly shaped by what in 1959 C. Wright Mills termed the ‘sociological imagination’: an ability to connect micro-level individual psychology with macrocosmic socio-political shifts. However, many artists increasingly rejected the exploration of everyday behaviour and normative social codes in favour of addressing inner experience, as they interrogated the disciplinary and policing dynamics of traditional social science. In The Making of a Counter Culture (1969) Theodore Roszak observed that sociology ‘was giving way steadily to psychology.’ Rather than dismissing these countercultural alignments, this paper argues that the experiential performances of practitioners like the American Carolee Schneemann and the Argentine Marta Minujín constitute an attempt to undermine not only the geographic border zones of nationality, but moreover the concretization of behaviour around the divisions of race and gender. Focussing on the transnational exploration of simultaneity, group work and exile in the performances both artists contributed to Expo ’67 in Montreal and to Minujín’s Soft Gallery in Washington DC (1973), together with Schneemann’s contribution to the 1967 London Congress of the Dialectics of Liberation, I argue that each attempted to prioritize experience over behaviour, and thereby refute the technocratic co-option of the ‘sociological imagination’.

John A. Tyson
Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellow, National Gallery of Art

‘On Sale at the Fondation Maeght’: Hans Haacke’s Un-American Art

In 1970, Dore Ashton curated L’Art Vivant au Etats-Unis at the Fondation Maeght—a French nonprofit museum that granted its namesake, gallerist Aimé Maeght, a significant tax exemption. Nationality was Ashton’s primary rubric for the show. Furthermore, many of the artists selected to represent America were themselves represented by Maeght’s Paris gallery. The catalogue avoids mentioning contemporary politics and segregates works by medium, defining them as paintings, sculptures, or events. This paper will contextualize and analyze On Sale at the Foundation Maeght (1970), the event Hans Haacke—then a ‘resident alien’ in the United States—produced.

On Sale consisted of an audio recording of the inventory of prints in the foundation’s shop. Listing author, title, date, and price, Haacke revealed that the nonprofit actually had thousands of francs’ worth of artwork for sale. The stream of art information was punctuated by news reports, phoned in live from the regional paper Nice-Matin. Discussions of the Vietnam War breached the art space’s borders. On Sale was a subversive act (indeed, the director attempted to stop it): using the language of Proust—not Whitman—and the lingua franca of commerce, the antagonistic, ‘dematerialized’ performance prompted contemplation of the art apparatus; it simultaneously critiqued its host and the US.

Faye Gleisser
Assistant Professor, Indiana University

Artist Residency as Cultural Conduit: Sarabhai Patronage and the Stakes of Sponsorship

Since the 1960s, the prominent Sarabhai Family of Ahmedabad, India has hosted American artists in an artist residency program. Participants such as John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Roy Lichtenstein, Frank Stella, John Baldessari, and Lynda Benglis, stayed for three-month intervals and created site-specific work, much of which is displayed in the family’s villa to this day. Despite the artists’ high profiles, discussion of their experiences at the Sarabhai estate and the larger implications of this interchange within the emergence of modern-day globalization remain unexplored. More importantly, the conditions of constraint and the terms of collaboration that underwrite this residency program and the artists’ relationship to it, the city of Ahmedabad, and the family patrons call for a reconsideration of how co-determined histories of internationalism and modernism become legible. While my larger book project examines the decades-long residency, this paper focuses on the works initiated by Lichtenstein and Benglis in India during the 1970s and the reception of the work in American institutions. Through these examples, I analyze the paradigm of the artist-in-residence program, and argue that the Sarabhais’ initiative exposes a divergent story of patronage, cross-cultural exchange, and influence that intervenes in narratives of place and production most often deployed when discussing the global traffic of American art.

Session 2: Entering the Common Culture

Anthony Grudin
Associate Professor, University of Vermont

Policing Art’s Borders: Pop Art and Vulgarity in the 1960s

As Jacques Rancière has demonstrated, the policed boundary between the vulgar and the cultured constitutes one of the foundational borders in western aesthetics. Defined from the outset by its dalliances with vulgarity, Pop Art was necessarily forced to reckon with this border. What’s more, the advertising industry of the early 1960s was developing new strategies to attract the attention of a vast section of the American populace—the working class—that had hitherto mostly been considered an unworthy target for commercial culture. Pop artists’ attitudes toward these strategies were divergent to say the least. Roy Lichtenstein recognized their power, but was careful nevertheless to distance himself and his work from their ‘vulgar’ qualities. Patty Muschinski and Claes Oldenburg found the new strategies fascinating, and attempted to harness their vast new potential. For his part, Andy Warhol seems to have maintained a profoundly ambivalent attitude toward mass culture—recognizing its great appeal, but also its mendacious promises of cultural participation and social mobility. Together, these four artists demonstrate that there was no singularly ‘Pop’ response to the cultured/vulgar problem—instead, Pop is better understood as a set of radically disparate responses to a contested border.

Marina Moskowitz
Reader, University of Glasgow and Edwin Pickstone, Lecturer, Glasgow School of Art

Interdisciplinary: A Conversation about Rudolph Ruzicka

* Rudolph Ruzicka was an American printer and type designer, who worked for the Merganthaler Linotype Company, one of the largest manufacturers of typesetting equipment.
* Rudolph Ruzicka was an American printmaker, whose wood engravings were collected by major institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum and the Art Institute of Chicago.

While both of these sentences are accurate as ‘nutshell’ descriptions of a career that started with boyhood art classes at Hull House in Chicago and ended with numerous accolades such as the Gold Medal of the American Institute of Graphic Arts, they connote professional trajectories that often have been considered separate disciplines, both in their practices and in historical and critical engagement with them. Whether it has been classified as commerce or art, engaged with text or image, produced by machine or by hand, studied by book history or art history, or, indeed categorised as ‘printing’ or ‘printmaking,’ Ruzicka’s work is an excellent case study to consider the commonalities across these seemingly artificial borders. This paper will examine key examples of Ruzicka’s work to understand how his practices and products—from the tools he used, to the rigour of his approach to structure and composition, to his frequent invocation of landscape—demonstrate interdisciplinary cohesion.

Suzanne Hudson
Associate Professor, University of Southern California

‘Toward a Happier and More Successful Life,’ or When Veterans Made Art in the Modern Museum

Histories of American art typically describe a progression from pre-industrial craft to art for art’s sake. Freed from the burden of function, modern art was separated from daily life and newly intended for exhibition within the growing institutions of the art world. Despite its pervasiveness, this narrative obscures the ways that art remained useful in the long twentieth century.

When and under what circumstances did people in America come to believe that making art was good for them? Further: Where did such ideas come from and where were they put into practice? How did these ideas shape the development of the field known as art therapy and how did the privileging of process above the finished product as exemplified within art therapy contribute to American visual modernism?

These questions animate my larger research project. At the Border Control conference, I will present more focused research regarding the development of art and occupational therapy for veterans within the Museum of Modern Art during World War II, posing questions of the uses and ends of process, as well boundaries between making for its own sake and the nomination of some such experiments as art within the adjacent galleries.

Sarah K. Rich
Associate Professor, Penn State

Ellsworth Kelly’s )Abs(traction

My paper is about the now famous photograph of Ellsworth Kelly holding the painting Brooklyn Bridge against his nude body in 1958. I talk about the painting and the photograph in connection with Kelly’s proposal for window displays at Tiffany & Co. that year (the commission was never fulfilled, but the studies remain) and I discuss a number of previously unpublished sources for the painting and others in that group. The commission and the photograph, as well as designs that Kelly made for Paul Taylor’s dance troupe that year, make an argument about the body—specifically the stretching or twisting torso—as a model for thinking about painting and its relation to the outside world. At the end, I connect this issue of a twisting/stretching torso to other paintings of oblique fields that Kelly titled after city streets that year (such as Wall and Broadway, held in the Tate collection) in which the artist investigates the center of painting as something that must be crossed transversely, in a sort of geographical contrapposto.

Session 3: Traversing Space, Transcending Place

Fiona Curran
Senior Tutor, Royal College of Art

Between the Earth and the Sky: Planetary Borders in Vija Celmins’ ‘Untitled (Desert/Galaxy)’

Vija Celmins Untitled (Desert/Galaxy) from 1974, presents a dual image drawing of a dark night sky filled with stars and other illuminated celestial objects juxtaposed with a close-cropped view of a desert floor. As well as using her own photographs of the deserts surrounding her home in LA, Celmins also gathered a number of her photographic resources from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. This work will act as a provocation to trace the entangled histories of the Cold War ‘space race’ with the development of satellite technologies and atmospheric/meteorological monitoring beyond earth’s borders in the post war period. A picture emerges of the material significance of the earthbound landscapes that supported the growth of these technologies and their extra terrestrial destinations, recoupling the earth with the sky, the present and the remote, and the temporal dimensions of past, present and future. Far from representing an untouched ‘natural’ realm that transcends the earthbound to present us with a heavenly firmament, Celmins’ image captures a particular historical period. It signifies a moment when space became a new frontier for US technological development, cultural and territorial expansion, and in which the cosmos became thoroughly militarized.

Matthew Holman
PhD Candidate, University College London

‘Borders Meandering But Determined’: Becoming an ‘Apatride’ with Joan Mitchell and John Ashbery (1959–65)

In an April 1965 article for ARTnews, American poet and critic John Ashbery wrote that his friend, the painter Joan Mitchell, then living in Paris as he was, was ‘not an expatriate, but an apatride.’ This word, in French, translates most closely as ‘stateless,’ and signifies displacement, uprootedness, and a loss of one’s home—national or otherwise. However, perhaps surprisingly, Ashbery traced Mitchell’s decision to become a ‘professional exile’ to a period when her painting moved from an all-over style of hotly-toned abstraction to a sombre firmness of line which bordered on figuration. The liminal spaces of watersheds, basins, and sea ports emerge as Mitchell’s painterly subject, sometimes flowing, sometimes congealing. As they talk reluctantly about moving back home, and contest the indifference of a Parisian art scene, what can be said of their shared turn to seascapes or water crossings? This paper will interrogate the condition of life as an apatride in, principally, Mitchell’s ‘new black’ pictures (1950–65) and Ashbery’s respondent art criticism, whilst also turning to his poetry (e.g. The Skaters, 1964) to better understand the relation of her painting to nature and nation which has, as Ashbery attests, never really been clarified.

Elizabeth Buhe
PhD Candidate, Institute of Fine Arts, NYU

Sam Francis’s Polycentric Abstraction

At a time when American modernist painting self-assuredly claimed cultural dominance and its critics championed a progressive reduction of form, Sam Francis twice circled the globe in 1957 and 1958, an act that thematizes his distrust of conventional framing systems, whether national borders or high modernist orthodoxy. The physical dislocation and perceptual destabilization of travel was crucial to the resultant paintings, which are wholly abstract, yet likely derive from landmasses viewed aerially, thus challenging assumptions about how we experience and record space. Francis traveled with these canvases—titled Japan Line, Round the World, or Mexico— and worked on them across multiple studios worldwide. They thereby manifest the globalized structure that produced them while modeling a ‘polycentrism’ that —counters privileged centers of artistic production and opposed MoMA’s institutional exportation of American art.

Francis’s travel paintings set the stage for his subsequent edge works, vast white expanses with rainbow hued frames. He produced the edge paintings in 1960s Los Angeles, alongside his involvement with liquid light shows, sky paintings, and mentorship of young artists like James Turrell. Assimilating the ethos of these expansive modes of artistic production into his own work, Francis reinvested painting with urgency by challenging high modernism’s disregard of anything outside the painting’s frame. The edge works thus quote painting’s conventional border only to subvert it.

Special Relationships: American Artists and their Collaborators

Larry Rivers and Frank O’Hara, 1 1957 © The Estate of Larry Rivers Courtesy the Estate of Frank O'Hara

Larry Rivers and Frank O’Hara
1 1957
Lithograph on paper
From Stones 1957–60
© The Estate of Larry Rivers
Courtesy the Estate of Frank O’Hara

Academic workshop

Friday 26 August 2016

Convened by Alex Taylor (Tate) and Matthew Holman (University College London)
Response by Joanna Pawlik (University of Sussex)

Presented with the support of the Terra Foundation for American Art
With the assistance of the SAVAnT (Scholars of American Visual Arts and Text) research network, University of Sussex

The waves have kept me from reaching you’, wrote Frank O’Hara in his poem The Harbormaster (1954). Addressed to his collaborator and lover Larry Rivers, whose work together culminated in the ten-part print series Stones (1957–60), O’Hara cast their special relationship as one defined as much by distance and estrangement as by creative kinship. Artistic collaborations might make possible artworks unimaginable by an individual maker, but they are also usually a messy business, strained by competing procedures and visions, and often wracked by interpersonal friction and inequality.

The complexities of collaborative relationships and processes were the focus of this event, with participants exploring what kind of social, critical or theoretical concerns have shaped artistic partnerships, and how such projects have challenged the authority of the individual artist and the inviolability of the modernist medium. With the support of the SAVAnT research network at the University of Sussex, which seeks to foster dialogue between scholars in American studies and the history of art, the workshop focused on collaborations that have brought the visual arts into direct contact with fields including literature, music, dance, theatre, film, fashion, design and architecture. Alluding to the ‘special relationship’ between the United Kingdom and the United States, itself a contested and sometimes unequal union, the title of the workshop also gestured toward the geographical and political traversals made possible by collective artistic production, by which post-war artists have expressed affinities that transcend the nation.

KEYNOTE

Katherine Manthorne
Professor, Graduate Center, City University of New York

Converging Media, Enabling Collaboration: Dudley Murphy’s Early Art Films

The avant-garde film Ballet mécanique (1924) has a contested history in terms of authorship. Long claimed by Fernand Léger, it is better comprehended as a joint effort with Dudley Murphy as its driving force (it was his 8th film) working with Leger and embracing input from Man Ray, Ezra Pound, and George Antheill. Murphy directed many lesser-known experimental films working collaboratively and integrating multiple media – visual arts, literature, and music – into his moving pictures, as he moved from silent into talking films. Focusing on his Black and Tan Fantasy (1929) with Bessie Smith; St. Louis Blues (1929) with Duke Ellington, and the masterful The Emperor Jones (1933) starring Paul Robeson, this paper analyzes how his brand of media convergence functioned within films that crossed the racial divide. While Murphy’s films have rightly been discussed in relation to musical inspiration, this paper argues that the visual arts impacted his cinematic eye, and that these three films demand interpretation in relation to the Harlem Renaissance on-going in the uptown New York neighborhood Murphy frequented with Mexican artist Miguel Covarrubias. ‘I felt,’ he wrote, ‘I must capture this excitement in film.’

PAPERS

Siofra McSherry
Freie Universität Berlin

‘Ever-grateful wonder’: The Collaborative Correspondence of Marianne Moore and Joseph Cornell

This paper examines the gift exchange and imaginative collaboration between poet Marianne Moore (1887–1972) and assemblage artist Joseph Cornell (1903–1972), through analysis of the items and texts they exchanged in response to one another’s work. These key avant-garde figures engaged in correspondence from 1943, exchanging letters, ephemera, poems, and artworks, defining their friendship, and providing material for their respective works. Moore and Cornell were situated at the margins of the modernist social networks; choosing to live in suburban New York, celibate, and dedicated to their mothers, they were too reserved to meet often in person. Through gift exchange, however, they established an intimate imaginative bond centred on their esoteric shared interests: rare animals, 18th-century culture, the ballet and ornithology. The correspondents produced works on these topics and shared relevant textual and visual materials. Their postal exchanges served as a functional collaboration, one artist responding to the themes and formal processes of the other in his or her own medium. The social bond relied on the collaborative exchange, and vice versa. Offered as a model for exchange between the arts in modernism, Cornell and Moore’s correspondence demonstrates the transference of theme and form between media via collaboration.

Mark Byers
Tate

Moving Metres: Hilda Morley and Gestural Abstraction

The heterosexual male subject cherished by the American avant-garde is often regarded as having precluded female artists from certain technical innovations of early post-war American modernism. In this view, abstract expressionist gesturalism and the ‘projective’ verse of Charles Olson, both of them legitimated by appeals to masculine assertiveness, initiative and spontaneity, were unavailable to contemporary women practitioners. However, art and literary histories of the period tend to overlook several female poets and painters who challenged this exclusion. This paper reads the early poetry of Hilda Morley (1916-1998) alongside the work of her friends and contemporaries in the New York School, particularly Mercedes Matter (1913-2001). A teacher at Black Mountain College alongside Olson, and a regular attendee at the abstract expressionist Eighth Street Club, Morley sought to reconcile the projective verse of Olson with contemporary gestural abstraction. In doing so, she revised and re-appropriated practices that were ostensibly unavailable to female artists of the period. Returning to the work of overlooked poets and artists such as Morley and Matter, I suggest, provides an opportunity to reconsider the dynamics of gender and artistic production between Black Mountain and New York in the early 1950s.

Catherine Gander
Queens University, Belfast

‘Twenty-six things at once’: Pragmatic Perspectives on Frank O’Hara and Norman Bluhm’s Poem-Paintings

Created over a couple of Sunday mornings in the Fall of 1960, the twenty-six collaborative Poem-Paintings of the artist Norman Bluhm and the poet Frank O'Hara represent what Bluhm later called a spontaneous 'conversation' between the painter and the poet. In this paper, I adopt a number of pragmatist positions to reconsider these overlooked works as essential examples of verbal-visual interaction that extend their 'conversation' to greet and involve the reader-viewer in a relationship that is at once interpersonal, integrated, and embodied. The works, I argue, constitute what classical pragmatist John Dewey termed 'art as experience'; in their back and forth exchange of verbal and visual gesture, abstraction and denotation, the Poem-Paintings are in Dewey’s words the 'cumulative continuity' of 'the process of living', dramatising the shifting, spontaneous and multiple dimensions of interpersonal conversation, and in so doing, indicating a new path toward interconnective and equal exchange between word and image.

Jess Cotton
University College London

‘Smearing / Maroger medium on his canvas’: James Schuyler, Fairfield Porter and the Art of Visual Touch

In a 1967 review of Porter’s work, Schuyler observes how in his art, “the paint is a palpable fact that holds an imprint of life and infuses life into the image.” Porter and Schuyler were lifelong friends, sometime lovers and had a huge influence on each other’s work. Much has been made of the parallels between their figurative, tentative, approaches to art in an era dominated by the “gnarled-yard convention,” the gestural pyrotechnics of de Kooning, Pollock and their contemporaries. Although rarely collaborating, both Porter’s and Schuyler’s art forms develop in intimate, receptive dialogue with each other. Porter shared with Schuyler an “intransigent straightforwardness” of approach to his subject matter, a disciplined observation which amounts a fidelity to the impromptu way things happen.

In this paper, comparing Schuyler’s poem Light From Canada (1971) alongside Porter’s painting, Under the Elms (1971–2), I consider their use of light and space in their art and more specifically, how they create what Schuyler refers to in a review of Julius Hatofsky’s work, as a form of ‘visual touch’. This notion of ‘visual touch’ subverts the precedence that is placed on visual perception and pictorial ratiocination in modernist aesthetics and proposes a different relationship between realism and optical purity, one which, as Porter notes, posits that ‘the real is what can be seen’ and ‘that seeing is real’. By considering how figurative art is closer to the body, and thus to the feminine element in composition, I suggest how this sense of the embodiment of the visual image in both Porter’s and Schuyler’s work, which draws on the tactile associations of a painterly surface, offers an alternative to the virile emotion that is sublimated in abstract expressionism, privileging a gestural artistic process over a finished product and thus disrupting the stability of traditional artistic categories.

Miriam Kienle
University of Kentucky

The Collaborative Collaging of Ray Johnson’s Correspondence Art Network

In the late 1950s, the artist Ray Johnson (1927-1995) initiated a new mode of artistic practice called “correspondence art.” Utilizing the postal system as an alternative site for the distribution of art, Johnson sent recipients letters and objects in the post, asking them to add to these items and send them onward to another correspondent or back to Johnson. Through this process of collaborative collaging, Johnson built an international network of correspondence artists that challenged conventional modes of artistic production, distribution, and reception. This paper analyzes this form of collaboration as it grew out of the radical politics of the early 1960s. In particular, I argue that the gaps and flows in these collaborative collages reveal a correlation between post-war postal policies, urban redevelopment, and the desire to segregate and censor certain populations (e.g. an increasingly visible gay community of which Johnson and many of his collaborators were part) from other segments of the American public. Additionally, I suggest that Johnson’s project, which depends on an interpersonal network of collaborators (composed of friends and strangers alike), speaks a decentralized and networked understanding of subjectivity as it emerged in the latter half of the Twentieth Century.

Rona Cran
University of Birmingham

Men with a Pair of Scissors: Joe Brainard and John Ashbery

John Ashbery made his professional debut as an artist in 2008, exhibiting a collection of collages at Tibor de Nagy in New York. The exhibition was Ashbery’s first show, but featured a number of collages dating from the 1970s – some of which had been made at the artist Joe Brainard’s house in Vermont, where, Ashbery recalls, ‘after dinner we got in the habit of sitting around and cutting up old magazines and making collages’. Brainard himself – by the mid-1970s a successful artist – always distanced himself from the seriousness and machismo of the New York art scene, instead popularising camp and the comic-strip as a collaborative medium. Ashbery’s collages – each one a communal gesture – owe a clear debt to Brainard’s delicate, intelligent, labour-intensive artwork, which requires engagement from and exchange with the viewer, and in which, to borrow from Jenni Quilter, ‘error is seen as a trace of development rather than an imperfection’. This paper uses Ashbery’s collages to illuminate his collaborative relationship with Brainard during the 1970s, and to argue that Brainard – who features frequently in First and Second Generation New York School poetry – was instrumental in shaping a collaborative aesthetics that questions and dissolves boundaries between art and poetry.

Jo Applin (Senior Lecturer in History of Art, University of York)
Julia Tatiana Bailey (Assistant Curator, Tate Modern)
James Boaden (Lecturer in History of Art, University of York)
Mark Byers (Collection Research Assistant, Tate)
Emily Casey (Collection Research Assistant, Tate)
David Peters Corbett (Professor of American Art and Director of the Centre for American Art, Courtauld Institute of Art)
Jess Cotton (PhD candidate, University College London)
Rona Cran (Teaching Fellow in Contemporary American Literature, University of Birmingham)
John Dunn (PhD candidate, Queen Mary, University of London)
James Finch (PhD candidate, University of Kent and Tate)
Catherine Gander (Lecturer in American Literature and Visual Culture, Queen’s University, Belfast)
Christopher Griffin (Collection Research Manager, Tate)
Doug Haynes (‎Lecturer in American Studies, University of Sussex)
Matthew Holman (PhD candidate, University College London)
Miriam Kienle (Assistant Professor of Art History, University of Kentucky)
Katherine Manthorne (Professor of Art History, The Graduate Center, City University of New York)
Siofra McSherry (PhD candidate, John F. Kennedy Institute, Freie Universität, Berlin)
Cleo Nisse (PhD candidate, Columbia University)
Jack Partlett (PhD candidate, University of Cambridge)
Joanna Pawlik (Lecturer in Art History, University of Sussex)
Moran Sheleg (PhD candidate, University College London)
Lavinia Singer (Poet)
Celia White (Collection Research Editor, Tate)

Visible Hands: Markets and the Making of American Art

Cildo Meireles, ‘Insertions into Ideological Circuits 2: Banknote Project’ 1970
Cildo Meireles
Insertions into Ideological Circuits 2: Banknote Project 1970
Tate
© Cildo Meireles

Academic workshop

Friday 22 January 2016

Convened by Alex Taylor (Tate)
Response by Marina Moskowitz (University of Glasgow)
Presented with the support of the Terra Foundation for American Art

The ‘invisible hand’ of the market, an idea first coined by enlightenment philosopher Adam Smith, has become a fundamental principle for advocates of free market capitalism. Smith’s famous turn of phrase disembodies the sensations of sight and touch, but by restoring their primacy in this workshop’s title, his metaphor acquires new possibilities for tracing the influence of the market on works of art. Far from neutral or natural creations, markets – like artworks – are forms that are always composed and manipulated according to the interests of their makers.

This event brought together papers that explored the role of the market in the circulation and exchange of American art, and its visual and theoretical impact on the work of art itself. How did, for instance, the scale or materiality of works of art concretise their entanglement in economic systems? How are the dynamics of supply and demand, boom and bust, or other market phenomena apparent within particular artistic practices? How did critics and curators absorb the principles of the market in its approaches to the history of American art? What were the transnational ramifications of these intersections between art and economics? With scholarship concerning works from the late-nineteenth century until the late twentieth century presented, speakers engaged questions such as these in order to explore the role of the market in the making of American art and art history.

The workshop occurred as part of a series of independent but related events organised by Maggie Cao (Columbia University), Sophie Cras (Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne) and Alex J. Taylor (Tate) that are intended to explore economics as an emerging field of art historical inquiry. The second event in this series is Art and the Monetary at the Society of Fellows in the Humanities at Columbia University, New York.

KEYNOTE

Margaretta Lovell
Professor, University of California Berkeley

Market Value / Cultural Value: The Paintings of Fitz H. Lane

A study of the history of the reputation and value of the works of landscape painter Fitz H. Lane of Gloucester, MA from his death in 1865 to the present, this talk focuses on the creation of the market for his works subsequent to his ‘discovery’ in 1939. It investigates the dramatic shift from his total absence from auction records, distinguished collections, art journalism, and scholarship in the seven decades following his death, to the dramatic rise in the demand for and valuation of his works especially after 1960. Objects that had no value became enshrined in the canon and aggressively sought after in the marketplace of art and ideas. Factors in this dramatic reversal include rhetorical structures validating Abstract Expressionism, the history of yachting, the nature of provincialism, the status of the vernacular, and the construction of cultural nationalism.

PAPERS

Diana Greenwald
DPhil candidate, University of Oxford

Charting the People’s Choice: Sample Bias in the Study of Taste for Art in the United States

This paper discusses a significant weakness that handicaps both past and current socio-economic studies of art: sample bias, which is the use of a selection of evidence that is not representative of general trends. Scholars must work with selections of art and other sources that have been edited by the vagaries of time and preservation. Sample bias – a problem that economists are constantly concerned about – emerges when the selection of surviving sources is not just limited, but also misrepresentative of the entire population of artworks under examination. Depending on a biased sample compromises the foundation of any art historical argument, particularly when art historians are attempting to generalise about the relationship between a handful of paintings and broad social and economic change. Using data from the Historical American Art Exhibition Database (HAAExD) – an original database of 276,000 paintings displayed in the U.S. during the long nineteenth century – this paper presents two case studies. The first demonstrates that a biased sample of late nineteenth century American collectors’ holdings has led to the formulation of incorrect theories about the relationship between class and taste in the Gilded Age. The second uses evidence from Vitaly Komar and Alex Melamid’s People’s Choice series (1994–97) to discuss how a similar bias may compromise arguments about support for the avant-garde in the post-war period.

Melody Barnett Deusner
Assistant Professor, Indiana University

Trust, Trusts, Trusteeship, and the Shaping of American Art Museums

This paper examines the corporate language and organisational forms deployed by turn-of-the-century American art patrons in their attempts to control the circulation, presentation and preservation of artworks produced by their preferred artists. Some pursued these efforts through official channels by serving on densely interlocking boards of directors; others through private negotiations (as in the case of the ‘Twachtman Syndicate’). Such activities return us to a historical moment when pictures and investments were said to be held ‘in trust’, often by the same individuals – including men like Henry Gurdon Marquand, for whom the fields of art patronage and life insurance involved similar conceptions of guardianship. When they attached limiting conditions to their museum donations, art patrons like George A. Hearn, Charles Lang Freer and John Gellatly, among others, sought to extend their influence into perpetuity, transforming their private collecting preferences into publicly accessible, officially endorsed aesthetic standards. This paper grapples with the long-term and ongoing impact of these restrictions on the history of American art as it has been articulated by, and sometimes against, these institutional boundaries.

Caroline Riley
PhD candidate, Boston University


Insuring War: MoMA’s Three Centuries of American Art in 1938 Paris

In a seemingly impersonal act, museum curators, private owners, and appraisers evaluated the nearly 500 artworks in the Museum of Modern Art’s Three Centuries of American Art(1938) exhibition. All sought to determine the works’ monetary worth before shipping them to Paris for the exhibition. Their value needed to be determined for three reasons. First, in case of loss or damage; second, to comply with French customs procedures; and third, because the artworks’ owners feared the eruption a Second World War. These valuations reveal striking insights. For example, similar portraits were given radically different values, which highlight the transitive relationship between art and money during the 1930s. Both painted by the same 1670s artist, Margaret Gibbs and Robert Gibbs were valued at $5,000 and $25,000 respectively. The insurance company balked at the high evaluation before MoMA pressured the insurer to cover the full sum. By agreeing, the insurer set a precedent for future appraisals, not because of the artwork’s perceived inherent value but to appease a client. In sum, this paper uses the loaning procedures for Three Centuries of American Art to illustrate the emerging art insurance practice, the lasting impact of war on an artwork’s value, and the monetary and market implications of transnational exhibitions.

Deirdre Robson
Senior Lecturer, University of West London

En/gendering the Modern: MoMA and Making the Market for Modern Art a ‘Man’s World’

By the end of the 1960s, it was claimed that ‘art has long been recognised as a sound area of investment’. What had changed since Time magazine’s 1934 assessment that ‘the work of living artists is necessarily a gamble in the minds of most collectors’? Unstated in claims about modern art as ‘investment’ is a correlation between the art market and the ‘public’ sphere of (masculine) business. The focus of this paper is the strategies adopted by the Museum of Modern Art, from the mid-1930s onward, to re-gender art collecting in America. The paper explores factors including Barr’s efforts to encourage a so-called ‘Action Group’ of businessmen collectors of modern art, the adoption of the modernist ‘white wall’ in gallery presentation and the use of press relations to enhance the pecuniary value of the art shown by MoMA. By such strategies, it is argued, Barr succeeded in re-gendering the collecting of new art in the United States. The progress of such efforts will be further tracked through the activities of individual collectors such as Abby Rockefeller, stockbroker Roy R Neuberger (stockbroker) and businessman Ben Heller.

Caitlin Beach
PhD candidate, Columbia University

Metalwork: Sculpture and the American Slave Economy

The reverberating history of American slavery and its economic interfaces have been a significant site of artistic inquiry in recent decades. In his 1993 Mining the Museum exhibition at the Maryland Historical Society, for example, Fred Wilson placed together in a vitrine an elaborate silver service with a set of iron slave shackles. The installation Metalwork, 1793–1880, called attention to coexisting, yet contrasting, material cultures of luxury and oppression in slaveholding America. This paper takes Wilson’s intervention as a provocation to consider further the entangled economies of art, industry, and slavery. It does so by focusing on the work of the British sculptor John Bell, who engaged the subject of American slavery during the 1850s and 1860s. Bell’s A Daughter of Eve – an electrotype bronze produced by the luxury metals firm Elkington and Company and fitted with silver shackles and gold earrings – rendered visible relationships between American slave systems and the international capital and manufacturing that sustained those systems well into the mid-nineteenth century. An examination of the statue’s production and exhibition illuminates the interdependences of nineteenth-century circuits of manufacture to which ‘Metalwork’ alludes. If Wilson’s installation presents a shocking juxtaposition between differing metal markets, Bell’s work configures a collapse of those markets within a single sculpture.

Joan Kee
Associate Professor, University of Michigan

The Price of Nothing for the Value of Everything: On Giveaway

On a balmy May 1969 evening in Washington D.C., fifty lucky attendees of a black-tie gala each received Popsicle, a stripe painting by prominent Colour Field painter Gene Davis. The unexpected boon was the consequence of a raffle organised and staged by Gene Davis, Douglas Davis and Ed McGowin, whose students actually painted the works. Called Giveaway, the event raised numerous questions regarding the ambiguity of value and what it supposedly represented in a time when prices for certain kinds of contemporary art – Colour Field paintings among them – were rising so quickly as to suggest a conflation of price with value. Audience response to both the act of claiming all fifty works to be originals and to their being freely distributed was unusually diverse. It ranged from expressions of outrage to shame indicated yet other approaches to the concept of value, one that supposed a tradeoff between what Douglas Davis called ‘monetary value’ and ‘aesthetic pleasure’. Did giving away a painting actually compromise the status of art by underscoring its ties to price and commodity? What were the costs of being free, or more specifically, was it possible to be free from an art world increasingly defined by an awareness of art’s exchange value? This paper explores these questions through a close reading of Giveaway, including the logistics involved in its staging as well as the affective bond created between the creators and viewers of Popsicle through the material specificities of its creation, display, and subsequent distribution of the works.

AnnMarie Perl
Postdoctoral Research Associate and Lecturer, Princeton University

Art Against Trickledown Economics: Jeff Koons’ Opposition to Reaganism in the late 1980s

In 1987, Jeff Koons reconfigured his artistic project, from one of analysis to activism: ‘Art can define an individual’s aspirations and goals as other systems – for instance, economics – are defining them now.’ The consumer capitalism that Koons had analysed by social class in his Luxury and Degradation series of 1986 was systematically relying upon the persuasive power of class-specific aesthetics: abstraction for the upper classes, for instance, and sexuality for the lower classes. Would art then not be ideally suited to challenge the new economics? In 1987, Koons would mobilise, not to épater le bourgeoisie, which was collapsing, as Koons then put it, under Reaganism, but to bolster it and yet nonetheless provide in the dynamic group portrait of contemporary American society produced by the Banality series the following year a jarring picture puzzle analysing how the masses had been convinced to admire, emulate and elect the Reaganite elite and believe in the wishful thinking of trickledown economics. Koons’ Banality series would display and disfigure the social bonding between classes that was taking place in the 1980s in the United States through aristocratising kitsch. This characterisation of Koons’ project as traditionally avant-garde will appear counterintuitive, as Koons has become known as the king of kitsch, while the avant-garde and kitsch have been opposed terms in American art criticism since Clement Greenberg’s landmark essay of 1939.

Julia Tatiana Bailey (Assistant Curator, Tate Modern)
Caitlin Beach (PhD candidate, Columbia University)
Lucy Bradnock (Assistant Professor, University of Nottingham)
Marie Cambefort-Tavinor (PhD candidate, Royal Holloway, University of London)
Alan Crookham (Research Centre Manager, National Gallery)
John Davis (Executive Director for Europe and Global Academic Programs, Terra Foundation for American Art)
Melody Barnett Deusner (Assistant Professor, Indiana University)
John Fagg (Lecturer, University of Birmingham)
James Finch (PhD candidate, University of Kent and Tate)
Diana Greenwald (DPhil candidate, University of Oxford)
Christopher Griffin (Collection Research Manager, Tate)
Matthew Holman (PhD candidate, University College London)
Margaret Iverson (Professor Emertus in Art History, University of Essex)
Joan Kee (Associate Professor, University of Michigan)
Liz Kim (PhD candidate, Courtauld Institute of Art)
Margaretta Lovell (Professor, University of California Berkeley)
Alycen Mitchell (PhD candidate, Queen Mary, University of London)
Marina Moskowitz (Reader, University of Glasgow)
AnnMarie Perl (Postdoctoral Research Associate and Lecturer, Princeton University)
Barbara Pezzini (PhD candidate, University of Manchester)
Caroline Riley (PhD candidate, Boston University)
Deirdre Robson (Senior Lecturer, University of West London)
Alex Taylor (Terra Foundation Research Fellow in American Art, Tate)
Andrew Stephenson (‎Lecturer in Art History and Visual Theories, University of East London)
Veerle Thielemans (European Academic Program Director, Terra Foundation for American Art)

Blind Spots: Revisiting the American Canon

Academic workshop

Tate Liverpool
Friday 9 October 2015

Convened by Alex Taylor, Terra Foundation Research Fellow in American Art, Tate Research; Isobel Whitelegg, Research Curator, Tate Liverpool/LJMU; Sonya Dyer, Curator, Public Programmes, Tate Britain/Modern; and Stephanie Straine, Assistant Curator, Tate Liverpool.

Presented with the support of the Terra Foundation for American Art and Liverpool John Moores University

During the late 1950s and early 1960s, Tate’s collection and display of twentieth century art from the United States was its first move beyond the bounds of British and Western European art. As such it might now be understood as the inaugural step in an ongoing process of strategic internationalisation. Like many other modern and contemporary museums, Tate has in recent years expanded a North Atlantic-centred canon in order to produce a multi-centred global history of art, correcting past oversights and omissions. Despite these later geographical expansions to the art historical reach of the museum, the art of the United States retains a distinct primacy. In line with its central position in post-war history, it both inherits the advantages of that stable foundation, and invites a process of revision in which the very idea of an American art is subjected to various spatial, linguistic and political expansions.

At a moment when the value of embracing a more diverse geographical and critical terrain has become widely accepted, this one-day event returns to the context of post-war American art with the aim of reconsidering its place within the museum and the academy. This event was convened in the context of two parallel exhibitions at Tate Liverpool, each deploying a contrasting curatorial strategy in order to re-approach art and artists that might be considered to be canonical. Using artist Glenn Ligon’s perspective as its guide, Encounters and Collisions revisited the history of post-war American art in order to create a personal museum that emphasises queer and African-American experiences while acting as a subjective reading of major movements such as minimalism, abstract expressionism, and pop. Jackson Pollock: Blind Spots sought to restore doubt, inconsistency and complexity to the trajectory of an artist widely taken to be the very personification of the geopolitical dominance of abstract expressionism in the Cold War era.

KEYNOTE

Darby English
Carl Darling Buck Professor of Art History, University of Chicago and Consulting Curator, Department of Painting and Sculpture, Museum of Modern Art
The King’s Two Bodies

PAPERS

Panel 1: Resistant Practices

Jo Applin
Senior Lecturer, University of York

Down Tools: Lee Lozano’s Dropouts

This paper takes the case study of the American artist Lee Lozano who, after a successful ten-year-long career, in 1971 dropped out of the New York art world. Subsequent to Dropout Piece, Lozano announced a further action, which was her ‘boycott of women’, after which she refused to speak to other women. Lozano maintained both her refusal of work and women for the rest of her life. If Lozano’s subsequent conceptual art-life works (of which Dropout Piece was the culmination) have come to retrospectively define Lozano’s career, this paper considers the longer trajectory of her work, to suggest that in fact a rather messy process of refusal and interest in how things as well as people stop working, ran throughout her eclectic body of work from the outset. Lozano’s work – but specifically her final dropout and boycott – raises important questions about feminism, about the problems of participation, and the problematic politics of refusal and resistance. It raises important questions, too, about how we write figures such as Lozano in – and out – of the art historical record: what to do with an artist who dropped out? How to write an artist back in to the dominant narratives of the period against which Lozano frequently, outrageously and raucously pitched herself and her own practice?

Jonah Westerman
AHRC Postdoctoral Research Associate, Tate

All-Over Composition: Writing Jackson Pollock

Pollock was both paragon of American modernism and the catalyst of its disintegration. This has become a familiar story; one that we have come reflexively to associate with sweeping changes in art’s material, conceptual, and institutional economies. Comprising an investigation of key historiographical moments in this transit across Pollock’s canvases from the modern to the postmodern (and contemporary), this paper argues that the discourses that seem to pit Pollock at antipodal odds with himself share a kind of critical DNA. Pollock and the challenges he presented always centred on questions about what was real in his work, what exceeded conventions of representation and therefore spoke of truth, authenticity, direct experience. It was this “realness” that both secured his position in the vanguard of modernism and pointed beyond it. By focusing on this question of Pollock’s reality – especially as it gets taken up by practitioners and scholars of performance – I will demonstrate how the recurrence of this theme responds to a concrete shift in artistic practice the work itself demands. That is, the discourse of reality has been trying to reckon with a new situation – as unsettled today as it was at mid-century – in which art foregrounds the reality of discourse.

Nadja Millner-Larsen
Lecturer in Visual Cultures, Goldsmiths

Direct Painting/Direct Action

This paper addresses the relationship between the notions of ‘direct painting’ and ‘direct action’ by reading the practice of anti-art group Black Mask, whose late-1960s assumption of direct action was preceded by an investment in Abstract Expressionism and the aesthetic strategies of Jackson Pollock. The paper explores the relationship between direct painting's liberation of the line from the task of representation and Black Mask’s later attempts, in response to Black Power, to develop a political vocabulary responsive to the representational logic of racism.

Panel 2: New Cartographies

Amy Tobin
PhD candidate, University of York

Occupying the Blindspot: Women Artists At Home in 1970s America

Women artists have long occupied a blindspot in art history. A position, which since the 1970s, has been exposed and overcome by writers, scholars, critics and other artists influenced by feminism. While the parameters of the discourse have (to some degree) been changed the question of bias and privilege remain, not least in the interrogation of second-wave feminism itself. The histories and accounts written of the movement tell stories of exclusion based on race, sexuality and class as well as infighting and discontent, just as they celebrate the sisterhood between groups of newly politicised women. This paper takes this antagonistic field as its subject, considering how difference shaped second wave feminism rather than seeing it as irreconcilably divisive. It will look at two artworks: Womanhouse (1971–2) by the students and teachers of the Feminist Art Program at the California Institute of Art and Reflections on Vacancy (1979) by the New-York-based artist Candace Hill-Montgomery. Both took the form of an installation in an ex-domestic setting, yet while the former has become one of the most well-known examples of second-wave feminist art from America, the latter – installed in a derelict tenement in Harlem – is virtually unknown. The comparison between these two works suggests the different ways in which occupying a blindspot can become a radical act.

Zoe Whitley
Curator, Contemporary British Art, Tate Britain

Frank Bowling: British Artist in America, New York Artist in London

Guyana-born painter Frank Bowling (born 1936) often defies categorisation; usually considered a British painter whose singular approach to colour and abstraction developed and matured in the late 1960s in the United States. As an artist considered within Tate’s own institutional framework to be both British and American by nature of the various contexts in which his oeuvre was produced, his paintings, observations and critical writings offer complex insights into institutional critique, canon formation and exhibition histories. Based on close readings of select compositions and recent interviews I’ve conducted with the artist about the 1960s and 1970s in particular, Bowling’s practice in paint and in prose adds much to art historical discourse.

Stefanie Kogler
PhD candidate, University of Essex

Expanding the American Canon: The Museum of Fine Art, Houston

In the latter half of the 20th century, and especially since the establishment of the International Centre for the Arts of the Americas (ICAA) in 2001, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston (MFAH) has shown increased interest in expanding the narrative of American art in the United States. This paper investigates the shifting approaches toward art from Latin America and Latino art at this institution. Significant attempts to include, merge, and expand the American canon after 1945 include The Gulf Caribbean Art Exhibition (1956), Hispanic Art in the United States – Thirty Contemporary Painters and Sculptors (1987), and Inverted Utopias – Avant-Garde Art in Latin America (2004). Although these examples are underscored by the idea of Pan-Americanism, each case represents a blurring and re-establishing of borders and delineations. As a result, the MFAH is shown to have evidenced an experimental approach toward marginal art histories and expanding the American canon, efforts accentuated through this institution’s hegemonic position, and its long established history of collecting, and exhibiting art.

Marshalling American Art: Exhibiting Ideology in the Cold War

Theodore Roszak, ‘The Unknown Political Prisoner (Defiant and Triumphant)’ 1952
Theodore Roszak
The Unknown Political Prisoner (Defiant and Triumphant) 1952
Tate
© Theodore Roszak/VAGA, New York and DACS, London 2019

Friday 1 May 2015

Convened by Alex Taylor (Tate) and Julia Tatiana Bailey (University College London and Tate)
Response by Jody Patterson (University of Plymouth)
Presented with the support of the Terra Foundation for American Art

In 1948, under the economic recovery programme known as the Marshall Plan, Europe was the recipient of some $17 billion in aid from the United States. Ostensibly aimed at spurring economic growth, the initiative also sought to cement American political influence in the region, in line with the Truman administration’s wider policy of containment to prevent the spread of communism. In the decades ahead, and especially as the politics of the Cold War intensified, the cultural influence of the United States emerged as an increasingly visible and contested issue across Europe and the United Kingdom.

Exhibitions provided one crucial medium for the advancement of this strategy and a forum to debate its legitimacy. Whether in response to large and high-profile touring shows, or to smaller displays at commercial galleries, the reception of post-war American art was frequently refracted through the prism of cultural imperialism and ‘Coca-Colonisation’. Beyond art exhibitions, these were debates that found further visual expression in the wide range of fairs and trade events through which Cold War ideology was put on publicdisplay. This workshop brought together a range of papers that represent new research into exhibitions of American art and visual culture during the Cold War.

KEYNOTE

Angela Miller
Washington University in St Louis

U.S. Art in the Arena of International Practice: Continuity over Rupture

‘When a nation attains to world leadership, it preserves that rank only as long as its culture … commands respect … Without [respect], wealth might lead only to hatred, conspiracy and revolt against the physically dominant power’. Opening with this quote from the French commentator Lewis Galantière, this paper considers the contested efforts of US state-sponsored and private institutions to establish cultural legitimacy for US art in a manner that would undergird and support the broader political goals of securing US hegemony in the wake of the Second World War. This project, however, was anything but unitary: the home front after the war was fissured by political and aesthetic conservatives opposed to the kind of aesthetically progressive and urbane vision of the State Department and its institutional allies (the Museum of Modern Art most prominently). By the late 1950s this latter version of American culture abroad was firmly in place, but it was preceded by a period of contestation and controversy at home.

This paper identifies some of the complexities of cultural exchange in the decade after the Second World War. The European reception of exhibitions devoted to American art, design and photography was varied and nuanced by the specific political cultures and context of attitudes among the participating nation-states of Europe toward the US. As the micro-histories of reception emerge into view, it is important to keep in mind this variegated context of reception: a complex brew of admiration, envy, anxiety over US cultural influence, and resistance from the left. Identifying these structures of ambivalence is a first step in tracing the histories of cultural exchange between the US and Europe in the shadow of Cold War politics. US influence – however contested – also had the effect of heightening the internal differences within European culture about the direction of their own futures. The paper thus asks who were the private, institutional and public stakeholders involved in guiding Europe’s shifting relationship to the US and how this history reflects on its own cultural ambitions.

As we consider the post-war reception of American art and culture in Europe, a central question raised by the paper is what changed after the Second World War, what difference did the war make in the longer trajectory of European-American relations? What elements of this post-war relationship reinforced older attitudes and what represented a significant new phase in their historical relationship? In the final portion of the paper, I propose a ‘post-exceptionalist’ argument that the moral and ethical challenges raised by the Second World War – far from constituting yet another breach between Europe and the US – were shared by them, although to differing degrees and in different contexts. One measure of this is the extent to which abstract expressionism – far from heralding a triumph of US cultural hegemony – was understood by many critics at the time in relation to related movements in European post-war art, from tachisme to art informel and art brut. Collectively these developments represented a new aesthetic language that expressed a chastened and highly compromised new form of (post) humanism on both sides of the Atlantic.

PAPERS

Marina Moskowitz
University of Glasgow

Representing New York: Todd Webb’s Sixth Avenue in Brussels

In 1948 the American photographer Todd Webb captured the entire New York City block of Sixth Avenue between 43rd and 44th Streets with his camera, resulting in eight 8x10-inch contact prints that he stitched together as a montage to document the cityscape. Ten years later the United States Information Service (USIS) arranged with Webb to exhibit a twenty-four-foot-long mural version of the image at the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair. Why this image? Why project visitors to the fair into the everyday bustle of workaday New York, a scene in which anonymous office workers pass record shops, magazine racks and bars (whether selling Rheingold Beer or ‘Healthy Drinks’) as they walk under fire escapes and the open windows of the ‘_PANISH AMERI_A_ BILLIARD P___OR’? In this paper I discuss the changing contexts for this photograph from its origins in Webb’s photographic practice in post-war New York City to its new framing at the height of the Cold War in the American Pavilion in Brussels, and then briefly consider its later life back in New York. This research is a preliminary inquiry into the ways in which Webb’s Sixth Avenue photograph represented, in both a literal and metaphorical sense, a changing landscape of capitalist enterprise.

Colleen O’Reilly
University of Pittsburgh

Will Burtin’s Touring Exhibits and the Visual Display of American Science

In the 1950s and 1960s graphic designer Will Burtin created exhibits for Upjohn, an American pharmaceutical company, that educated the general public on the latest science of the human body. Some of these travelled internationally – a model of a cell was completed in 1958 and travelled to Edinburgh and London. A model of sensory processes in the brain, completed in 1960, was shown at Italia ‘61 in Turin, and then in Paris, London, Brussels and Amsterdam as part of an exhibition of Burtin’s work entitled Visual Aspects of Science. These immersive, multimedia displays conveyed new scientific information using the latest technology and the forms of modern design, and should be understood as an example of how exhibitions could be deployed in the cultural battleground of the Cold War. Burtin’s interest in the potential of design in the communication of science and Upjohn’s interest in branding converged with a broader conversation in many fields about the integration of design in all aspects of life, and the importance of communication to the future of a democracy. Through the vehicle of exhibition design, scientific progress was visually conflated with corporate success, as well as with American prosperity. Burtin’s communicative strategies thus participated in a Cold War fight for the minds of the Western public.

Logan Sisley
Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane

Art USA Now in Dublin

This paper considers the impact of the Art USA Now exhibition in Dublin in 1964. The exhibition comprised 102 paintings by American artists from the S.C. Johnson Collection, selected by Lee Nordness. Realist and other figurative painters were deliberately included alongside abstract expressionists. It was shown in Milwaukee in 1962 before embarking on a world tour of mostly European and American cities, described by H.F. Johnson as ‘an experiment by a business firm in international relations on a people-to-people level’. The European tour was organised by the United States Information Agency (USIA). It was shown in Dublin under the patronage of the Irish Arts Council at the Municipal Gallery of Modern Art, which was the best attended venue in Europe. This contrasted with a less successful showing in London, in terms of critical response and visitor numbers. This paper reflects on the relative success of Art USA Now in Dublin in relation to the city’s art scene and the cultural and economic life of Ireland in the early 1960s. It considers the exhibition in the context of Irish-American relations, notably the operation of a USIS Library in Dublin in the 1950s, the visit of John F. Kennedy to Ireland in 1963 and the opening of a new modernist United States Embassy building in Dublin in 1964.

Lauren Hanson
University of Texas at Austin

Americanisation as Hybridisation in West Germany’s Galleries

In my paper I consider the history of Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)-sponsored exhibitions and the presence of American artists in the 1950s in relationship to local, West German commercial gallery shows. By using the local as a case study I investigate how such shows contended with and related to the larger aims of the Marshall Plan. I focus on two significant galleries in West Germany, both of which opened in Düsseldorf in 1957: Jean-Pierre Wilhelm’s Galerie 22 and Alfred Schmela’s Galerie Schmela. I examine the integration of American artists into their programmes to create local and international dialogues. Both Wilhelm and Schmela used the growing visibility of American artists and styles to bolster the reputations of local artists by exhibiting them together or sequentially. These small yet celebrated exhibitions served as an answer or corrective to the agenda of large-scale exhibitions, while at the same time deliberately and effectively using them as a launching pad for themselves and their local artists. Thus, Schmela and Wilhelm positioned their artists in relationship to Americans, while simultaneously using a strategy of ‘hybridisation’ to actively select elements of American culture and juxtapose them with local artistic positions. Often, these gallerists facilitated the bilateral processes of cultural exchange, not simply by exhibiting the work of American artists, but also by inviting them to West Germany where they could engage with local artists and their practices.

Rachel Warriner
University College Cork

The American Women Artists Show, GEDOK and the Amerika Haus

In May 1972, at the height of the Vietnam War, The American Women Artists Show organised by the German feminist group GEDOK closed its doors. Although relatively successful and due to tour, a stand-off had occurred after some artists objected to the venue that it was to travel to: the Amerika Haus in Berlin. Under the remit of the United States Information Agency, a governmental organisation that was dedicated to ‘public diplomacy’ for the United States, the Amerika Haus was part of the agency’s mission to cast American culture and government in a positive light. Rather than withdrawing their work, those objecting to the venue demanded that a statement be displayed with the exhibition condemning U.S. policy in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. As a result, another of the artists whose work was included in the exhibition, Faith Ringgold, published an angry response to what she described as the ‘Lady Left’, denouncing their ‘protestant protest’. Looking to the debate that occurred between artists in the aftermath of the show’s closure, this paper will consider the competing positions of the feminist drive to be represented at an international level against the ethical implications of exhibiting at a venue that was designed to bolster America’s image abroad.

Jennifer Noonan
Caldwell University

The Politics of Display, Politics on Display at the 1970 Venice Biennale

The 1970 Venice Biennale differed from prior iterations because organisers focused on experimentation, cooperation, technology and the creative process, rather than showcasing a small, select group of the most advanced art. As result, a large amount worksin various media, including interactive installations and ephemera, were on display. The shift was largely a result of protests levied at the 1968 Biennale. In keeping with the theme of the larger program, the American curators displayed only prints, offered print demonstrations, invited guest artists and ran symposia. Before the show opened, however, many artists refused to participate because they believed their art was being used ‘as a cultural veneer to cover ruthless military aggression abroad and repression at home’. This paper will consider the politics at work in the heated exchange between the organising committee and the artists involved. It will also show that artists who participated engaged in similar actions. More specifically this argument aims to reveal how the prints chosen for display and made on site, rather than merely operating ‘as a cultural veneer’, showcased avant-garde art practices, displayed forms of protest, and brought into play the freedom of expression that was often championed in Cold War rhetoric.

Jo Applin (Senior Lecturer, University of York)
Julia Tatiana Bailey (Assistant Curator, Tate Modern)
James Finch (PhD candidate, University of Kent and Tate)
Christopher Griffin (Collection Research Manager, Tate)
Martin Hammer (Professor, University of Kent)
Lauren Hanson (PhD candidate, University of Texas at Austin)
Katherine Jackson (PhD candidate, University of British Columbia)
Hannah Johnston (Assistant Curator, Tate Modern)
Mark Liebenrood (Collection Research Assistant, Tate)
Angela Miller (Professor, Washington University in St Louis)
Marina Moskowitz (Reader, University of Glasgow)
Jennifer Mundy (Head of Collection Research, Tate)
Jennifer Noonan (Associate Professor, Caldwell University)
Colleen O’Reilly (PhD candidate, University of Pittsburgh)
Jody Patterson (Lecturer, University of Plymouth)
Deirdre Robson (Senior Lecturer, University of West London)
Logan Sisley (Curator, Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane)
Catherine Spencer (Lecturer, University of St Andrews)
Alex Taylor (Terra Foundation Research Fellow in American Art, Tate)
Veerle Thielemans (European Academic Program Director, Terra Foundation for American Art)
Hélène Valance (Terra Foundation for American Art Postdoctoral Fellow, Courtauld Institute of Art)
Rachel Warriner (PhD candidate, University College Cork)
Jonah Westerman (AHRC Postdoctoral Research Associate, Tate)