UC Berkeley History of Art Department


arts.berkeley.edu Archive

  • Kobena Mercer

    Afromodern versus Post-Black? A Diasporic Historiography for African American Art

    Kobena Mercer

    Scholarship in African American art history has flourished between 2000 and 2015, yet this was also when "post-black" gained currency to suggest race no longer matters in culture and society. Arguing that "Afromodernism," a term Robert Farris Thompson coined in 1991, offers a more flexible analytical tool for diaspora-based research, this paper argues that conceptual resources for such an undertaking are nothing new but have been waiting for us in the picture book Alain Locke published in 1940, The Negro in Art.

    Kobena Mercer is a Professor in History of Art and African American Studies at Yale University. His teaching and research focusses on the visual arts of the black diaspora, examining African American, Caribbean, and Black British artists in modern and contemporary art, with a focus on cross-cultural aesthetics in transnational contexts where issues of race, sexuality, and identity converge.

    His first book, Welcome to the Jungle (1994), introduced new lines of inquiry in art, photography, and film, and his work features in several interdisciplinary anthologies including Art and Its Histories (1998), The Visual Culture Reader (2001) and Theorizing Diaspora (2003). He initiated and edited the Annotating Art’s Histories series, published by MIT and INIVA, bringing a global perspective to modernist art history and the titles are Cosmopolitan Modernisms (2005), Discrepant Abstraction (2006), Pop Art and Vernacular Cultures (2007), and Exiles, Diasporas and Strangers (2008).

    Professor Mercer is an inaugural recipient of the 2006 Clark Prize for Excellence in Arts Writing awarded by the Sterling and Francise Clark Art Institute in Massachussetts. His next book, Travel and See: Black Diaspora Art Practices since the 1980s, is a collection of essays forthcoming from Duke University Press, and also published in 2014 is, "New Practices, New Identities: Hybridity and Globalization," the closing chapter in The Image of the Black in Western Art, Volume V, The Twentieth Century (Harvard University Press).

    About the other sponsors:

    The Black Room: Revisiting "Blackness" in the Global 21st Century

    The Institute of International Studies

  • The Cult of the Virgin Mary: Chronology, Meaning, and the Role of Images

    Diliana Angelova

    AHMA Noon Colloquium

  • <cite>Van Gogh on Demand</cite>

    Van Gogh on Demand, Winnie Wong: Berkeley Book Chat

    Winnie Wong

    Assistant Professor of Rhetoric Winnie Wong specializes in the history and present of artistic authorship, with a focus on interactions between China and the West. Her book, Van Gogh on Demand: China and the Readymade (University of Chicago Press, 2014), explores contemporary art in the world's largest production center for oil-on-canvas painting, Dafen village, China.

    Van Gogh on Demand argues that the global contemporary art world is shaped by two powerful ideas: the postmodern assertion of "the death of the author" and the universalist notion that "everybody is an artist." Wong focuses on an unlikely case of global art production, China's Dafen Oil Painting Village, a production center of eight thousand Chinese painters who produce five million oil paintings per year, sourced from the Western art canon and made for the world's retail and wholesale markets. Based on five years of fieldwork in this transnational trade, Wong’s study offers a comprehensive account of this "readymade" art. Her narrative centers on two unique sets of "authors": internationally-active artists who made Dafen village into a source of appropriated paintings and a subject of conceptual art; and the Chinese party-state which turned Dafen village into a model cultural industry and the subject of extensive propaganda spanning television and the World Expo. Wong examines the encounter between contemporary artists and the Dafen painters whose labor they appropriate, tracing critical issues of artistic authorship and assessing their deployment at a site of anonymous production.

    After an introduction by Michael Mascuch (Rhetoric), Wong will speak briefly about her work and then open the floor for discussion.

  • 2015 Judith Stronach Travel Seminar Symposium

    Diliana Angelova and Beate Fricke

    Student participants in this year's Travel Seminar to Istanbul, Turkey will present their research papers at a symposium in honor of the Seminar's benefactor, Judith Stronach.


    • Kristen Kido, "Light, Liturgy and Byzantine Aesthetics in the Hagia Sophia Deësis Mosaic"
    • Andrew Sears, "From Constantinople to St. Louis"
    • Christopher Bonura, "The Scribe John Malaxos, Post­ Byzantine Greek Manuscripts, and the Prophetic Topography of Constantinople"
    • Grace Harpster, "Efficacy of Monumental Sculpture between Byzantine, Constantinople and Counter Reformation Italy"
    • Jon Soriano, "Bloody Mary of the Mongols"
    • Shivani Sud, "At the Juncture of East and West: Istanbul's Sireci and Haydarpasa Terminals"
    • Thadeus Dowad, "Excavating under the Sultan's Eye: Photography at Ancient Sidon"


    Link to poster

  • Program for symposium

    Mural Painting and the Ancient Americas

    Lisa Trever and Victoria Lyall

    Lisa Trever and Victoria Lyall (SFSU) will convene an interdisciplinary symposium on Mural Painting and the Ancient Americas, within the annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology on Saturday, April 18, 2015, 8 a.m. to noon., at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square.

    Artist and activist Judy Baca argues that “Muralism is a work made in relatedness. Related to the people that surround it; related to the place it is in and made in a public voice.” Indeed, mural paintings—made either in twentieth-century Los Angeles or in eighth-century Guatemala—are works that are often time-, place-, and community-specific. Often the life of a mural is brief, until it is expunged, repainted, or—more often in the case of ancient American examples—interred and built over. The close ties between murals and the time, place, and people of their facture make their ephemerality all the more poignant.

    In the last thirty years we have witnessed extraordinary archaeological discoveries of mural paintings throughout the Americas. This has also been a period of marked advances in technical, material, and art historical research and reassessments of long-known painted walls. This symposium brings together archaeologists, art historians, archaeometrists, conservators, and curators to discuss the meanings and functions of mural paintings from the American Southwest, Mesoamerica, and South America. Emphasis is placed on the ways in which context matters in the production of meaning and how archaeological inquiry might open new vistas on murals as temporally, spatially, and socially “related” works. Papers include archaeological subjects as well as historical and contemporary subjects that relate later murals and muralisms to the ancient American past.

  • Fourth Del Chiaro Lecture poster

    The 4th Mario A. Del Chiaro Lecture: The Religious Landscape of Etruria: new discoveries and interpretations

    Ingrid Edlund-Berry

    For many centuries the Tuscan landscape has provided the setting for hilltop cities and towns, undulating hills covered with olive trees or vineyards, and rivers and roads that provide avenues for trade and travels between the coast and the inland. The landscape was important to the Etruscans, but for reasons that may escape us unless we are willing to see what we look at and to develop a sensitivity for the importance of sacred places throughout ancient Etruria. Thanks to literary sources and abundant archaeological evidence it is possible, although not always easy, to recreate the religious landscape created by the Etruscans, with sacred mountains and caves, springs and lakes, combined with elaborate urban and extra—urban sanctuaries with temples and altars.

    In her lecture Ingrid Edlund-Berry will present examples of known and lesser known sacred spaces of ancient Etruria and hope to show how the landscape contributed to the Etruscan perception of the world and the worship of deities that determined the wellbeing of individuals as well as communities with a sense of religious piety that the neighbors of the Etruscans, including the Romans, seem to have found both puzzling and enviable.

    Ingrid Edlund-Berry is Professor Emerita in the Department of Classics at the University of Texas at Austin.

  • Affective Bodies - Performative Cultures and Aesthetic Practices: A Round Table with Photo and Visual Artist, Pushpamala N.

    The Institute for South Asia Studies is organizing a roundtable with Pushpamala N., a renowned Bangalore-based contemporary artist. Pushpamala’s photo-performances and videos invoke a wide range of subjects from colonial photography, popular prints, premodern manuscript painting, and cinema to explore questions of gender, identity, and history through masquerade. The roundtable is a collateral event in conjunction with Postdate: Photography and Inherited History in India, an exhibition on contemporary Indian photography at the San Jose Museum of Art (February–August, 2015), the catalog for which has been published by the University of California Press.

     Join Pushpamala N. in conversation with Assistant Professor of South Asian Art Sugata Ray; Associate Professor in the Department of Art Practice Allan deSouza; Assistant Professor of English Poulomi Saha; and Associate Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures and Comparative Literature Harsha Ram on the aesthetics of the body.

  • Shifting Orientation in Western Art around 1500

    Alexander Nagel

  • Questioning Aesthetics Symposium

    In conjunction with the launching of the second, fully revised and expanded six volume edition of the Encyclopedia of Aesthetics (July 2014), the Arts Research Center will co-host a full day symposium on Friday, March 13, 2015, looking at aesthetics as both the subject and object of critique, and as a way to explore and expand new forms of aesthetics research in many disciplines. This symposium is free and open to the public.

    Topics and speakers will include the following:

    9:30am: Introductions
    Arts and Humanities Dean Anthony Cascardi and Encyclopedia of Aesthetics Editor Michael Kelly

    10am-12pm: When Is Art Participatory?
    Shannon Jackson (UC Berkeley), Moderator
    Grant Kester (UC San Diego)
    Dee Hibbert-Jones (UC Santa Cruz)
    Ted Purves (California College of Art)
    Susanne Cockrell (California College of Arts)
    Jen Delos Reyes (Artist, Educator and community arts organizer)

    12-1pm: Lunch

    1-2:45pm: When is Computing Aesthetic?
    Greg Niemeyer (UC Berkeley), Moderator
    Edward Shanken (U Washington)
    Sharon Daniel (UC Santa Cruz)
    Eric Paulos (UC Berkeley)

    3-5pm: When Is Art Contemporary?
    Julia Bryan-Wilson (UC Berkeley), Moderator
    Richard Meyer (Stanford)
    Jeffrey Skoller (UC Berkeley)
    SanSan Kwan (UC Berkeley)

    5pm-5:30pm: Symposium Wrap-Up
    Led by Michael Kelly

    Questioning Aesthetics Symposium

  • Between Campesino and State: Photography, Rurality and Citizenship in Post-Revolutionary Mexico

    Robin Greeley

    Robin Greeley,  Associate Professor of Modern and Contemporary Latin American Art History, Berkeley PhD 1996, will return to the Department to give a public lecture on her current book project, on the intersection of photography, modernity and rurality in 20th century Mexico.

  • Surreality and Possession in the Modern Art of the Arab East

    Anneka Lenssen

    This talk explores 'Arab Surrealist' ideas and images from the period 1945-53: work by artists and intellectuals in Egypt, Lebanon, and Syria who conceived of the artist's medium as living and shape-shifting material rather than an inanimate means to make a picture on a surface. Lenssen draws on an archive of sketches, critical writings, and artist letters to highlight how figures such as Bishr Fares, Saloua Raouda Choucair, Mounir Canaan, and Fateh al-Moudarres sought to preserve the openness of visual form to possession by other, non-visual entities such as music, atomic energy, and the spirit. At issue in these investigations of surreality was the very nature of sovereign creation in the Arab East, past and future.

  • 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.