UC Berkeley History of Art Department


arts.berkeley.edu Archive

  • Voyeurism, Virtue and Multivalence: Reframing ‘Susanna and the Elders’ in Early Modern Visual Culture

    A talk by Patricia Simons, Professor in the Art History Department at the University of Michigan.

  • Insurgent Aesthetics: US Military Detention and the Sensorial Life of Empire

    Ronak K. Kapadia, University of Illinois, Chicago

    Over the past two decades, the United States has engaged in an immense data collection project on racialized “Muslim” populations not just in its endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also in the US and around the world. How have US-based Arab, Muslim, and South Asian diasporic multimedia artists grappled with these new tactics of global counterinsurgency warfare and the gendered racial violence of the national security state in their aesthetic practices?

    This talk investigates the critical and social potential of contemporary visual and installation art by Rajkamal Kahlon, Mariam Ghani, and the Index of the Disappeared. Kapadia will focus on these artists' incorporation of newly released government documents detailing widespread abuses in US military practices of torture, interrogation, kidnapping, and rendition. The artists affix warmth, heat, and touch to otherwise “cold” data, thereby transforming the bureaucratic and administrative violence of the regulatory security state into an imaginative queer archive of the disappeared. Kapadia argues that the insurgent aesthetic appropriation of these declassified, but highly censored reports illuminates an alternative index of “warm data,” a way of conjuring the absences and sensory distortions in official records of military detention and warfare. This talk will explore how insurgent aesthetics utilize the torture archive as raw material for creative intervention, and in so doing, will offer a more imaginative account of security and the sensorial life of empire.

    Ronak K. Kapadia is Assistant Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies and affiliated faculty in Asian American Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Kapadia is completing his first book, Insurgent Aesthetics: Race, Security, and the Sensorial Life of Empire, which analyzes the contemporary US global security state in the Middle East and South Asia. The project specifically re-orients attention toward what he terms “insurgent aesthetics,” an alternative articulation of minoritarian knowledge produced by those populations most devastated by the effects of US global warfare. At once an examination of the influence of US national security culture and its permanent wars on contemporary art practices, the book also reveals the freedom dreams and radical imaginings of the Muslim International before and after the global war on terror. Kapadia’s writings are published or forthcoming in Asian American Literary Review, Journal of Popular Music Studies, South Asian Diaspora, and edited volumes that include: Shifting Borders: America and the Middle East/North Africa (Ed. Alex Lubin, AUB Press 2014), With Stones in Our Hands: Racism, Muslims, and US Empire (Ed. Sohail Daulatzai and Junaid Rana, U Minn Press 2016), and Critical Ethnic Studies: A Reader (Duke UP 2016). With Katherine McKittrick and Simone Browne, Kapadia is co-editor of the special issue on race and surveillance for Surveillance & Society. Official event page is here.

  • The Aztec Templo Mayor: Urban Archaeology in Modern Mexico City

    Leonardo López Luján

    The Proyecto Templo Mayor of the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia was created in 1978, as a consequence of the discovery of a monolith depicting Coyolxauhqui, the Aztec moon goddess. Since then, other impressive public monuments have come to light in downtown Mexico City, in the area occupied by the sacred precinct of Tenochtitlan. Archaeologists recently uncovered the largest Aztec sculpture ever found, that of the earth goddess Tlaltecuhtli. After an overview on the history of archaeology in Mexico City, this lecture will focus on the new Tlaltecuhtli stone, undertaking a formal, iconographic, and symbolic analysis in order to unveil its functions and meanings. The exceptionally rich offerings buried under this sculpture will also be described. Finally, the possible presence of a royal tomb at the foot of the Great Temple will be discussed.

    Leonardo López Luján is a Mexican archaeologist and the current director of the Templo Mayor project of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH). He specializes in the politics, religion, and art of Pre-Columbian urban societies in Central Mexico.

    Lecture hosted by the Archaeological Research Facility at UC Berkeley in collaboration with the Departments of Anthropology and History of Art and with the Association for Latin American Art triennial conference “Art at Large: Public and Monumental Arts in the Americas."

  • Metz Pontifical page

    Material Images

    Spike Bucklow

    The lecture focuses on the images in a weighty 700-year-old tome that was intended to instruct a bishop in the performance of his duties. The Metz Pontifical was made in Northern France; half of it is now in Prague, Czech Republic, and the other half is in Cambridge, England. It is one of the most luxuriously illuminated manuscripts of its type to survive. Work on the manuscript stopped in 1416 upon the death of Bishop Renau de Bar, and its unfinished state shows the evolution of images from drawings through under-painting and gilding to finished images.

    Spike Bucklow is currently Senior Research Scientist at the Hamilton Kerr Institute, University of Cambridge, a centre for the conservation of paintings. His first degree was in chemistry and he made special effects for movies, including Star Wars and Indiana Jones. His research interests have turned to artists' materials and their methods, as published in The Alchemy of Paint (2009), The Riddle of the Image (2014), and Red (Reaktion Books, 2016).

  • Atul-Bhalla-Deliverance-42-x-77i ... al-Pigment-Print-Diasec-2013

    Ecoaesthetics--Water in an Expanded Field

    A talk by New Delhi-based contemporary artist, Atul Bhalla, followed by a conversation on the politics and aesthetics of water.

    Speaker: Atul Bhalla, Artist; Associate Professor, Department of Art Design and Performing Arts, Shiv Nadar University

    Moderator: Sugata Ray, Assistant Professor of South Asian Art, History of Art Department

    Panelists: Lauren Kroiz, Assistant Professor of 20th Century American Art, History of Art Department and Robert Goldman, Professor of Sanskrit; Catherine and William L. Magistretti Distinguished Professor in South & Southeast Asian Studies

    Sponsors: Institute for South Asia Studies, Department of History of Art

    U.C. Berkeley's Department of the History of Art and the Institute for South Asia Studies have organized a roundtable with Atul Bhalla, a renowned Delhi-based contemporary eco-artist. The artist's talk titled, "You Always Step into the Same River!," will be followed by an interdisciplinary conversation on the politics and aesthetics of water in a global field with Robert Goldman, Lauren Kroiz and Sugata Ray.

    For the past decade, Bhalla's art has addressed the socio-historical importance of water in urban environments around the world. Bhalla earned his BFA from Delhi University and his MFA from the School of Art of Northern Illinois University; he currently teaches in the School of Art, Design, and Performing Arts at Shiv Nadar University. His work has been exhibited in museums and galleries in the United States, India, across Europe and Asia. His most recent exhibition Atul Bhalla: You Always Step into the Same River is an immersion into the knowledge that water imparts.

    You Always Step into the Same River!
    Artist talk by Atul Bhalla

    How it contains or is contained: Harmonizing the Hoover Dam c. 1935
    Lauren Kroiz (Assistant Professor, History of Art Department)  

  • T.J. Demos, "Decolonizing Nature"

    The Activist-Arts of Climate Change
    T.J. Demos

    This presentation considers Climate Games, the recent artistic-activist project organized around COP21 in Paris, December 2015, which brought together international practitioners and collectives in a coordinated effort to challenge the corporate-dominated climate negotiations. Participants aimed to bring attention to the invisibilities pertaining to the economic framework of climate governance, specifically neoliberalism, which has offered only failed proposals for how to address the current environmental crisis. Climate Games, organized by the France-based Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination, promoted creative nonviolent civil disobedience as part of a longterm strategy to democratize environmental governance, insist on a just transition to a postcarbon future, and develop alternatives outside the automatic assumptions of capitalist hegemony. I will consider the visual infrastructure of Climate Games, as well as select examples of participating contenders, and examine how the project sought to organize ethico-political action around climate justice activism, representing a developing model of visual-cultural engagement today. What are the lessons of this type of practice, and how does it reconfigure the imperatives of art historical analysis?


  • Visual Literacy workshop: Learning to Look and Looking to Learn

    Jessica Sack, Jan and Frederick Mayer Senior Associate Curator of Public Education at the Yale University Art Gallery

    Visual Resources Association Foundation regional workshop
    University of California Berkeley

    February 26th, 2016
    Session 1: 10:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Berkeley Art Museum
    Session 2: 2:00 p.m.-4:45 p.m., Visual Resources Center, 308A Doe Library

    The Visual Resources Association Foundation is pleased to announce that Visual Literacy: Learning to Look and Looking to Learn will be held at University of California Berkeley on February 26th, 2016, one of two workshops being offered in the first year of the VRAF Regional Workshop Program. This workshop will be hosted by the Visual Resources Center in the History of Art Department at UC Berkeley, and is open to image management professionals, image users, and the broader information and educational community. The VRAF is grateful to the Samuel H. Kress Foundation for their generous support of this new opportunity.

    Part one of this workshop will focus on visual literacy skills and pedagogical approaches by exploring objects at the new Berkeley Art Museum. In part two of the workshop, participants will discuss and develop ways to implement their own visual literacy program at their institutions, and learn how staff, students and faculty can use digital archives, art objects, and other primary sources in developing visual literacy skills.

    Visual Literacy: Learning to Look and Looking to Learn will be taught by Jessica Sack, the Jan and Frederick Mayer Senior Associate Curator of Public Education at the Yale University Art Gallery. During her fifteen years in the field of museum education, Jessica has developed training programs in visual literacy for information professionals, teachers, faculty, and students. To learn more about Jessica and the workshop, please visit:

    Registration for Visual Literacy: Learning to Look and Looking to Learn is now open. The fee for the workshop is $75 for either the morning or afternoon session, or $125 for the full day. You may register from the workshop website: http://vrafoundation.org.s119319.gridserver.com/index.php/projects/visual_literacy_regional_workshop/

    If you have questions about registration, feel free to contact Betha Whitlow, VRAF Director, bwhitlow@wustl.edu For questions about the University of California Berkeley venue, please contact Lynn Cunningham, Curator of Visual Resources, lynncunningham@berkeley.edu.

    Click for registration and more information

  • Hannah Baader, "Vows on Water: Maritime Iconospheres and the Votive Offering of Ships"

    Read about Hannah Baader here.

    This talk will take a canvas that was presented at the Salon in Paris in 1881- showing a maritime votive scenario - as a starting point for a fragmentary history of Christian maritime ex-votos. Stretching back far before the nineteenth century, this history reflects the strong fears, anxieties and hopes that arise from seafaring, leading to specific religious practices, beliefs, and aesthetics. Although there is a wide range of local documentation, we are still missing any overall research on the topic or any attempt at a more systematic approach. Maritime ship ex-votos are indeed the fragile documents of a long Mediterranean and Atlantic history, a history of longue durée, but nevertheless with significant changes and breaks. This long history might be a tacit history of the worlds of fishermen and seafarers with their specific forms of religiosity and community, but at the same time of many other parts of society - as merchants, churchman, and slaves.
    The talk focuses on the status of maritime ex-votos in the form of ships as objects or things, on the metaphoricity of ships as bodies and figures of transfer, on the seriality of votive vessels, and on their capacity for creating communality.

  • Art History in the Age of Big Data

    Elizabeth Honig, Associate Professor of History of Art, UC Berkeley, specialist in European art 1400-1700
    Melissa Geisler Trafton, Senior Researcher, Fitz H. Lane Project, specialist in nineteenth-century American art

    Art history's data-based foundation has regained interest in the digital age, as new tools are developed to create interactive learning and research experiences. The presenters will discuss their online projects linking information about artworks to rich caches of data.

    Please bring your own sandwich; sodas will be provided.

    Margaretta M. Lovell, Jay D. McEvoy, Jr., Professor of American Art, UC Berkeley, specialist in American and English art and architecture 1700–present

    Co-Sponsored by:

    The Townsend Center for the Humanities
    Digital Humanities, Arts & Humanities Division, College of Letters & Science
    Jay D. McEvoy, Jr., Chair in American Art Funds
    History of Art Department

  • Shawn Michelle Smith, "Photographic Returns: Lorna Simpson's 9 Props"

    This lecture is cosponsored by the Townsend Center for the Humanities Working Group on Race, Gender, and Black Popular Culture, the Working Group on Contemporary Art and the Black Room Collective, an Interdisciplinary Faculty Program funded by the Institute of International Studies.

    The talk will explore the complex web of associations Lorna Simpson evokes with her apparently minimalist work, 9 Props (1995). An homage to James VanDerZee, the work provokes thoughts about the promises and limits of photographic portraiture. Through a series of material translations, 9 Props also comments on the haptic qualities of the photograph and the touch of the photographic past. Simpson’s return to VanDerZee calls forth ideas not only about the history of photography, but also about the photography of history.

    Shawn Michelle Smith is Professor of Visual and Critical Studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.


  • Enduring Truths

    Book Talk: Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby on Enduring Truths

    Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby

    Professor of Art History Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby specializes in eighteenth — through early twentienth century French art and visual and material culture, particularly in relation to colonial politics. In her new book, Enduring Truths: Sojourner's Shadows and Substance (University of Chicago Press, 2015), she uncovers how Sojourner Truth made her photographic portrait worth money in order to end slavery — and also became the strategic author of her public self.

    Runaway slave Sojourner Truth gained fame in the nineteenth century as an abolitionist, feminist, and orator and earned a living partly by selling photographic carte de visite portraits of herself at lectures and by mail. Similar in format to calling cards, cartes de visite were relatively inexpensive collectibles that quickly became a new mode of mass communication. Despite being illiterate, Truth copyrighted her photographs in her name and added the caption "I Sell the Shadow to Support the Substance. Sojourner Truth."

    Featuring the largest collection of Truth’s photographs ever published, Enduring Truths is the first book to explore how she used her image, the press, the postal service, and copyright laws to support her activism and herself. Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby establishes a range of important contexts for Truth's portraits, including the strategic role of photography and copyright for an illiterate former slave; the shared politics of Truth's cartes de visite and federal banknotes, which were both created to fund the Union cause; and the ways that photochemical limitations complicated the portrayal of different skin tones.

    Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby will speak briefly about her work and then open the floor for discussion.

    Berkeley Book Chats: Enduring Truths

  • "Tablet of Being": Persian Painting and the Demiurgic Artist in Fifteenth-Century Iran and Central Asia

    Berkeley Seminars in Art and Religion presents "Tablet of Being": Persian Painting and the Demiurgic Artist in Fifteenth-Century Iran and Central Asia by Professor Lamia Balafrej, Assistant Professor of Art, Wellesley College.

    In the fifteenth century, Persian book painting becomes filled with extra-textual figures, deviating from and subverting the textual story they supposedly illustrate. Through a careful analysis of aspects of facture and composition, combined with an exploration of primary art historiographical sources, this talk suggests that this departure from illustration transformed the painting into a reflexive medium commenting on art itself, its function and its status, and above all, its relationship to God's creation. Through the proliferation of forms and its polished appearance, the painting becomes a catalog of ideal, primordial forms, paradoxically emphasizing both its unmade aspect and the Demiurgic talent of the painter.

    Lamia Balafrej is an Assistant Professor of Art at Wellesley College working on the Islamic world. Her current book project examines the visual culture of late Timurid painting (c.1470-1500) and its intersection with shifting paradigms of authorship and issues of reception. She has degrees from the Sorbonne, the École Normale Supérieure in Paris and the University of Aix-Marseille, and held a number of research fellowships in France, Turkey and the United States.

    Co-sponsored by the History of Art Department.

  • Umberto Boccioni, Dynamism of a Soccer Player, 1913. Oil on canvas. Museum of Modern Art, New York, The Sidney and Harriet Janis Collection, 580.1967

    Jewel City: Art from San Francisco's Panama-Pacific International Exposition

    Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby will be speaking at a symposium at the de Young Museum on the Panama-Pacific International Exposition and its art.

  • Digital Karnak and VSim: Exploring Karnak temple in 3D

    Elaine Sullivan

    Digital Karnak is a 3D, immersive, interactive model of Egypt’s Karnak site, one of the largest temple complexes in the world, and one with a rich political, religious, and architectural history. At the core of the Digital Karnak project is a 3D reconstruction of the complex that illustrates the major phases of construction in the site’s 2,000 year history. While video of the model has been shared through the project website, scholars and the public have never been able to interact dynamically with the model themselves. The recent release of the VSim prototype, a new NEH- funded software to facilitate educational use of academically generated 3D content, now allows 3D projects like Karnak to be annotated, shared, and viewed in real-time by researchers and students. This workshop will present the Karnak model utilizing VSim and show participants how to "fly" and interact with the model on their own computers. Please RSVP if you you plan to attend.

    Elaine Sullivan is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her work focuses on applying new technologies to ancient cultural materials. She acts as the project coordinator of the Digital Karnak Project, a multi-phased 3D virtual reality model of the famous ancient Egyptian temple complex of Karnak. She is project director of 3D Saqqara, which harnesses Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technologies and 3D modeling to explore the ritual and natural landscape of the famous cemetery of Saqqara through both space and time.

    This workshop is sponsored by the UC Santa Cruz Department of History, Digital Humanities at Berkeley, and the UC Berkeley Department of Near Eastern Studies. Inquiries may be directed to Prof. Rita Lucarelli (rita.lucarelli@berkeley.edu).