Search results

Race and the art of Agostino Brunias

Agostino Brunias's paintings have often been understood as straightforward documents of visual ethnography that functioned as field guides for reading race. This book offers the first comprehensive study of Agostino Brunias's intriguing pictures of colonial West Indians of colour made for colonial officials and plantocratic elites during the late-eighteenth century. It talks about the so called 'Red' and 'Black' Caribs, dark-skinned Africans and Afro-Creoles, and mixed-race women and men. The book explores the role of the artist's paintings in reifying notions of race in the British colonial Caribbean and considers how the images both reflected and refracted common ideas about race. Although some historians argue that the conclusion of the First Carib War actually amounted to a stalemate, Brunias clearly documents it as a moment of surrender, with Joseph Chatoyer considering the terms of his people's submission. Young's Account of the Black Charaibs mobilised subtle and not-so-subtle allusions to the rebellion in Haiti to construct a narrative of the Carib Wars. The book analyses the imaging of Africans and Afro-Creoles in British colonial art. The painting named Mulatresses and Negro Woman Bathing, Brunias replaces his more quotidian trade scenes and negro dancing frolics with a bathing tableau set against a sylvan Eden. In Linen Market, Dominica, one arresting figure captivates the viewer more than any other. Brunias may have painted for the plantocractic class, constructing pretty pictures of Caribbean life that reflected the vision of the islands upon which white, colonialist identities depended.

Skin in French art and medicine, 1650–1850

Throughout the history of European painting, skin has been the most significant surface for artistic imitation, and flesh has been a privileged site of lifelikeness. Skin and flesh entertain complex metaphorical relationships with artefacts, images, their making and materiality: fabricated surfaces are often described as skins, skin and colour have a longstanding connection, and paint is frequently associated with flesh. This book considers flesh and skin in art theory, image making and medical discourse and focuses on seventeenth to nineteenth-century France. It describes a gradual shift between the early modern and the modern period and argues that what artists made when imitating human nakedness was not always the same. Initially understood in terms of the body’s substance, of flesh tones and body colour, it became increasingly a matter of skin, skin colour and surfaces. This shift is traced in the terminology of art theory and in the practices of painting, as well as engraving, colour printing and drawing. Each chapter is dedicated to a different notion of skin and its colour, from flesh tones via a membrane imbued with nervous energy to hermetic borderline. Looking in particular at works by Fragonard, David, Girodet, Benoist and Ingres, the focus is on portraits, as facial skin is a special arena for testing and theorising painterly skills and a site where the body and the image made of it become equally expressive.

Abstract only
Contemporary art, urban culture, and the fashioning of global Shanghai

Shanghai, long known as mainland China’s most cosmopolitan metropolis, has recently re-emerged as a global capital. Above sea: Contemporary art, urban culture, and the fashioning of global Shanghai offers the first in-depth examination of turn of the twenty-first-century Shanghai-based art and design—from state-sponsored exhibitions to fashionable cultural complexes to cutting-edge films and installations. This book offers a counter-touristic view of one of the world’s fastest developing megacities, one that penetrates the contradictions and buried layers of specific locales and artifacts of visual culture. Informed by years of in-situ research, including interviews with artists and designers, the book looks beyond contemporary art’s global hype to reveal persistent socio-political tensions accompanying Shanghai’s explosive transitions from semi-colonial capitalism to Maoist socialism to Communist Party–sponsored capitalism. Analyses of exemplary design projects such as Xintiandi and Shanghai Tang and artworks by Liu Jianhua, Yang Fudong, Gu Wenda, and others reveal how Shanghai’s global aesthetics construct glamorizing artifices that mask historically rooted cross-cultural conflicts between vying notions of foreign-influenced modernity versus anti-colonialist nationalism, and the city’s repressed socialist past versus its consumerist present. The book focuses on Shanghai-based art and design from the 1990s–2000s, the decades of the city’s most rapid post-socialist development, while also attending to pivotal Republican and Mao-era examples. Challenging the “East-meets-West” clichés that characterize discussions of urban Shanghai and contemporary Chinese art, this book illuminates critical issues facing today’s artists, architects, and designers and provides an essential field guide for students of art, design, art history, urban studies, and Chinese culture.

Abstract only
Writing queer transnational South Asian art histories

According to the author, queer as an identification and subjectivity is important to his writing of transnational South Asian art histories. This book talks about new transnational South Asian art histories, to make visible histories of artworks that remain marginalised within the discipline of art history. This is done through a deliberate 'productive failure', by not upholding the strictly genealogical approach. The book discusses authorship by examining the writing about the work of Anish Kapoor to explore the shifting manner in which critics and art historians have identified him and his work. It focuses on the author's own identification as queer and South Asian American to put pressure on the coherency of an LGBTQI art history. It connects formal similarities of abstract work produced in the 1960s in New York City by Cy Twombly and Natvar Bhavsar. The book deals with an art history that concerns facile categories such as South Asian/non-South Asian and black/white, and discusses the works of Stephen Dean, Mario Pfeifer, Adrian Margaret Smith Piper, and Kehinde Wiley. It focuses on practice-led research by discussing 'Sphere:dreamz,; which was produced by queer-identified South Asian women. Continuing the focus, the book looks at the multi-site exhibition 'Mixing It Up: Queering Curry Mile and Currying Canal Street', organised by the author in 2007. It addresses the question of how certain subjects are considered as 'belonging' and others as not; and the role of art in the reconstitution of notions of 'home' and transnational South Asian art histories.

This book represents the first attempt to write a comprehensive account of performance art in Eastern Europe - the former communist, socialist and Soviet countries of Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe - since the 1960s. It demonstrates performance art, which encompasses a range of genres, among them body art, happenings, actions and performance. In exploring the manifestations and meanings of performance art, the book highlights the diversity of artistic practice, moments and ways in which performance emerged, and its relationship to each country's sociopolitical climate. The book discusses 21 countries and over 250 artists, exploring the manner in which performance art developed concurrently with the genre in the West. It examines how artists used their bodies in performance to navigate the degrees of state control over artistic production and cultivate personalised forms of individual integration and self-expression of body, gender, politics, identity, and institutional critique. A comparative analysis of examples of performance art addressing gender-related issues from across the socialist and post-socialist East is then presented. The themes addressed provide local cultural and historical references in works concerning beauty, women's sexuality and traditional notions of gender. Artists' efforts to cope with the communist environment, the period of transition and the complexities of life in the post-communist era are highlighted. Artists during the communist period adopted performance art as a free-form, open-ended means of expression to give voice to concepts, relationships and actions that otherwise would not have been possible in the official realm of art.

Contemporary Asian contexts

Contemporary Asian art has had a remarkable impact on global art practice, and simultaneously has produced an enduring record of the history of that region from the moment of decolonisation to the present. Many artists in the region have a deep concern about what it means to be human and to contribute to the development of a better future for their communities as well as having a sustained commitment to making art. This book, written at the start of the ‘Asian century’, focuses on the contexts and conditions which have helped to shape both art practice, and postcolonial society, in the region. Using case studies of selected artists, it discusses their work in relation to issues of human rights, social and environmental wellbeing, and creativity and is one of the first surveys of these issues in contemporary Asian art. It is an important contribution to studies of contemporary Asian art and art history.

Abstract only
Transcultural identities and art-making in a globalised world

Migration, understood as the movement of people and cultures, gives impetus to globalisation and the transculturation processes that the interaction between people and cultures entails. This book addresses migration as a profoundly transforming force that has remodelled artistic and art institutional practices across the world. It explores contemporary art's critical engagement with migration and globalisation as a key source for improving our understanding of how these processes transform identities, cultures, institutions and geopolitics. The book also explores three interwoven issues of enduring interest: identity and belonging, institutional visibility and recognition of migrant artists, and the interrelations between aesthetics and politics, and its representations of forced migration. Transculturality indicates a certain quality (of an idea, an object, a self-perception or way of living) which joins a variety of elements indistinguishable as separate sources. The topic of migration is permeated not only with political but also with ethical urgencies. The most telling sign of how profoundly the mobility turn has affected the visual arts is perhaps the spread of the term global art in the discourses on art, where it is often used as a synonym for internationally circulating contemporary art. The book examines interventions by three artists who take a critical de- and postcolonial approach to the institutional structures and spaces of Western museums. The book also looks at the politics of representation, and particularly the question of how aesthetics, politics and ethics can be triangulated and balanced when artists seek to make visible the conditions of irregular migration.

Abstract only
Looking across the borderlands of art, media and visual culture

Travelling images critically examines the migrations and transformations of images as they travel between different image communities. It consists of four case studies covering the period 1870–2010 and includes photocollages, window displays, fashion imagery and contemporary art projects. Through these four close-ups it seeks to reveal the mechanisms, nature and character of these migration processes, and the agents behind them, as well as the sites where they have taken place. The overall aim of this book is thus to understand the mechanisms of interfacing events in the borderlands of the art world. Two key arguments are developed in the book, reflected by its title Travelling images. First, the notion of travel and focus on movements and transformations signal an emphasis on the similarities between cultural artefacts and living beings. The book considers ‘the social biography’ and ‘ecology’ of images, but also, on a more profound level, the biography and ecology of the notion of art. In doing so, it merges perspectives from art history and image studies with media studies. Consequently, it combines a focus on the individual case, typical for art history and material culture studies with a focus on processes and systems, on continuities and ruptures, and alternate histories inspired by media archaeology and cultural historical media studies. Second, the central concept of image is in this book used to designate both visual conventions, patterns or contents and tangible visual images. Thus it simultaneously consider of content and materiality.

Textual correspondences in feminist art and writing

In the late 1960s and 1970s, women artists in the United States and Britain began to make texts and images of writing central to their visual compositions. This book explores the feminist stakes of that choice. It analyses how Adrian Piper, Nancy Spero, and Mary Kelly worked with the visual dimensions of language to transform how women are perceived. To illuminate the specific ways in which these artists and writers contribute to the production of a feminist imaginary, Part I charts the correspondences between the artwork of Piper and the writings of Davis. It analyses the artwork she created in the late 1960s and 1970s, when she began using text to create artwork that moves between what Piper identifies as 'the singular reality of the "other."' Davis's writing exposes the fictions animating projections that the black female body is perceived to be a malleable ground upon which fears and fantasies can take visual form. Part II focuses on aggression and traces how its repression plays out across Spero's Codex Artaud and Solanas's SCUM Manifesto. It argues that in Post-Partum Document, texts and pieces of writing become fetish objects that Kelly arranges into visual and linguistic 'poems' that forestall a confrontation with loss. Part III demonstrates that the maternal femininity thought to naturally inhere in woman is also restricted and muffled, quite efficiently repressing the possibility that women could address each other across maternal femininity's contested terrain.

Abstract only
Observations on precarious practices in contemporary art

This book proposes a new reading of contemporary art between 1958 and 2009 by sketching out a trajectory of ‘precarious’ art practices. Such practices risk being dismissed as ‘almost nothing’ because they look like trash about to be thrown out, because they present objects and events that are so commonplace as to be confused with our ordinary surroundings, or because they are fleeting gestures that vanish into the fabric of everyday life. What is the status of such fragile, nearly invisible, artworks? In what ways do they engage with the precarious modes of existence that have emerged and evolved in the socio-economic context of an increasingly globalised capitalism?

Works discussed in this study range from Allan Kaprow’s assemblages and happenings, Fluxus event scores and Hélio Oiticica’s wearable Parangolé capes in the 1960s, to Thomas Hirschhorn’s sprawling environments and participatory projects, Francis Alÿs’s filmed performances and Gabriel Orozco’s objects and photographs in the 1990s. Significant similarities among these different practices will be drawn out, while crucial shifts will be outlined in the evolution of this trajectory from the early 1960s to the turn of the twenty-first century.

This book will give students and amateurs of contemporary art and culture new insights into the radical specificities of these practices, by situating them within an original set of historical and critical issues. In particular, this study addresses essential questions such as the art object’s ‘dematerialisation’, relations between art and everyday life, including the three fields of work, labour and action first outlined by Hannah Arendt in 1958.