Reverse Pygmalions: Plaster in Édouard Dantan’s Atelier Paintings
With an introduction from Marc Gotlieb, Halvorsen Director of the Williams College Graduate Program in the History of Art:
The conflicting antimonies between idea and material, between sculpture and painting, between original and reproduction, and between artist and artisan stand at the heart of Emily Madrigal’s subtle and original exploration of an enigmatic but captivating suite of paintings completed in the 1880s by French artist Edouard-Joseph Dantan. The suite centers on the image of sculptors in their studios — but a certain kind of sculptor, namely the practicien, a trained artisan charged with reproducing the prior, as it seems more original work of the fine art sculptor. Dantan’s suite of paintings and the account of the artist’s vocation they put in place stands as a riposte or counter-narrative to a contemporaneous fascination with the artist-genius, with Auguste Rodin, who relied heavily on practiciens even as their role was often invisible. As Madrigal argues, Dantan’s paintings offer a subtle, even poignant undoing of the traditional hierarchy between artisan and artist, an undoing itself expressive of a modern fascination with materials, reproduction, and practices of self-inscription
Bodily Encounters and Border Spaces in Reena Saini Kallat’s Verso-Recto-Recto-Verso
With an introduction from Caroline Fowler, Starr Director of Research and Academic Program:
Nidhi Gandhi’s paper developed out of a seminar that I led on the material and philosophical history of textile. Over the course of a year, Nidhi delved into the extensive literature on Indian textiles in conversation with theories of gender, nationalism, and language. In this paper, Nidhi examines the work of the contemporary artist Reena Saini Kallat, based in Mumbai, who employs textiles to examine the formation of synesthetic experience, memory, and loss. This project is informed by interviews with the artist and extensive knowledge of the particular textile discussion under examination here: bandhani. Through a careful reading of Kallat’s Verso-Recto-Recto-Verso, Nidhi considers the ways in which national identities are in a constant process of becoming, a process that Kallat’s work suggests is inseparable from aesthetic experience and sensorial perception.
Eliza Woods Harrison
Refabricating, Refiguring: Troy Michie’s Queer Collages
With an introduction from C. Ondine Chavoya, Professor of Art:
Eliza Harrison first encountered the artwork of Troy Michie in the 2017 New Museum exhibition “Trigger: Gender as a Tool and a Weapon.” Harrison was later awestruck by Michie’s collage Los Atravesados/ The Skin Of The Earth Is Seamless in the 2019 Whitney Biennial, which she brilliantly examines in this talk. Harrison takes up the artist’s medium of collage as medium and methodology as a means to compellingly explore themes of borderlands, multi-temporality, queer desires, and queer desire for history. Richly interdisciplinary and rigorously researched, Harrison directs our attention to the motif of the zoot suit in Troy Michie’s art and the provocative resonance of this nonconformist style draped in dignity and resistance donned by African American, Latinx, Italian American, Filipino American, and working-class youth during the WWII era.