research seminar: Modern and Contemporary

What was Contemporary Art?

Monday, 8 November 2010

18.00, Research Forum South Room

book cover of Art Now with graphic of bust plus rectangles, triangles and circles, etc., in black, grey and pale peach
Herbert Read, Art Now (1933), cover illustration by E. McKnight Kauffer

Speaker(s): Richard Meyer (Terra Foundation for American Art Visiting Professor, The Courtauld; and Associate Professor of Art History and Fine Arts, University of Southern California)

Ticket/entry details: Open to all, free admission

Organised by: Dr Gavin Parkinson

This workshop will consider the idea of contemporary art as it was understood in the early 20th century. Its point of departure is an undergraduate course taught by Alfred Barr at Wellesley College in Spring, 1927 titled ‘Tradition and Revolt in Modern Painting’. Dazzling in its multidisciplinarity, the course included the study of French, Russian, German, Italian, English, and American painting; of architecture and the industrial arts, including the design of automobiles, office furniture, and household appliances; of comic strips, magazine illustrations, typography, and advertising; of theatre, dance, music, film, and criticism. We will examine the iconoclastic pedagogy and expansive, even revolutionary, sense of modernity that shaped Barr’s class. In closing, we will consider the possibilities for adapting Barr's pedagogy to the field of contemporary art history as it is now constituted.

Richard Meyer is Associate Professor in the Department of Art History and Director of the Contemporary Project and the Visual Studies Graduate Certificate at the University of Southern California. He is the author of Outlaw Representation: Censorship and Homosexuality in Twentieth-Century American Art (Oxford University Press, 2002) and co-author of Weegee and Naked City (University of California Press, 2008). Most recently, he curated Warhol’s Jews: Ten Portraits Reconsidered at the Jewish Museum in New York City and the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco. His essay, “Artists Sometimes Have Feelings” received the 2008 Art Journal award from the College Art Association. He is currently completing two books, a survey text co-edited with Catherine Lord titled Art and Queer Culture, 1885-present (Phaidon, 2010) and a short history of 20th-century art titled What was Contemporary Art? to be published by MIT Press. His teaching interests include contemporary art, censorship and the public sphere, the history of photography, gender and sexuality studies, and visual culture.

As Terra Foundation for American Art Visiting Professor at The Courtauld in 2010-11, he will lead a series of seminars on ‘Feminist and Queer Art History’ as part of Professor Mignon Nixon's M.A. Special Option Informed: Art, Sex, War, and Gender Politics since 1960.

For further information about the Terra Foundation for American Art and this initiative see

Terra Foundation for American Art logo

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