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The Courtauld | American Art and the Political Imagination

March 18, 2022 @ 8:00 am - 2:00 pm

|Recurring Event (See all)

One event on March 19, 2022 at 7:45 am

This conference originated from a single question: In what ways have art and visual culture contributed to the formulation of the American political imagination? Since its beginnings, the nation’s fractious political identity has been developed and perpetuated throughout its visual economy, playing out on picture planes, splashed across mural panels, and made matter in sculptures and monuments. As such, visual and material culture are a critical locus through which the nation’s political constituents — its voters, parties, politicians, and dissenters — imagine, perform, and organise themselves. It is through the creation, manipulation, dissemination, and destruction of images and objects that these constituents have formed their political identities, asserted assent and dissent, and articulated their desire to end political regimes or their yearning to revisit them.
This conference invites speakers to share recent research on the political valences of American visual and material culture. Their papers cover painting, photography, illustration, monuments, design, art writing, and digital interventions; their topics span a wide variety of subjects, including the production of stable national political identities via imaginings of the American past in 1930s material culture; the writing of politics into and out of art criticism, from the antebellum era to the postmodern; and the role of the media — from television to Snapchat — in producing political power. Broadly, this conference seeks to foreground the political as a key framework for art historical analysis, and to explore what emerges when we resituate images, objects, and artists within explicitly political contexts.
Organised by Louis Shadwick (The Courtauld) and Madeleine Harrison (The Courtauld).
This event is kindly supported by the Terra Foundation for American Art.
Day 1: Friday, 18 March
8:00am CST
Introduction – Madeleine Harrison (The Courtauld Institute of Art) & Louis Shadwick (The Courtauld Institute of Art)
8:20–10:00am Panel 1: ‘Transmission’
Dr. Linda Freeman (University College London), “Wit and Biting Satire: The Afric American Picture Gallery (1859)”
Dr. Tom Day (The Courtauld Institute of Art), “Spectacle Nation: The Political Imaginary of Television and the Configuration of the Human in the Art of Keith Haring”
Dr. Jo Pawlik (University of Sussex), “Figuring Fascism in the Campus Underground Press during the Nixon era”
Dr. Elizabeth Johnson (University College London), “Augmented Reality Monuments in L.A.: Redefining the Monument’s Political Power and Presence in Public Space”
10:00am Break
10:20am–1:45pm Panel 2: ‘Figure’
Dr. Barnaby Haran (University of Hull), “Picturing Comrade Herndon: an American Revolutionary Symbol for the 1930s”
Professor Jasmine Nichole Cobb (Duke University), ‘The Pictorial Life of Harriet Tubman’
Professor Richard Meyer (Stanford University), ‘Bad Daddy: George Washington in San Francisco’
Day 2: Saturday 19 March
7:45am CST
Introduction & Housekeeping
8:00am–9:20am Panel 3: ‘Shadow and Substance’
Dr. Emily Warner (The Courtauld Institute of Art), “Memory Projects: Material Culture and the Political Imagination”
Dr. Jonathan Vernon (The Courtauld Institute of Art), “Art after Oppenheimer: American Politics and the Many Deaths of Modernism”
Professor Kimberly Lamm (Duke University), “Still Fugitivity: The Black Sartorial Imagination in Contemporary Portrait Painting”
9:20am Break
9:40–11:00am Panel 4: ‘Performance and Spectacle’
Professor Wendy Bellion (University of Delaware), “Iconoclasm Redux: Public Space and National Identity”
Professor Katharine Wells (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee), “The Uncanny Design of White National Identity: Colonial Williamsburg and the Index of American Design”
Professor Jennifer Greenhill (University of Arkansas), ‘Politics at the Beach’
11:00am Keynote
Professor Sarah Churchwell (University of London), ‘The Iconography of America First, 1888-2022’
12:10pm Concluding remarks