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Radiations. European Art and its Debates during the Cold War, 1944–1955

April 29 - 30, 2015 - 6:00 p.m. / Nouvel Building, Auditorium 200

Free, until full capacity is reached

Cover of Collier’s magazine, October 27, 1957
Cover of Collier’s magazine, October 27, 1957

The word “radiations” knowingly announces the interesting but also somewhat dangerous theme presented in this seminar: the reverberation of art discourses throughout Europe in a period of divide during the Cold War.

These sessions examine the tense period that elapsed between 1944 and 1955, a period in which the main artistic nuclei, Paris and New York, attempted to define their own powerful “universal image” to impress upon the world. The “New School of Paris”, on one side, and the “New School of New York”, on the other, competed in confrontation, while the rest of the world looked and learned. When at the end of the 1940s the Cold War created new types of world relations based on the division between antagonistic blocs, liberal America and the communist USSR, European countries were forced into reconsidering their values and discourses, their political and cultural identity. It was at this point that the debate became particularly complex and the point in which different concepts of artistic production materialised since the rhetoric of the Cold War tended to present opposing fields, each one using an array of mediums – art, film or music, for instance – to attack the other.

Therefore, offering a heterogeneous narration of how culture was produced in this period in different places and under similar global tensions is key, exploring the ideological alliances and friction between countries and art movements, whilst also acknowledging that art movements and debates changed depending on where they took place. As a result, Radiations. European Art and its Debates during the Cold War, 1944–1955 describes the complexity of the art world in Europe and also acknowledges new voices and positions that remained invisible for many years due to their variance with traditional canons designed in Paris and New York.

Participants

Francis Frascina. Emeritus Professor at Keele University. Noteworthy recent publications include Primitivism, Cubism and Abstraction: The Early Twentieth Century (Yale University Press, 1993);  Art Politics and Dissent: Aspects of the Art Left in Sixties America (Manchester University Press, 1999), Modernism in Dispute. Art Since the Forties (Yale University Press, 1993) and Un choix de Meyer Schapiro: My Lai, le Moma et la gauche dans le monde de l'art, New York, 1969-1970 (Editions Formes, 2014).

Serge Guilbaut. Professor of Art History at the University of British Columbia. His noteworthy publications include How New York Stole the Idea of Modern Art (Tirant Lo Blanch, 2007), Sobre la desaparición de ciertas obras de arte (On the Disappearance of Certain Works of Art, Curare/Fonca, 1995), and Los espejismos de la imagen en los lindes del siglo XXI (Mirages of the Image on the Outskirts of the 21 st Century (Akal, 2009). He has also edited the book Reconstructing Modernism: Art in New York, Paris and Montreal 1945–1964 (The MIT Press, 1992) and curated the exhibition Be-Bomb (MACBA, 2007), alongside Manuel Borja-Villel.  

María Dolores Jiménez-Blanco. Professor of Art History at the Complutense University of Madrid. Her salient publications include Arte y Estado en la España del siglo XX (Art and State in 20 th Century Spain, Alianza, 1989) and Una historia del museo en 9 conceptos (A History of the Museum in 9 Concepts, Cátedra, 2014). She is currently curating an exhibition on autarchy and exile in post-war Spanish art in the Museo Reina Sofía.

Karen Kurczynski. Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art at the University of Massachussetts Amherst. Her recent noteworthy publications include Primitivism, Humanism, and Ambivalence: CoBrA and Post-CoBrA (RES59/60, 2011), Michel Ragon et CoBrA: Un dialogue sur l’expression populaire (Institut National de l'Histoire de l'Art, 2013) and Asger Jorn, Popular Art, and the Kitsch-Avant-Garde (Cambridge Scholars Press, 2013). She is currently co-curating an exhibition on the CoBrA movement entitled Animal Culture (NSU Art Museum, 2015).

Richard Leeman. Professor of Contemporary Art History at the University of Bordeaux. He has recently published Cy Twombly. A Monograph (Thames & Hudson/New York, 2005) and has worked as the editor on various publications such as Pierre Restany's Half Century (Editions des Cendres/INHA, 2009) and Michel Ragon, critique d'art et d'architecture (Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2013) .

Alessandro del Puppo. Professor at the University of Udine. He has recently published Modernitá e nazione. Temi di ideología visiva nella pittura del primo Novecentro (Quodlibet, 2013) and L’arte contemporánea. Il secondo Novecento (Einaudi, 2013).

Gabriela Switek. Professor at the University of Warsaw. Her recent publications include Art Playing with Architecture: Modern Affinities and Contemporary Integrations (Universidad Nicolás Copérnico de Torun, 2013), Aporias of Architecture (Zacheta-Narodowa Galeria Sztuki, 2012) and Writing on Fragments: Philosophy, Architecture, and the Horizons of Modernity (Warszawa, 2009). She is also editor of the publication Avant-garde in the Bloc (JRP Ringier, 2009). In 2006 she was curator of the Polish pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale.

Program

April 29, 2015 - 6:00 p.m.

From Myth to Rumour. Ideas, Debates and Discourses

Serge Guilbaut. Presentation

Francis Frascina. Understanding Power: Cold War Myth and New York Museums

Serge Guilbaut. “Leur faire Avaler leur Chewing-Gum”: Some Tough Problems from the Political-Art Scene in France in 1954

Richard Leeman. “Nach 45”. Michel Tapié, Michel Ragon and Pierre Restany

Karen Kurczynski. The “International Spirit” of CoBrA

April 30, 2015 - 6:00 p.m.

Between East and South. Peripheries As New Settings

Serge Guilbaut. Presentation

Alessando del Puppo. From Neo-realism to Neo-avant-garde Art, Critique and Ideology in Post-war Italian Art, 1945–56

María Dolores Jiménez Blanco. A Closed Field? Reflections on Art and Autarchy in 1940s Spain

Gabriela Switek. “Envisaging Exhibitions”. Behind the Iron Curtain. The Central Office of Art Exhibitions in Warsaw (1949–1955)

Concluding round-table discussion with all participants