UC Berkeley History of Art Department



  • Rethinking the Origins of Art-and-Culture: What Neuroscience Can Contribute

    John Onians, Professor Emeritus of World Art, University of East Anglia, UK

     Applying the principles of "neuroarthistory," the lecture addresses Paleolithic Art--much the most striking and complex trace left by our prehistoric ancestors. A hundred years ago, many scholars were happy to see art as having its origin in spontaneous behaviors. More recently, a consensus has developed that it is the product of an elaborate culture, whose self-consciousness is said to be demonstrated by its dependence on the use of language to formulate myths and cosmologies. The discoveries of recent neuroscience suggest, however, that this approach might be misdirected. Knowledge of the processes of neural formation at the level of the individual enables us to see the earliest painting, sculpture, and architecture as having been shaped by visceral concerns rooted in circumstances specific to particular places. The emergence of art at different places and times may be not so much the result of social exchange mediated by language as a contingent interaction between local circumstances and a common neural inheritance.

    The founder editor of Art History, John Onions is the author of several books, most recently, European Art: A Neuroarthistory (Yale). In September 2016, he gave the keynote address at the International Congress of the History of Art in Beijing.

  • The Utopian Horizons of a Post-imperial Future: Insurgent Collage in Interwar India

    Atreyee Gupta

    1937. In the backdrop of a world veering precariously close to the Second World War, the Indian artist Abanindranath Tagore began a manuscript, an artists’ book of sorts, based on the epic Ramayana. 207 collages, which combined photographs, cinema reviews, advertisements, and typography from contemporary newspapers, accompanied the artist’s handwritten text. While the text broadly followed the Indian epic, the collages invoked a transcontinental cast of characters including Japan’s Prime Minister Fumimaro Konoe, Hitler, and Stalin, and events such as Italy’s aggression on Ethiopia and the Spanish Civil War. As the first collage by an Indian artist, the project opens up the history and historiography of twentieth-century art to several compelling questions, some of which will be taken up in this talk. As we will see, the collages belonged to a new register of modernist aesthetic thought and practice, one that reworked the illustrative presence of documentary photography to enunciate a utopian post-imperial global horizon. The promise of modernism, the talk contends, remained obdurately lodged within this utopian imagination of an egalitarian future, a future that lay beyond the limits of the interwar world order. In the collages, the aspiration for, and the expectation of, sovereignty thus assumed discursive and material form in an anti-realist aesthetic that closely approximated a utopian vision for a post-imperial political future. Anti-realist because, expectation withstanding, this post-imperial future was not yet actualized in any real dimension. Modernism, then, was the name of that which gave this global post-imperial future shape in a still colonized interwar present.

    Dr. Atreyee Gupta is Jane Emison Assistant Curator of South and Southeast Asian art at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Her research interests include art, visual cultures, and intellectual histories of 20th-century South Asia; the intersections between the Cold War, the Non-Aligned Movement, and artistic practices; and Global Modernisms. She trained in art history at the University of Minnesota in the US and the M.S. University Baroda in India. Prior to joining MIA, she was based in Germany, first at Haus der Kunst, Munich and then at the Art Histories and Aesthetic Practices Program of the Kunsthistorisches Institut Florenz - Max-Planck-Institut at the Forum Transregionale Studien, Berlin. Alongside curatorial projects on contemporary Buddhist art of South and Southeast Asia and the art and history of the South Asian diaspora in the US, she is completing a monograph that focuses on abstraction in interwar and postwar painting, sculpture, photography, and experimental film in South Asia. Other ongoing projects include Converging Cultures, an exhibition on the impact of the Asian diaspora on Latin American art (co-curated for the Art Museum of the Americas); Postwar - Art between the Pacific and the Atlantic, 1945–1965 (co-edited with Okwui Enwezor); and Global Modernism/s: Infrastructures of Contiguities, ca. 1905–1965 (co-edited with Hannah Baader and Patrick Flores).

    A "research seminar" featuring work in progress will be presented the following day, to which faculty and graduate students are invited: 11:15 a.m., 308B Doe Library.

  • Before Pictures: Douglas Crimp in Conversation with Julia Bryan-Wilson

    Douglas Crimp

    From the University of Chicago Press website:

    "Before Pictures tells the story of Crimp’s life as a young gay man and art critic in New York City during the late 1960s through the turbulent 1970s. Crimp participated in all of what made the city so stimulating in that vibrant decade. The details of his professional and personal life are interwoven with this the particularly rich history of New York City at that time, producing a vivid portrait of both the critic and his adopted city. The book begins with his escape from his hometown in Idaho, and we quickly find Crimp writing criticism for ArtNews while working at the Guggenheim—where, as a young curatorial assistant, he was one of the few to see Daniel Buren’s Peinture-Sculpture before it was removed amid cries of institutional censorship. We also travel to the Chelsea Hotel (where Crimp helped the down-on-his-luck couturier Charles James organize his papers) through to his days as a cinephile and balletomane to the founding of the art journal October, where he remained a central figure for many years. As he was developing his reputation as a critic, he was also partaking of the New York night life, from drugs and late nights alongside the Warhol crowd at the Max’s Kansas City to discos, roller-skating, and casual sex with famous (and not-so-famous) men. As AIDS began to ravage the closely linked art and gay communities, Crimp eventually turned his attention to activism dedicated to rethinking AIDS.

    Part biography and part cultural history, Before Pictures is a courageous account of an exceptional period in both Crimp’s life and the life of New York City. At the same time, it offers a deeply personal and engaging point of entry into important issues in contemporary art. "

    Douglas Crimp is the Fanny Knapp Allen Professor of Art History and Professor of Visual and Cultural Studies at the University of Rochester.

  • Funerary portrait relief of the Palmyrene priest, Mariôn (courtesy of Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen [I.N. 1033], The Palmyra Portrait Project)

    The Classics Department Presents: Palmyrene Funerary Portraits, A Roman Period Portrait Habit

    Rubina Raja, Aarhus University School of Culture and Society

    Palmyrene funerary portraits make up the largest group of representations of individuals from antiquity arising out of a single urban context. The ancient city of Palmyra was rediscovered in 1751 by British travellers. Though many sculpted portraits still remain at the site, large numbers of Palmyrene funerary portraits have made their way into numerous art collections around the world. In 2012 a project was initiated at Aarhus University, Denmark, to document all known examples. Since then more than 3,000 have been recorded, which makes this the single largest surviving corpus of funerary portraits from anywhere in the Roman world.

    As a result of the escalating conflict in Syria, this project has since assumed particular importance: it is the sole source of documentation for a large number of extant portraits which were still in-situ before the civil war broke out. This lecture will address Palmyra’s archaeology and history, its unique funerary portrait tradition, and the cultural heritage catastrophe that the civil war in Syria has brought about.

    Rubina Raja is professor of Classical Archaeology at Aarhus University, Denmark. She studied in Copenhagen, Rome, and Oxford, before taking up a post-doctoral fellowship in Germany and subsequently one in Aarhus, Denmark. Since 2015 she has held the chair of Classical Archaeology at Aarhus University and is the director of the Danish National Research Foundation’s Centre of Excellence for Urban Network Evolutions. She initiated and is director of the Palmyra Portrait Project, financed by the Carlsberg Foundation. She also directs an international excavation project in the Decapolis city of Gerasa in modern Jordan. She has published extensively on urban development in the ancient world and religion in the Roman period as well as portraiture in the Roman world.

  • The Philosopher’s Room: Dressing Gowns and Shipwrecks in Diderot’s Regrets

    Katie Scott, Courtauld Institute of Art

    An interdisciplinary analysis of Diderot’s short story, or essay, "Regrets sur ma vieille robe de chambre" (1769), this lecture aims to understand why Diderot chose to develop his critique of luxury (if such it is) in the context of what purports to be a short piece of life-writing, circulated to an elite readership via the Correspondance littéraire. As an art historian I am interested in accounting for Diderot’s use of both spatial form and ekphrasis to describe the appearance, and justify the possession of, luxury objects, a marine painting by Claude-Joseph Vernet most especially. However, the lecture will also engage with the moral questions raised in the discourse on the causes and effects of luxury, and proposes Michel Foucault’s theory of practical ethics as the appropriate model for the interpretation of Diderot’s apparent ambivalence with regard to non-essential consumer spending. The figure of the philosophe is here analysed in the context of the mid-century debate about the political morality of ‘his’ assimilation into elite salon culture, and in contrast to the much reviled figure of the amateur. This lecture addresses the relation between public and private in the specific contexts of the open door of hospitality on the one hand, and, on the other, of the materiality, or persuasive pleasure of the literary text. 

  • Crossing the Bridge: Berkeley to SFMOMA

    Ruth Berson, Deputy Museum Director, Curatorial Affairs, SFMOMA

  • Grapes by Wen Riguan

    A Passion for Grapes—Thoughts on a Chinese Buddhist Painting

    Patricia Berger

    In this lecture UC Berkeley professor Patricia Berger considers Wen Riguan's early fourteenth-century Grapes, one of the most important early Chinese paintings in the BAMPFA collection (on view in Summer Trees Casting Shade). The artist was a well-known Buddhist abbot in the southern city of Hangzhou, equally renowned for a fluid use of the brush and an obsession with grapes. Berger will explore what Wen's focus on grapes tells us about his Buddhist practice and the reception of the painting as it made its way from China to Japan and ultimately to Berkeley.

    A Passion for Grapes (BAMPFA)

  • Rise of Neo-Buddhist Visual Culture: Assertion, Alternative, and Difference

    Y.S. Alone, Professor in Visual Studies, School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawahrlal Nehru University

    This event is co-sponsored by the Department of History of Art and hosted by the Institute for South Asia Studies. Full details can be found here

  • Girl with an Orange, oil on canvas, 1943 (Johannesburg Art Gallery)

    "Global" Post-Impressionism

    Sam Rose, University of St Andrews

    The lecture will examine late nineteenth- and early- to mid-twentieth-century Western European attempts to give a unified and universalizing account of the nature of modern art. “Post-Impressionism” (a term coined by the English critic Roger Fry in 1910) has long been out of favour as a category in art history, rejected as a crude label that obscures the true nature of the artists and styles it attempted to group. In this lecture, however, it is used not as a way to categorize late-nineteenth-century French painting (as in the first “Post-Impressionist” exhibition at the Grafton Gallery in London in 1910-11), but instead in order to come to terms with post-1900 conceptions of the universal nature of modern art. In the early- to mid-twentieth century, how was this theoretically “global” account followed up, spreading its tenets by way of criticism, exhibition, and art education to many parts of the world beyond Western Europe?

    Dr. Rose is a Lecturer in the School of Art History at the University of St Andrews. 

  • Unknown photographer, Hearst Party Visiting the Sphinx and the Pyramids, January 1899. Phoebe Hearst made up for her lack of a formal education with extensive reading and travel, including visiting the excavation sites that she funded. On a later trip in 1905, she speaks enthusiastically about seeing the dig sites: “We saw a tomb opened where they found two statues. If you had seen me hanging over the edge of the place looking down to see the figures as they were uncovered, you might have thought it right to class me with excavators. I was more excited than any one.”  Collection: Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology, 15-18884.

    Exhibition: The Papyrus in the Crocodile: 150 Years of Excavation, Exploration, Collection, and Stewardship at Berkeley

    May 6 – July 29, 2016
    Bancroft Library Gallery, University of California, Berkeley
    (The Gallery is open M-F, 10 am to 4 pm; closed weekends and administrative holidays)

    The collections assembled by Berkeley’s many patrons and collectors during the last 150 years form the foundation of research materials related to a variety of the university’s academic disciplines. The Papyrus in the Crocodile embodies Berkeley’s motto fiat lux (“let there be light”) by illuminating a selection of these invaluable objects as testaments to the cosmopolitan ideologies of Berkeley’s visionary patrons and donors—whose own lives were scarcely less fascinating than the archeological, ethnographic, and aesthetic materials they amassed. By gathering together artifacts from repositories across the university, this exhibition sheds light on the history of acquisitions and encounters that have contributed to the academic diversity celebrated on the Berkeley campus; and recognizes the remarkable men and women who enthusiastically answered the call of University President Benjamin Ide Wheeler to collect for the sake of research and the creation of new knowledge.

    The Papyrus in the Crocodile begins by highlighting Phoebe Apperson Hearst, one of the university’s greatest contributors, and the exceptional collections compiled under her patronage. In 1899, Hearst funded an expedition organized by Egyptologist George A. Reisner, who hired Oxford papyrologists Bernard P. Grenfell and Arthur S. Hunt. As they excavated an Egyptian necropolis in the sands of ancient Tebtunis, they uncovered over 31,000 papyrus fragments, including second-century BCE texts stuffed into mummified crocodiles. The artifacts from that excavation entered the university’s new Museum of Anthropology (since renamed the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology) and many of the papyrus texts went to The Bancroft Library, where they are now housed at the Center for the Tebtunis Papyri.

    For the young California university, founded in 1868, the turn-of-the-century expeditions to the far corners of the world returned with materials that propelled Berkeley forward as a beacon of research and learning on par with many of its more established East Coast and European counterparts.

    This exhibition showcases the diverse nature of Berkeley’s collections, which span multiple continents, represent diverse cultures, and encompass a wide range of materials and media. For example, Phoebe Hearst’s Chinese robes and costume accessories later served as pedagogical devices for young women at the YWCA and as reference materials for Berkeley’s Design Department. After the dissolution of the Design Department, the robes came to the Hearst Museum of Anthropology. The photographs, ritual objects, and ephemera collected by Theos Bernard, “the White Lama,” straddle the divide between entertainment and ritual, the secular and the religious. He incorporated pan-Asian objects and philosophies into his work and everyday life, and was a key figure in the dissemination of Eastern esoteric practices in the West. History unfolds before the viewer in the case of the Codex Fernández Leal, a twenty-foot long sixteenth-century illustrated scroll that documents Mesoamerican history and culture. Earthenware pots and woven baskets demonstrate the diversity of indigenous cultures stretching from South America to the Californian coastline. Combined with photographs, maps, and paintings, these objects attest to ethnographic and commercial interactions between indigenous cultures and Western explorers, merchants, scholars, and settlers.

    Natural history prints and paintings show how artists and scientists turned their attention to the natural world, combining the arts of illustration with empirical observation. Arts and Crafts books and interior designs detail domestic manifestations of this age of exploration in aestheticized natural motifs. Garden designers harnessed the life cycle of plants from around the world, to shape, color, and ornament the private landscape of home and garden.

    The collections on display in the exhibition are not only beautiful, but they also continue to serve the research needs of students and scholars at Berkeley and around the world. The Center for the Tebtunis Papyri provides primary research materials for the Advanced Papyrological Information System (APIS) Project. Hand-printed and hand-bound Arts and Crafts books, collected and donated by advertising executive Norman H. Strouse, are used in Berkeley classes taught at The Bancroft Library on the history of printing and the hand-printed book. The garden designs of Gertrude Jekyll, at the Environmental Design Archives, have made possible the restoration of Jekyll’s gardens in England. Berkeley’s stewardship of these collections has extended their lives beyond the moment of their creation and collection so that they continue to provide research opportunities across disciplines and departments, from Classics to anthropology, from art history to zoology, from religious studies to design. This unprecedented exhibition brings to light many objects never before seen by the public, and prompts both the public and new generations of scholars to engage with these remarkable collections in formulating and answering research questions.

    This exhibition is the capstone event of a three-year grant for Graduate Study in Curatorial Preparedness and Object-Based Learning from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Curated by students in the Mellon Exhibition Graduate Seminar, The Papyrus in the Crocodile represents the culmination of a year’s worth of research, selection, organization, and writing by students representing the fields of art history, anthropology, history, and religion. Co-taught by Professors Margaretta Lovell and Patricia Berger from the History of Art Department, the class began with whirlwind tours through Berkeley campus collections. Students gazed upon the painted faces of Egyptian coffins, delighted in the strains of Mozart pulled from a Baroque violin, marveled at the delicate well-provenanced creatures preserved in specimen jars, and pondered the possibilities of unrealized architectural plans. They met individually with curators from each repository to begin creating a list of objects for exhibition, and learned firsthand the meticulous process of compiling object lists—striking a balance between aspiration and feasibility—preparing loan agreements, writing labels, and designing compelling object groupings.

    The students of the Mellon Graduate Exhibition Seminar extend their gratitude to the directors and curators of the lending institutions, without whom this exhibition would not have been possible. Materials and consultations have been generously provided by the Bancroft Library, the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology, the C.V. Starr East Asian Library, the Environmental Design Archives, the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, and the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. Special thanks goes out to The Bancroft Library for the use of its gallery and the invaluable tutoring on industry standards for exhibition planning offered by its staff.

    In addition to the exhibition, students are working on individual research papers based on objects in Berkeley’s collections. These papers will be presented at a public symposium on May 4, 2016 from 1 to 5 pm at the Women’s Faculty Club, UC Berkeley. All are welcome.

  • Berkeley Art Museum Event: Sugata Ray Lunchtime Talk

    Sugata Ray on Galesh Haloi's Gouaches 

  • Laurie Anderson Habeas Corpus

    Transversal Methods in Everyday Death-Worlds

    Jill H. Casid, Professor of Visual Culture, University of Wisconsin-Madison

    What electrifies, what makes palpable the disavowed filaments of connection between the death-worlds over there and right here? Taking Guantánamo (and its phantom closure) as its improper object, this lecture offers an alternative in action to those engrained habits of method that partition death and life in ways that make illegible the extent to which we inhabit, in this extended period of endless war, a terror-zone in which the making of death-worlds of the living dead ostensibly “over there” in the occupied territories and extra-legal limbo zones of the “black sites” of unseen incarceration are also “right here” as the limits not just on right but also on the sensible. This lecture finds its opening provocation in U.S. artist Laurie Anderson’s installation Habeas Corpus (October 2-4, 2015) that cast a projection of former detainee Mohammed el Gharani from an undisclosed location in W. Africa into the interior of the Park Avenue Armory in New York City and cast his live-feed image onto a colossal white plaster rendering of a seated figure in an uncanny and virtual reversal of the Lincoln Memorial in which the imprisoned takes the grand seat, white turns to black, and the history of slavery returns as the present condition of the carceral. The projection and magnification trick of the single and massive beamed-in figure converts the over-there into the unavoidably here. But the device of the story-telling projection also, at the same time, points to the limits of the figure of the solitary witness to address the complex diagram of competing virtual, material, plant, and animal powers that proliferate the unruly necro-landscape of Guantánamo. Reckoning with the death-worlds in which we lose ourselves demands a recognition of the contaminated mixtures of affect and the development of a capacity for an improper geometry, one committed to drawing lines that connect not just the parallel but also and especially the non-reciprocal and incommensurable.

    A historian, theorist, and practicing artist, Jill H. Casid is Professor of Visual Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is the author of Sowing Empire: Landscape and Colonization (Minnesota, 2006) which received the College Art Association’s Millard Meiss award and Scenes of Projection: Recasting the Enlightenment Subject (Minnesota, 2015) as well as the coedited volume Art History in the Wake of the Global Turn (Yale, 2014). Recent articles have appeared in Women and Performance, TDR, and the Journal of Visual Culture. She is currently completing a two-volume book project on Form at the Edges of Life and co-editing a volume of essays, The Deaths and Afterlives of Queer Theory with Michael Jay McClure.

    This event is co-sponsored by the History of Art Department, the Department of African-American and African Diaspora Studies, the Townsend Working Group in Contemporary Art, and the Black Feminist Epistemologies of Afro-Pessimism Working Group.

  • Difference/Distance: Picturing Race Across Oceans in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries

    ** Please see the conference website for more information. **

    Conference Schedule

    9:00-9:15 -- Welcome and Conference Introduction

    9:15-10:50 -- Panel I
    Diasporic Currents: Locating Blackness Across the Atlantic

    Krista Thompson (Northwestern University)
    The Photographic Archive, Disappearance, and the Black Heroic Figure in Colonial Jamaica

    Olubukola Gbadegesin (St. Louis University)
    The Ekphrastic Life of Sarah Forbes Bonnetta

    Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby (UC Berkeley)
    Brilliance and Blindness from Paris to New Orleans and Back: Creole Degas

    10:50-11:00 -- Break: Pastries + Coffee

    11:00–12:35pm -- Panel II
    Graphing Empire: Fixed Encounters, Moving Bodies

    Kailani Polzak (UC Berkeley)
    Varieties of Inscription: Sydney Parkinson and the Maori Moko

    Bronwen Douglas (Australia National University)
    Encounters, Graphic Representation, and the Generation of Racial Knowledge in Oceania

    Todd Olson (UC Berkeley)
    Sea-Change: Instruments, Swimming, and Race in the Early Modern Atlantic World

    12:35-2:00 -- Lunch (conference participants only)

    2:00-3:35 – Panel III
    Building Boundaries, Crossing Borders: Mixture, Metaphor, and the Racialization of Asia

    Sugata Ray (UC Berkeley)
    (Mis)Translating James Gibbs in the Indian Ocean World: Neoclassical Mosques, Subaltern Cosmopolitanisms, and the Architecture of a Muslim Modernity

    Ashley Bruckbauer (UNC Chapel Hill)
    Negotiating Race in French Images of Embassy

    Thadeus Dowad (UC Berkeley)
    “Islands in the Estranging Sea of Islam“: Ottomans, Race, and Islamic Art at the End of an Empire

    3:35-4:45 -- Concluding Remarks


  • © 2016 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    Picasso's Demoiselles: Africa, Sex, Origins and Creativity

    Stoddard Lecture 2016, featuring Suzanne Blier. The lecture will be followed on Friday, April 15, by an all-day conference on Difference/Distance: Picturing Race Across Oceans in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries. See this page for details.