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Art, Theory, and the Critique of Ideology, 1975-1995

Saturday, April 21, 2012
9:00 am

Convened by Thomas Crow (Institute of Fine Arts at New York University) and Jonathan Katz (University at Buffalo), this symposium assessed the main intellectual currents that changed the study of later modern and contemporary art in the last part of the twentieth century. What exactly happened? What took hold and what didn’t? What worked and what is up for serious revision? What were some unintended consequences of the period’s more hopeful ambitions? What lessons can be drawn that point to new directions in research and to fresh ways of comprehending that enhanced knowledge? Have particular institutions and professional networks created a canonical range of methodologies, themes, or issues considered acceptable in the study of contemporary art and the reappraisal of modernism? This symposium reexamined what was, in effect, the birth of the art historical study of contemporary art.

The emphasis of the symposium was placed on dialogue and discourse. Each participant briefly introduced a text that she or he considers formative in shaping, questioning, and/or opening the field of contemporary art history. Texts and their introductions were paired to draw out (or contrast) affinities and methodologies, and the discussion that followed each pairing was among all participants. We expect a day where there is as much antagonism and resistance as agreement in this unpacking of a dense recent history.

Participants included: David Breslin, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute; James Elkins, School of the Art Institute of Chicago; Briony Fer, University College London; Hal Foster, Princeton University; Matthew Jesse Jackson, University of Chicago; Mignon Nixon, The Courtauld Institute of Art; Alison Pearlman, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona; Katy Siegel, Hunter College; Robert Slifkin, Institute of Fine Arts at New York University; Theodore Triandos, University of Delaware and Paul Wood, The Open University.

View list of symposium text and presenters

View video of symposium proceedings