Category Archives: Centennial
Adrian R. Duran received his PhD from the University of Delaware in 2006, where his dissertation “Il Fronte Nuovo delle Arti: Painting and Politics in Italy at the Dawn of the Cold War, 1944-50” won the Sypherd Prize for Best Dissertation in the Humanities. He is currently Assistant Professor of Art History at the Memphis College of Art where he teaches courses in Modern and Contemporary Art, Critical Theory, and Art Criticism. He has received grants from The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation and the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD). His recent publications include exhibition criticism for Number, SECAC Review, and Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide.
Dwayne Butcher: So, should we start by addressing how I misquoted you earlier in the week by stating, “CAA may want to rethink its current format or risk losing its members and effectiveness as a conference.”
Adrian Duran: No, what happened was I just choose my words poorly. I do not think that CAA is going out of business or that it is under siege. CAA is the mountain that we all come to. CAA will never go anywhere as it does what it does extremely well. I do not think it is a failing business model, that it will lose to its competition. But what I do think is interesting is when I go to other conferences, particularly interdisciplinary conferences like the American Association for Italian Studies, the Italianist conferences are filled with literature people, theatre people, language people, history people, art historians there are the minority. I think there is an interesting dialogue that emerges when art historians are the minority. It pulls us into the interdisciplinarity that art history is supposed to manifest. If art history is good at anything it is interdisciplinarity. To have our national conference be populated by mostly art historians, it just gives me pause. It makes me wonder whether or not we are more fruitful with other disciplines rather than on our own island I suppose.
DB: Can you talk about your process of interviewing at CAA?
AD: The year I interviewed for real was in Atlanta in 2005. I was fortunate to have a number of interviews. There were some in the bullpen, I had some in the hotel rooms, and several off-site ones. It is so tense, I can not even explain it. This is before the regulators of the traffic were in place. People could go into the bullpen and just be there. I remember thinking that the whole room smelled of desperation. There were fifty tables and over five hundred people in the room. Anytime there was a single break for anyone interviewing, someone would approach the table with a packet. It made for manias and it created a degree of stress that I think was not native to me. It is good to see that CAA has cleaned that up. That being said, the job I took was at that table, so maybe it worked?
DB: So, what brings you to CAA this year? Sessions, panels, the book fair?
AD: It’s everything. The great thing about CAA is that it is academic with a family reunion. If only to be around the people I haven’t seen in many moons. It is the place to be for that. Where are you going to find this many artists and art historians in one place. This alone makes it worthwhile. It is an ideas blizzard. It is a beautiful to be around people who are thinking about what we all think about. Maybe no one will admit this, but, I think a lot of people come to CAA because if they don’t they fear they may miss something. A lot of important things happen here, like interviews with Dwayne Butcher on the CAA Blog.
DB: Of course, that is the most important part, probably. Anyways, can you talk about the book fair a little bit. Were there any new books or a particular publisher you were excited about?
AD: The book fair is great as it is where you get the lay of the land. You see all the new stuff that is out, the recent stuff that is out. There isn’t an art historian on earth who isn’t a book addict and the book fair can be like free day at the methadone clinic, at least for me. None of us want to stop, however. You get to see so many books and it is so much fun. I cannot wait to give my list to the librarian at (Memphis College of Art.) I am excited about Christine Poggi’s book about Futurism, which I should have read already. There is a book, “Rethinking the Contemporary Art School,” published by D.A.P. that looked pretty good. There is Eamonn Canniffe’s “The Politics of the Piazza,” looks really awesome, which is about urban space in Italy.
DB: Can you talk a little bit about your current research or projects?
AD: Talking about the book fair earlier, my editor at Ashgate, this is the first time I have ever met her in the flesh. I have been communicating with her via email. I did not know what she looked like and now I do. I am working on a project with Anne Massoni for Aspect: The Chronicle of New Media Art, “Hi-Tech” and got to meet one of their interns at the book fair. I am working on my manuscript, “Paintings, Politics and the New Front of Cold War Italy.” It is about Italian painting between the fall of Fascism and the first years of the 1950’s. It is a book that explores the intersection of politics and art discourse at the beginning of the Cold War. Other than that, a review of mine was recently published on CAA reviews about a really great show at The Nasher Museum of Art titled The Record – Contemporary ART and Vinyl.
DB: What is your favorite artist? Book? Color? Smell? Food?
AD: My favorite artist changes depending on what work of art I am standing in front of…I will go to my grave defending Titian. My favorite book ever? This is a great one for CAA. E.L. Konigsburg’s “From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.” It is about two kids that runaway and move into the Met. I read this book when I was six or seven and I am convinced this is why I am an art historian. My favorite colors are blue and gold because they were the colors of my high school, college and grad school. My wife and oil paint are my favorite smells, in that order. My favorite food is pizza, real pizza, New Jersey pizza, Nino’s Pizza in North Brunswick, NJ.
Last night, shortly after the disappointment of Mubarak’s speech and many hours before today’s extraordinary news, Egypt’s pro-democracy protesters steeled themselves yet again in preparation for uncharted waters. I managed to tear myself away from my Eyptophile twitter stream and hop on the 6 train to the Upper East Side in order to attend CAA’s centennial gala party. Egypt was all that was in my mind. I was not in a party mood.
Inadvertently, the CAA gala, held at the Met’s ubiquitous party venue, The Temple of Dendur, added its own incongruous layer of dowdiness, grandeur and gloom. I guess the main problem was that aside from the full bar and a few bowls of nuts, there was absolutely no food. Not a shred. So for $35, exhausted and hungry scholars were permitted to stand around a crowded ruin and drink, until they were summarily dismissed at 9pm.
We New Yorkers know that the Upper East Side is not a particularly hospitable part of town in which to find oneself exhausted and hungry — not to mention tipsy — especially in the late evening. As we shoved off into the freezing night, pal and fellow blogger Charlotte Frost mentioned she hadn’t eaten since noon. Happily, I know the UES well enough, so I steered us to a favorite joint for nosh on Lexington where we supped on matzo ball soup cheek by jowl with local cab drivers:
Before leaving I did manage to take a few pictures. I was particularly intrigued by CAA members’ widely varying tastes in footwear:
Please forgive the horrible image. I need a better camera. But, you can still see how great the coat Clark Stoeckley is wearing. Stoeckley was the artist that presented during the “Art of Pranks” session as an NYPD Officer that I mentioned in a previous post. This image, taken at last nights CAA Centennial Reception at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, shows that there prints of chisels and saws on the coat. Brilliant!
Fair warning, I began composing this post on the way into New York and completed the last paragraph nearly 10 hours later on my trek back after the reception at the Met. Hence the strange shifts in time…
I’ll be honest, I’ve got conference envy. As the conference proceedings have begun in full swing, I’ve been in teacher / student mode. After holding my class this morning, gathering last minute conference items I am happily writing from the commuter train to New York. I am arriving in time to get registered and head up to the Centennial reception at the Met. Super excited to see the Temple of Dendur all dressed up!
In all of the bustle of the beginning of term I haven’t been able to give particular attention to the conference sessions and events I’d like to attend. This evening on the commute back, I spent time making selections from the conference agenda and plan to hit the ground running Friday. Beginning the day with the “Parallel Practices: When the Mind Isn’t Focused on Art” with Janine Antoni, Vija Celmins, Petah Coyne, Robert Gober, and Philip Taaffe. In the afternoon visiting several sessions, including “Where is Tradition in American Studio Craft?” and “Us and It: Sculpture and the Critique of Display Cultures.” I’ll be sure to be stopping by the Student Lounge and ARTspace too…ah, so much!
The Centennial Session on “Global Art Histories/ Multiple Modernities” (Thursday, Feb. 10, 9:30am-Noon) is undoubtedly the liveliest panel I’ve seen thus far at the conference. C0-chaired by Leslie King-Hammond and Sarah Lewis, these panelists were as smitten with each others’ work as they were enamored of the topic – or should I say with the idea that this topic represented for them. While there were open disagreements among the panelists themselves as to the nature of their involvement with the global art scene, the entire event was punctuated by a lot of good-natured ribbing and poorly stifled guffaws.
As Dr. King-Hammond admitted in her opening remarks, she was not immediately jazzed to take the proscribed directive of hosting a “panel on diversity.” In fact, this former president of the CAA made it clear that she did not – and does not – wish to call this a diversity seminar (though it may still be listed that way) because, frankly, it’s a struggle which has become difficult to the point of exasperation in recent years. Using the Museum of Arts and Design’s current exhibition (“The Global Africa Project”) as a jump-off point, she and her fellow panelists invited those of us in the audience to make up our own minds as to the importance, depth or shallowness, and continued relevancy of such terms as “diversity” and “multiculturalism.” Furthermore, they compelled us to question the apparent triumphs and shortcomings of any “multiple, pluralistic, and cultural-comparative” mode of art production in today’s global modernity.
Sarah Lewis presented a phenomenal talk concerning 19th-century photographs of the so-called “Circassian beauties,” women of the Northern Caucasus who formed part of Barnum’s postbellum museum exhibition and were routinely paraded as exemplars of ideal white beauty. It was through images of these women that Lewis was able to illustrate many of the ways in which the permeability of race and color (as it was imagined in the 19th century) continues to plague racial identity and scholarship even today. Nonetheless, Lewis encourages us that a continued close reading of objects of art, no matter how troublesome they may be, eventually yields a greater understanding of ourselves and of people who may be located in faraway places and centuries past.
With her very first breath, Mina Cheon heartily disagreed with King-Hammond’s opening remarks by claiming, “Well, I’m not done fighting for diversity!” She then proceeded to layout a well-reasoned and sardonic rant against the stagnant institutionalization of art education in university located across the globe today. Citing her dual role as a Korean artist and an American educator, Cheon directly contradicted Lewis by asserting that works of art are resolutely not objects, but rather are more appropriately considered relations between geopolitical negotiations. Yet, much to her dismay, the full imperative and latent power of these relational objects are routinely stifled by the rote academicism that she it today charged to embody. The stagnation of the “art institution,” she claims, allows it to “gain more power the less it does.” Her thinly veiled diatribe against such institutions as that which employs her or the CAA itself was certainly a call to arms, but one whose form and trajectory remain indeterminate.
Continuing the trend, Lowery Sims began the next installment in the session by claiming outright, “I am a victim of diversity fatigue . . . [and] I just don’t give a damn anymore!” Such a statement which was met with uproarious laughter and characterized much of the panelists lighthearted rancor concerning the current state of things. At times humorous and witty, Sims’ talk meandered through the many motivations and themes of the “Global Africa Project” mentioned earlier. Claiming that the title was supposed to be “a prosaic placeholder for a sexier title,” she and the other organizers of the exhibit became too immersed in teasing out the fascinating themes of the exhibition to think anymore about it. Her dialectic of post-colonial thought versus our “Afro-Presumptive” tradition was fantastic, and her temporal/ pro-active approach to the curatorial practice was enlightening.
Finally Edward Sullivan’s talk began with even more scathing jests directed (again) toward the institutionalization of art and the often frustrating tedium associated with conferences such as this. But I think he reflected the sentiment of the entire audience when he said with a smile, “But this was fun! You all have redeemed my love for this kind of thing!” His thoughtful and at times affable run-down of his favorite artists working today was a real treat and remained refreshingly upbeat. Afterward, Paul Chaat Smith of the National Museum of the American Indian kept the spirit alive by joking about “the latest news on Indians” and how their situation may or may not resemble that of Egyptians today. He spoke of the idea and construction of the NMAI in 2004 and of how politics are often prohibitively expensive for Indians. Indians, he reasons, participate in art-making rather than policy construction. “Art is cheap and its part of our brand,” he quipped. “We’re like the supermodels of the ethnic world,” what with the wild get-ups and feathered headdresses with which Native Americans are so often portrayed in the media. All in all, it was a fantastic talk.