UC Berkeley History of Art Department


arts.berkeley.edu Archive

  • Spaces of Cultural Change in Africa and the Atlantic

    Until 6:30 pm | 03/05/2015

    The Mobilities and Materialities of the Early Modern World Townsend Working Group presents:

    Spaces of Cultural Change in Africa and the Atlantic

    A workshop with presentations by:

    Kevin Dawson
    Assistant Professor, History Department, UC Merced
    “Enslaved Underwater Divers: Challenging Ideas of Race and Slavery from Below”

    Cecile Fromont
    Assistant Professor, Art History Department, University of Chicago
    “The Art of Conversion in the Kingdom of Kongo”

    Co-sponsored by the Designated Emphasis in Renaissance and Early Modern Studies 

  • Dunhuang and the Silk Road: Imperial Archaeology to Digital

    Susan Whitfield

    The discovery in 1900 - and dispersal worldwide within little over a decade - of a Library Cave hidden for almost 1000 years in the Buddhist cave temples of Dunhuang was a catalyst for China's positioning itself as a key player in a pre-modern 'global' world, the Silk Road. Dunhuang, a UNESCO world heritage site, remains at the forefront of China's bid to consolidate this through the current international Silk Road nomination. In her talk, Susan Whitfield, curator, Central Asian manuscripts at the British Library, will introduce the collections, their discovery and dispersal and the role of China in the collaborative work of the past two decades to reunite the collections digitally, through the International Dunhuang Project, and Pat Berger of the Department of History of Art will also discuss the site.

  • Something New and Rare: A Woven Mexican Feather Shield in Defense Against Islam

    The Stoddard Lecturer for 2014-15 is Professor Thomas B.F. Cummins, Dumbarton Oaks Professor of Pre-Columbian and Colonial Art at Harvard University.

  • College Art Association Meetings, New York, February 11-14, 2015

    Until 12:00 pm | 02/14/2015

    Lisa Trever
    Session: Divine Impersonators: Substance and Presence of Precolumbian Embodiments
    Paper: Painted, Performed, Scratched: Divine Encounters in Moche Art and Image
    Time: 02/13/2015, 2:30 PM—5:00 PM
    Location: Hilton New York, 2nd Floor, Nassau Suite

    The study of ancient religious experience in coastal Peru does not benefit from the decipherment of hieroglyphic inscriptions. The earliest Spanish chronicles and Quechua narratives are only of limited use in interpreting traditions of the deeper past. Without reliable recourse to texts, such study must turn its attention to image, object, and material. This paper presents a three-fold set of ancient Moche objects and images that may illuminate practices of engagement with what one might call divine beings: a fineline, stirrup-spout bottle in Berlin; a set of ceramic masks portraying a fanged protagonist known as Ai Apaec; and images of serpents and owls scratched into whitewashed temple walls at Huaca de la Luna and Huaca Cao. Considered together, this visual-material assemblage may provide insight into ancient ritual performance and practices of visionary perception, as marked through narrative representation (the Berlin vase), evidence of embodiment (masks), and haptic recording (so-called graffiti).


    Andrew Griebeler
    Session: The Talisman: A Critical Genealogy
    Paper: The Serpent Column Revisited
    Time: 02/14/2015, 9:30 AM—12:00 PM
    Location: Hilton New York, 3rd Floor, West Ballroom

    The serpent column in Istanbul is among the few surviving examples of the monumental talismans that once dotted the city. This paper addresses the circumstances and associations underlying the serpent column’s recognition as a talisman against snakes and snakebites in the 1390s. In doing so, it relates the serpent column to other Byzantine medical talismans, toxicology, and serpent biology. As the column became a talisman, this network of associations played out and embedded itself within a shifting urban landscape. The column’s particular relation to local space and its idiosyncratic ability to enact these associations visually predicated contemporaries’ recognition of it as a talisman. In this way, the serpent column demonstrates the crucial role that visual form, sense perception (especially touch), and affective response play in the recognition of talismans. Once habituated as a talisman, the serpent column instantiates a local logic of contagion and mimesis. Drawing upon Michael Taussig’s work on mimesis, I suggest that the talisman was seen to appropriate natural forces and replicate them as a second nature. As a result, the serpent column is less “an image against nature,” a manmade signifier that negates the natural signified, than it is an image as nature.

    Imogen Hart
    Session: Science Is Measurement? Nineteenth-Century Science, Art, and Visual Culture
    Paper: Sculpture in the Age of Darwin
    Time: 02/14/2015, 2:30 PM—5:00 PM
    Location: Hilton New York, 2nd Floor, Madison Suite

    Sculpture has received comparatively little attention in the recent turn toward evolutionary theory among historians of nineteenth-century art. This paper considers this neglected field, focusing on late-nineteenth-century sculpture in Britain and the United States. It aims to demonstrate that sculpture makes a distinct contribution to the current dialogue about Darwinism and the visual arts. The paper argues that sculpture’s methods and materials, its close relationship with decoration, and the contested status of ideal sculpture in the period all have important implications for evolutionary debates. It analyzes the use of evolutionary language in nineteenth-century sculpture criticism, exploring how these texts shed light on sculpture’s engagement with Darwinian themes.

    Jordan Rose
    Session: Comic Modern
    Paper: Daumier's Money Pictures
    Time: 02/14/2015, 9:30 AM—12:00 PM
    Location: Hilton New York, 2nd Floor, Trianon Ballroom

    This paper reconceptualizes the caricatural strategies of Honoré Daumier by focusing on the image of money in his lithographs. Generally speaking, caricature continues to be examined within the framework of the canivalesque, the world turned upside down. The figure of money in Daumier’s oeuvre – and here “money” refers not only to cash and coin, but also to such derivative things as pawnshop tickets, stock certificates, and advertising copy – reveals a different kind of comic operation, an alternative course of movement and exposition, one that proceeds, as it were, inside out rather than bottom to top. In a word, Daumier’s is a critical practice, matter of fact and worldly, partial, tugged and shaped by pessimism; it wages a war over history in the realm of representation.

    Elaine Yau
    Session: Handwriting and American Art
    Paper: Words of Fulfillment: Practice and Performance in the Art of Sister Gertrude Morgan
    Time: 02/12/2015, 12:30 PM—2:00 PM
    Location: Hilton New York, 2nd Floor, Nassau Suite

    The proliferation of writing has been a pronounced aspect of Sister Gertrude Morgan’s paintings and drawings, one that has been frequently observed, yet under investigated, as a sign of religious fervor by critics of self-taught art. My paper refines this broad assessment of Morgan’s writing by historicizing it within two coterminous arenas: the spiritual economy of post-WWII African American Holiness-Pentecostal belief and practice, and market economy for folk art in the early 1970s….I situate Morgan’s writing as a performative act of spiritual labor alongside the requirements of materiality, legibility, and visuality of which Morgan, who was producing these artworks for sale, was aware (and variously met). By triangulating Morgan’s handwriting with imperatives of religious belief and artistic production, this paper stresses considerations of vernacular performance to challenge the exoticizing and romantic tendencies that permeate the study of self-taught art in the United States.

    Lauren Kroiz
    Session: New Genealogies of American Modernism at Midcentury
    Paper: “Almost to Defy Classification”: Horace Pippin and Ad Reinhardt
    Time: 02/14/2015, 2:30 PM—5:00 PM
    Location: Hilton New York, 3rd Floor, East Ballroom

    In 1946, Ad Reinhardt instructed viewers “How to Look at Modern Art in America” with a family tree – a structure used to schematize biological inheritance. However, Reinhardt’s diagram strikingly undermined racial categories. His organization of artists’ surnames by style and subject matter scattered African Americans often grouped together as members of the Harlem Renaissance. Beginning from Reinhardt’s strange placement of the self-trained painter Horace Pippin as a flying bird among modern art’s leaves, my study considers Reinhardt’s early 1940s anti-racist illustrations and the wider 1940s reception of Pippin’s painting in order to demonstrate the ways formal aesthetic categories operated alongside and at odds with those of race in American modernism at midcentury. I explore the ways Reinhardt’s and Pippin’s artwork threatened both aesthetic and racial taxonomies to analyze why and how artistic genealogies can be productively constructed and challenged.  

  • The Arena of History: Giotto, Dante, Augustine

    Henrike Christiane Lange, Ph.D. Candidate, Yale University

    Ms. Lange is a candidate for a joint faculty position in Renaissance/Early Modern Visual Culture in the Departments of Italian Studies and the History of Art.

  • Gaye Chan, Angel on Folding Chair 1986 -1988

    Feminist Translations/Queer Mobilities

    Feminist Translations/Queer Mobilities examines themes of genealogy, temporality, acts of translation, and metaphors of mobility in feminist and queer approaches to art, practice, and politics. Bringing together the seminars of Professors Mel Y. Chen (Queer Translations/Gender and Women's Studies) and Julia Bryan-Wilson (Feminist and Queer Theories in Art/History of Art) to foster trans-disciplinary conversation and debate, the conference aims to give equal attention to artists and art objects as to theories and methods, while presuming that such domains are deeply intertwined. Two keynote speakers — Nandita Sharma and Gaye Chan — will bookend the day of graduate student panels. Co-sponsored by the History of Art Department and the Center for the Study of Sexual Culture.

  • Non-Finito​: Michelangelo and the Art of Failure

    Maria Loh, University College London

    Dr. Loh is a candidate for a joint faculty position in Renaissance/Early Modern VIsual Culture in the Departments of Italian Studies and the History of Art.

  • Too Many Wounds. Christ's Passion, Hyperrealism and Normativity in Early Modern Art

    Chiara Franceschini, University College London

    Dr. Franceschini is a candidate for a joint faculty position in Renaissance/Early Modern Visual Culture in the Departments of Italian Studies and the History of Art. 

  • Imagining Everyday Life in the Young US

    Imagining Everyday Life in the Young US: Margaretta Lovell & David Henkin in Conversation

    Margaretta Lovell and David Henkin


    Art historian Margaretta Lovell and social historian David Henkin, both professors at UC Berkeley, offer a rich context for the artwork on view in American Wonder. They will discuss pre-Civil War American society and culture, touching on such issues as individual and community identity, rituals of mourning, schoolgirl skills, professional penmanship, and the role of domestic animals.


    Discover the early years of our nation through portraits, landscapes, commemorative mourning pictures, weather vanes, and decorative sculptures that reflect the daily lives and aspirations of Americans between the years 1776 and 1865. Drawing upon our distinguished collection of American folk art, one of the finest in California, American Wonder begins in Colonial New England, evoking the world of early settlers, and ends in the San Francisco Bay Area, where the pitched optimism of the Gold Rush met with dreams of a post-Civil War American Eden.

  • Photograph of Mehwar Group environmental installation, Asilah, Morocco, 1985

    Creative Solidarity in the Global 1980s: Arab Art Networks

    Anneka Lenssen, Assistant Professor of History of Art

    We tend to think of the "global contemporary" as coalescing sometime near 1989, facilitated by free market flows after the fall of the Berlin Wall, or constructed, perhaps, in exhibitions such as Magiciens de la Terre. An alternative genealogy begins in the 1970s with efforts to institute a Third World cultural order through transversal circuits of communication rather than vertical dependencies. In this talk, Lenssen highlights a particularly productive circuit of Third World filiation in artist solidarity projects from the Middle East and North Africa. The talk focuses on three interrelated cases: the founding of the Arab Union of Plastic Artists in 1971, culminating in the Baghdad Biennial of 1974; the inauguration of the Asilah festival in Morocco in 1978 as both folkloric village and site for radical South-South collaboration; and the creation of the Egyptian art collective Mehwar in 1981 in response to the "Coca-Cola and Chiclets” of market liberalization. All were conducted against dramatic structural changes to local economies. And in them, artists’ collective efforts no longer had to do with the goal of entering modernity at will, but rather with inscribing new sites of creative action in an otherwise coercive international art world. Together, these cases offer the contemporary art historian an opportunity to explore the notion of solidarity anew, and to scrutinize the stakes of artistic work in non-capitalist conditions. The talk is drawn from a longer research project that - spurred by new museum projects in the Gulf states - explores the Arab liberation struggles of the 1960s and 1970s as a prehistory to the global art world of the present.

    Anneka Lenssen is assistant professor of global modern art here in the History of Art Department. She writes on modern and contemporary art, with a particular specialization in the cultural politics of the Middle East. Current projects include a co-edited volume of writings on art from the Arab world (International Program of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, 2017) and a book-length study of avant-garde formations of painting in Syria under new regimes of political representation, 1940s-1960s. 

  • The Object at Center: Visual Evidence and Research Paths from Dissertation to Book

    Ping Foong

    Informal talk and discussion with Professor Ping Foong.

    Professor Foong received her PhD from Princeton University in 2006. Her dissertation was on the Northern Song landscape paintings of Guo Xi. She will be introducing her research and presenting her experience of turning a doctoral dissertation into a book. She is visiting Berkeley for the year, teaching The Classical Painting Tradition of China this fall and Arts of China in the spring. Come say hello! Drinks and snacks will be provided.

  • Modern Money: Aesthetics After the Gold Standard (Day Two)

    Until 6:00 pm | 11/07/2014

    Yanis Varoufakis will deliver a talk entitled, "Post-Modern Money: On the Nature and Aesthetics of Money after 2008."  The talk will be followed by open discussion.

  • The Ends of American Art

    "The Ends of American Art" is a conference taking place at Stanford University, organized by one of our former PhD students, Beth Bennett, and includes presentations by former Berkeley History of Art students as well as one of our current PhD students, Diana Greenwold

  • Andy Warhol’s 200 One Dollar Bills (1962)

    Modern Money: Aesthetics After the Gold Standard (Day One)

    Until 6:00 pm | 11/06/2014

    November 6 || 10:00 am-6:00 pm
    November 7 || 3:00 pm-6:00 pm
    308A Doe Library

    Organized by Jordan Rose (Berkeley) and Scott Ferguson (University of South Florida)

    “Money,” T. J. Clark has written, “is the root form of representation in bourgeois society. Threats to monetary value are threats to signification in general." Clark's proposition, almost aphoristic in its phrasing, turns on the kinds of questions it raises, about markets and money flows, about value and its abstraction, about whom money belongs to, about the “social reality of the Sign” and the effect money has on art-making. By the statement’s end, money becomes a central form – maybe the central form – of modern life. Over the last 15 years – the sentences come from 1999’s Farewell to an Idea – the urgency of Clark's questions has only intensified, obliging us, in turn, to confront them anew. “Modern Money” initiates this process by asking participants to consider the effect a turn toward state and credit theories of money – away, as it were, from the standard commodity theories – has on our dealings with art and aesthetics. What happens, in other words, to our understanding of value, and of social practice, if we come to recognize some distance between the social relations of the production of commodities and the social relations of the production of money?

    The first day, the 6th, will consist of three panels addressing the art and money nexus. The second, which turns the table, will feature a talk by Yanis Varoufakis (Professor of Economics, University of Athens, and Visiting Professor, Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, University of Texas, Austin).

    A multimedia installation by Danae Stratou will accompany the conference. (November 3-November 7, 308A Doe Library)

    Sponsored by the Department of History of Art. Co-sponsored by the Townsend Center for the Humanities, the Arts Research Center, the Department of Rhetoric, and the Department of History.

    Conference Schedule

    9:30-10:00 – Breakfast/Coffee

    10:00-10:10 – Introduction

    10:10-11:30 – Panel One

    Todd Barnes (Ramapo College of New Jersey), “Striking Our Debt to Moral Tragedy: Money in Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar'”

    Edwin Harvey (Miami University), “(Silver) Dollars: A Chartalist Iconography of Charles Willson Peale’s Mrs. Thomas McKean”

    11:30-1:00 – Lunch

    1:00-2:50 – Panel Two

    Richard Taws (University College London), “Paris in Code: Signs of Value in Post-Revolutionary France”

    Jordan Rose (University of California, Berkeley), “The Debtor’s Frockcoat”

    Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby (University of California, Berkeley), “Paper, Metal and the Civil War”

    2:50-3:30 – Coffee break

    3:30-5:20 – Panel Three

    Danny Marcus (University of California, Berkeley) and Daniel Spaulding (Yale University), “Modernism and Capitalism, a Correspondence”

    Cecilia Wee (Royal College of Art), “If Information Makes Money, Does Sharing Destroy It?”

    Scott Ferguson (University of South Florida), “Risking Abstraction”

    5:20-6:00 – Reception

  • Glenn Ligon, Malcolm X (Version 1) #1, 2000. Vinyl-based paint, silkscreen ink, and gesso on canvas. 96 × 72 in.

    On the Queering of Post-Black Art: TWGCA Lecture

    Derek Conrad Murray, Associate Professor in the History of Art and Visual Culture, UCSC

    Through a critical investigation of the controversial and polarizing notion of post-black, this lecture will explore the impact that sexual politics and queer identities have on our understanding of blackness as a set of visual, cultural, and intellectual concerns. The re-articulation of African-American identity emergent in contemporary art suggests that the visual markers of hetero-normative blackness have failed to represent the lives and identities of individuals whose gender and sexual orientations often position them outside dominant understandings of black identity. The aim of this paper is to produce new and innovative interpretive possibilities that will elucidate the specific conceptual, aesthetic, and political concerns of post-Civil Rights generation visual artists.

    Derek Conrad Murray is an interdisciplinary theorist specializing in the history, theory and criticism of contemporary art. He holds a Ph.D. in art history from Cornell University. Murray is currently Assistant Professor in the History of Art and Visual Culture at the University of California, Santa Cruz. His book, Regarding Difference: Contemporary African-American Art and the Politics of Recognition, will be published by Manchester University Press in 2015, as part of the series Rethinking Art’s Histories (eds. Amelia Jones and Marsha Meskimmon). Murray is also in the process of completing his second book entitled Queering Post-Black Art: Rethinking African-American Identity After Civil Rights, forthcoming from I.B. Tauris (UK). 

    This lecture is presented by the Townsend Working Group in Contemporary Art, which seeks to broaden conversations about contemporary art across departments, disciplines and institutions. Our meetings feature speakers sharing their recent work or spotlighting current issues in contemporary art. We are grateful to the Townsend Center for the Humanities for their support.