2014 102nd College Art Association Annual Conference, Chicago, February 12-15
The IAS hosted two sessions, as well as its annual business meeting at the 102nd CAA Annual Conference in Chicago.
Periodization Anxiety in Italian Art: Renaissance, Baroque, or Early Modern?
Thursday, February 13, 2014, 9:30AM–12:00 PM
Hilton Chicago, 3rd Floor, Williford A&B
Frances Gage, Buffalo State, State University of New York; and Eva Struhal, Université Laval.
The catchall term “early modern” is now omnipresent in art history of both the East and West, though what it means, its historical implications and its periodization, are rarely discussed in our discipline. In American academe, the study of this period has seen a broadening of geographical constraints and a shift in chronology, suggesting that the new terminology is more than the idea of a “longue-durée.” Questions that we want to address in our session are: What are the particular implications of the term for the study of Italian Art? What are this term’s methodological or ideological advantages? Is it appropriate to the period in question or are there distinct periods in early modernity? If so, how should they be signaled? Is “early modern” appropriate to non-Western art history? Does it render this period into a mere prelude to modernity? Does it reflect the tendency to occlude historical ruptures and constitute, in part, the growing marginalization of historical inquiry? We invite contributions to this session that reflect on the meaning and applicability of the term “early modern” in the history of art.
Late Medieval, Early Modern and Vasari’s First Age
C. Jean Campbell, Emory University
This paper emerges from the simple observation that the “period” of artistic decline that Giorgio Vasari locates between the fall of Rome and the new age heralded by Cimabue and Giotto is neither chronologically nor conceptually consistent with the Middle Ages imagined by modern (post eighteenth-century) art history. Using the first part of Vasari’s Lives as a platform, it will review the losses entailed in the alignment of Vasari’s account of rupture and the re-emergence of the “moderna e buona arte della pittura” with a teleological account of Modernity. I will argue that those losses are still apparent in ways that not only distort our view of Vasari’s relatively local project but also, and more importantly, impose limits on what we consider to be legitimate means of understanding the art of the past.
The Repressed Watershed: 1600, The Early Modern and the Moderne
Itay Sapir, Université du Québec à Montreal (UQAM)
English and French nomenclatures for the art of 1400-1800 differ widely, but both relegate an important watershed—the upheaval of Caravaggism, at least as significant for the evolution of European art as that of the early 1400s or the artistic revolutions following the crumbling of the Ancien régime—to a secondary level. The decades around 1600 are still not regarded as an epochal shift. This is perhaps due to the anxieties and embarrassment still surrounding art historical meta-narratives. After all, Poussin’s suggestion that Caravaggio did nothing else but “destroy painting” makes 1600 both an all-important threshold and a tragic catharsis. The vagueness of referring to art between 1400 and 1800 simply as “early modern” is then, art history’s exorcising of its bad conscience: if Caravaggio’s sacrileges are part and parcel of the uninterrupted flow of artistic progress from Donatello’s David to Jacques-Louis David, they become much easier to contain.
Sculpture, Rupture, and the ‘Baroque’
Estelle Lingo, University of Washington, Seattle
From its eighteenth-century origins as a pejorative, “baroque” has always been a charged term, one that many Anglophone scholars of seventeenth-century Italian art have preferred to avoid. The widespread adoption of “early modern” in recent decades has tended to emphasize continuities between the “Renaissance” and the “Baroque” and to downplay the urgency of probing differences. The career of the Tuscan sculptor Francesco Mochi (1580-1654), however, testifies to a period perception of rupture between the sixteenth and the seventeenth centuries. Determined to carry forward the “Florentine manner,” Mochi sought to preserve fundamentally Renaissance artistic values, while reconciling them with new religious imperatives. His idiosyncratic works only come into focus by attending to the tensions inherent in this endeavor, tensions which Mochi’s sculptures render peculiarly visible. Mochi’s works and their often mixed seventeenth-century reception prompt a reconsideration of the character of the “baroque” and the utility of the term for sculpture studies.
Troubling Time: When is Art Italian?
Claire Farago, University of Colorado, Boulder
To have a productive conversation about periodization in any field of study, it is important to consider when these terms matter. Period designations matter when institutional and pedagogic concerns are raised, for example, when hires are made or students are taught. The challenge is always to establish such fundamental objectives as which issues are worth investigating, which contributions are most significant – and, less frequently discussed, who decides? who benefits? who doesn’t? from framing the objectives of study. Viewed in this context of self-reflection, can any scheme of periodization be productive? Can periodization ever avoid imposing teleological implications on the evidence? Did Walter Benjamin provide workable guidelines for a “dialectical” cultural history that does not foreclose on its subject of investigation? What would such a history look and sound like in classrooms introducing students to the discipline of “art history”? What might the institutional future built on such a foundation hold?
Futuro Anteriore: Cultural Self-Appropriation as Catalyst in the Art of Italy
Friday, February 14, 2014, 12:30–2:00 PM
Hilton Chicago, 3rd Floor, Williford A&B
Co-Chairs: Irina D. Costache and Alison L. Perchuk, California State University, Channel Islands.
The development of Italian art has been framed by a paradoxical dichotomy: even as artists produced innovative works with far-reaching effects, they rooted these endeavors in the peninsula’s own past, appropriated and reinvented. The political and social tensions seemingly inherent in Italy’s fractured geography have more than once made the past a point of regional or national (to use the term loosely) convergence, whether as a reclamation of an era or as isolated quotations. The Italian Renaissance is only the best known of these fertile explorations of the past; other episodes include ancient Rome’s adaptations of the arts of Greece and Magna Graecia, the Counterreformation papacy’s use of Rome’s medieval artistic heritage, Mussolini’s obsession with Roman architecture and urbanism, and the wide-ranging historical references of modern and contemporary artists and architects. Each of these moments of what we might call cultural self-appropriation entails more than dry citations: the transformations effected by Italy’s artists presuppose deep emotional and intellectual engagement with preceding epochs undertaken hand in hand with bold projects to reinvigorate the present and reimagine the future.
Fanzago and Antiquity: The Universal Claims of Neapolitan Baroque Classicism
J. Nicholas Napoli, Pratt Institute
The richly polychromed chapel interiors and unconventional decorative repertory of the Clusone-born sculptor/architect Cosimo Fanzago (1591–1678) epitomize the Neapolitan baroque. In coming to terms with the novelty of Fanzago’s work, art historians have observed that his sculpture and decoration mark the convergence of several traditions from Roman classicism to Florentine mannerism and Lombard naturalism. Building on these observations, my presentation focuses on Fanzago’s interpretation of antiquity through his career and argues that references to the antique infuse almost every aspect of his practice as an architect, sculptor, and decorator. The presentation concludes by assessing the meaning that these all’antica features held for the residents of baroque Naples. The written descriptions of this period reveal that Fanzago’s use of the antique—a moment of cultural self-appropriation or futuro anteriore—expresses tension between regional distinction and the universalizing evocation of heaven on earth.
Adolfo Wildt and the Reimagining of Baroque Sculpture during Fascism
Laura Moure Cecchini, Duke University
Fascism’s re-appropriation of the baroque has not been extensively studied, despite the fact that numerous Italian intellectuals considered it to be a precursor of modern consciousness. Baroque art was frequently evoked in critical responses to the sculpture of Adolfo Wildt, a highly acclaimed artist of the ventennio. Instead of the restricted detail and modernist lines that are usually associated with fascist statuary, Wildt favored illusionistic carving, extremely polished surfaces, and theatrical subject-matter. Wildt worked with two photographers, Emilio Sommariva and Antonio Paoletti, to produce canonical views of his work that underscored his unusual style. These photographs heightened the sculptures’ modeling through the dramatic contrast of masses and voids, an aesthetic then associated with seventeenth-century sculpture. I will thus analyze how coeval photographs of Wildt’s sculptures predisposed a reading of his work as neo-baroque, and also how photography mediated interwar sculptors’ appropriation of the art of the seventeenth-century.
Reinterpreting Raphael in Fascist Rome
Yvonne Elet, Vassar College
From its inception as an early sixteenth century Medici pleasure villa and papal hospitium for welcoming foreign dignitaries, to its current function as seat of the Foreign Ministry, Raphael’s Villa Madama has been one of Italy’s foremost theaters of diplomacy. Conceived to rival and surpass the grand villas of Roman antiquity, Raphael’s late masterwork, though unfinished, itself became a touchstone for later centuries. This talk considers its gardens, important representational spaces since the villa’s inception, drawing on newly discovered documents and photographs chronicling the recreation of the gardens in the late 1920s. I analyze the redesigned gardens in the context of contemporary cultural and political ideas about the Italian Renaissance garden as an emblem of Italianità, and contemporary urban planning initiatives. This study provides an important account of public and private efforts to restore and reframe a significant Renaissance site for the construction of Italian cultural identity in Fascist Rome.
Gino Severini’s Return to Italianità
Meta Marija Valiusaityte, Freie Universität Berlin/Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz
For some artists, abstraction and the Readymade were the primary concerns of the early-twentieth-century avant-garde. Paris-based Italian artist Gino Severini, however, “inherited from the old Italians an aspiration toward a new classicism through the construction of the ‘picture’,” as the artist himself attested in 1917. Severini’s return to traditional Italian values and modes of representation was primarily a return to the practice of drawing: he viewed drawing as construction and construction as harmony—i.e., the achievement of balance. This paper focuses on a number of portraits painted between 1916 and 1926. By examining Severini’s appropriation of the Italian past, in terms of the artist’s pictorial revivalisms as well his reflections on art theory (Du cubisme au classicisme, 1921), this paper seeks to present a fresh interpretation of the relationship between avant-gardism and engagement with the past as one of intercalation rather than conflict.