UC Berkeley History of Art Department



  • 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.

  • 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 

  • 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.

  • 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.