The Art History Newsletter

Theory Category Archives

Terror, Connoisseurship and Theory at CAA2013

4 April 2012 | CAA2013, Conferences, Contemporary, Theory

CAA has announced the sessions for the 2013 conference. The three I’m most looking forward to: Art and “The War on Terror”: Ten Years On August Jordan Davis, Winchester School of Art, March 2013 marks the tenth anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (collectively identified by the [...]


College Art Association Conference: Mid-conference report

24 February 2012 | CAA2012, Career, Conferences, Photography, Teaching, Theory

The Los Angeles Convention Center is massive. Despite its girth, the College Art Association 2012 Conference occupies about one third of the center. There is no shortage of simultaneous interesting sessions, forcing attendees to choose carefully. The sessions I’ve visited thus far have been largely interesting, with some presenters generating more enthusiasm than others. “Deconstructing [...]


CAA Conference Preview: 5 Suggested Sessions

20 February 2012 | CAA2012, Career, Conferences, Current Events, Teaching, Theory

The schedule of sessions for the almost-here College Art Association Conference in Los Angeles is overwhelming. Thankfully the abstracts have arrived to help clarify some of the content. While attendees will undoubtedly seek out sessions that pique their personal and research interests, I would like to suggest five sessions which are likely to appeal to [...]


Art Historian, Globalize Thyself

14 December 2011 | Theory

An art magazine recently commissioned me to report an article on “global art history,” i.e. Western art historians trying to get the discipline to look outside the West more often. In the end, the magazine and I couldn’t get the article into a form we were both happy with — an indication perhaps of how [...]


‘Art and Homosexuality’

25 May 2011 | Books, Theory

A quick preface: I managed somehow to post regularly for five years straight, but over the last few months I truly got in over my head — between finishing my PhD (I am done, and after just 14 years!), writing two long articles and taking a delicious sabbatical at the MacDowell Colony to work on [...]



6 March 2011 | Books, Theory

I recently received three striking publications that consider the intersection of word and image from a French perspective. My personal favorite is Sarah Wilson’s The Visual World of French Theory: Figurations. Don’t let the cover’s drab reproduction of a Henri Cueco painting fool you — this book crackles visually, lavishly reproducing the fascinating French artists [...]


Lacan’s Icons

23 November 2010 | Theory

Various art historians owe a debt to Jacques Lacan. Did he himself owe one to Russian-icon theorist Pavel Florensky? In the latest issue of Word & Image (Jan-Mar 2010), Joseph Masheck makes the suggestion: [W]hat is most Florenskian, or most conspicuously Florenskian, in Lacan is precisely the sense of an image as but a special [...]


‘Art, Word and Image: 2000 Years’

1 November 2010 | Books, Theory

Recently published: the well illustrated volume Art, Word and Image: 2000 Years of Visual / Textual Interaction, edited by John Dixon Hunt, David Lomas, and Michael Corris. In their overview essays, Hunt surveys the pre-1900 period, Lomas 1900-45, and Corris post-1945. Hunt also contributes a general introduction. He’s uniquely well qualified for the task, having [...]


Wood/Nagel’s ‘Anachronic Renaissance’

7 October 2010 | Books, Renaissance, Theory

Alexander Nagel and Christopher Wood have recently published Anachronic Renaissance, an expansion of their 2005 Art Bulletin “intervention” (pdf), a “reconsideration of the problem of time in the Renaissance”: While a work of art does bear witness to the moment of its fabrication … it is equally important to understand its temporal instability: how it [...]


In the papers

18 September 2010 | Africa, Ancient, Baroque/Neoclassical, Contemporary, Modern, Renaissance, Theory

Recently in the papers: Kaelen Wilson Goldie on Routes d’Arabie at the Louvre (The National) On Dynasty and Divinity: Ife Art from Ancient Nigeria, previously in Santander, Madrid and London, now in Houston, and later in Indianapolis, Richmond and New York: Douglas Britt (Houston Chronicle); The Economist; Itziar Reyero (; Richard Dorment (The Telegraph); Jonathan [...]


The Year of Analogical Thinking

17 September 2010 | Books, Theory

In the September 2010 Art Bulletin, Karen Beckman reviews a new book by Kaja Silverman, Flesh of My Flesh: … For Silverman, Lacan shows us how, in response to humanism’s “impossible-to-satisfy demand” that each of us be an “individual,” we turn other beings into “rivals and enemies”: it is this transformation that blocks analogical thinking. [...]


‘Philosophers on Art’

12 August 2010 | Books, Theory

Christopher Kul-Want has just assembled a new anthology Philosophers on Art from Kant to the Postmodernists that includes: Martin Heidegger on Van Gogh’s shoes and the meaning of the Greek temple; Georges Bataille on Salvador Dalí’s The Lugubrious Game; Theodor W. Adorno on capitalism and collage; Walter Benjamin and Roland Barthes on the uncanny nature [...]


“Art history has been hijacked by other disciplines”

5 August 2010 | Museums, Renaissance, Teaching, Theory

A show at the Yale University Art Museum points to an issues that many graduate programs seems to be addressing in one way or another. Laurence Kanter says: “Original works of art have been forgotten. They’re being used as data, without any sense of whether they’re good, bad or indifferent.” He added: “No one wants [...]


‘What is Architectural History?’

13 July 2010 | Architecture, Books, Theory

In his new book What is Architectural History? Andrew Leach surveys the history and current state of the discipline. His book is written for students and professionals, and assumes a certain familiarity with architecture. There is considerable new material for him to synthesize — architectural history and historiography have both been expanding. He argues that [...]


‘Beyond the Aesthetic and the Anti-Aesthetic’

7 July 2010 | Conferences, Theory

The theme for this year’s Stone Summer Theory Institute is “Beyond the Aesthetic and the Anti-Aesthetic”: This year’s event addresses one of the central puzzles of contemporary art practice: the choice between continuations of modernism (with its aesthetic values) and the many kinds of postmodernism (which privilege politics, gender, identity, and many issues outside of [...]


Leo Bersani and ‘The Aesthetics of Existence’

6 July 2010 | Theory

In an article titled “Sex and the Aesthetics of Existence” in the March 2010 PMLA, Tim Dean writes: Leo Bersani’s contributions to queer theory have been essentially traumatic. Ever since “Is the Rectum a Grave?” with its startling opening sentence (“There is a big secret about sex: most people don’t like it”) Bersani’s writing on [...]


Bruno Latour’s School of Political Arts

25 June 2010 | Theory

Bruno Latour is currently hosting Selon/Salon at the Centre Pompidou, a series of conferences with contemporary artists, filmmakers, curators and intellectuals. The French theorist has taken up the themes of Eloquence and Demonstration in an effort to gauge their roles within the arts, the sciences, and politics, and to forge a path for a new [...]


Ruskin v. Nietzsche

25 June 2010 | Theory

A propos of our recent discussion of Ruskin, I recently discovered a new article on Ruskin’s views of art and morality in the Jan 2010 Modern Language Review (105:1) by Jeremy Tambling. He contrasts Ruskin with Nietzsche: Ruskin wishes to believe that art reveals morality, or that morality shows itself in art; in other words, [...]


‘How Pleasure Works’

23 June 2010 | Books, Theory

According to the Guardian: Ten years ago researchers in America took two groups of three-year-olds and showed them a blob of paint on a canvas. Children who were told that the marks were the result of an accidental spillage showed little interest. The others, who had been told that the splodge of colour had been [...]


‘Apart from Sex’

22 June 2010 | Contemporary, Theory

In an article in the Dec. ’09 journal of visual culture (8:3), “Apart from Sex,” Adrian Rifkin writes: “[Andres] Serrano’s dildo picture reminds of Butler’s Derridian theses of the origin-like quality of the copy, insofar as it is quite impossible to figure the boy’s penis without his a priori penetration by the rubber or silicone [...]