Graduate Student Lecture Series

The Graduate Student Lecture Series kicked off Wednesday, February 19th in Zabar Art Library with presentations by Janet Yoon and Francesca lo Galbo. Janet is a Hunter MA candidate specializing in modern and contemporary art. Her thesis on Belgian filmmaker Chantal Akerman and German photographer Thomas Demand will compare both artists vis a vis their explorations on the notion of the everyday, postwar visual culture and memory, and the quasi-documentary or journalist identities of their works. In the course of her time at Hunter, Janet has interned at the Whitney Museum of American Art,  The Drawings of Jasper Johns: A Catalogue Raisonné for The Menil Collection, and The Museum of Modern Art where she is now an assistant in the Paintings and Sculpture department. Francesca is also a MA candidate at Hunter specializing in modern and contemporary photography. Recently completing her coursework, she is currently writing her thesis on the influences of transcendentalism on Edward Weston’s photography.

Chantal Akerman, Jeanne Dielman, 1975
Chantal Akerman, Jeanne Dielman, 1975

Janet presented her thesis-in-progress, Jeanne Dielman and The Dailies: Chantal Akerman and Thomas Demand’s Hyper-attentive Intentions, in which she explores Akerman and Demand’s quotidian images through the lens of Michael Fried’s concerns of theatricality and absorption. Both artists, using everyday material and the saturation of color and light, employ pure absorption. In Jeanne Dielman (1975), Akerman allows the weight of duration to play out by filming much of the protagonist’s daily routine in real-time. Working from photographs he took from his cell phone, in Dailies (2008 –  Present), Demand similarly focuses on commonplace objects that often go overlooked. Both Akerman and Demand’s simultaneous obsession for detail, relation to the body, and eerie removal from reality recall Minimalist practice by artists such as Donald Judd, Tony Smith, and Robert Morris. What distinguishes them from their 1960s predecessors, however, is Akerman and Demand’s inscrutable artistic intentionality as demonstrated in their fixation on the minutia of the everyday. In the words of Russian critic Viktor Shklovsky, “The purpose of art is to impart the sensation of things as they are perceived and not as they are known…to make the stone stony.” The works of Akerman and Demand embody Schklovsky’s words as they lure viewers into uncanny worlds based on reality.

Thomas Demand, Dailies, 2008-present
Thomas Demand, Dailies, 2008-present

Francesca presented her research paper Pleasures and Terrors of Levitation: Aaron Siskind’s Pursuit of the Sublime from Max Weintraub’s Fall 2013 Theory and Criticism class . Many are aware of the re-exploration of the concept of the sublime in postwar American painting, but few understand Siskind’s exploration of the concept through his photographic series Pleasures and Terrors of Levitation, a study of individual male divers plummeting through a spacious void. The sublime, as defined by the philosopher Edmund Burke, is a physiological experience, inspiring both extreme terror and pleasure in the viewer. Through strategic cropping and a focus on the body’s response to gravitational and centripetal forces, Siskind inspired both terror and pleasure in the viewer with this photographic series. His fellow artists Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman similarly aimed to envelop the viewer in a physiological experience, but by way of abstracted color fields. Avoiding the question of the human body, Rothko and Newman averred the universality of human suffering and the possibility of transcendence. Siskind provides an interesting contrast in American artists’ exploration of the sublime; his use of the athletic male body challenges preconceived notions of attitudes towards figuration and the body in postwar art.

Aaron Siskind, Pleasures and Terrors and of Levitation , 1954 / print ca. 1972
Aaron Siskind, Pleasures and Terrors and of Levitation, 491, 1954 / print ca. 1972

The Lecture Series continues tonight in Zabar Art Library at 7 pm with a presentation by Professor Kim de Beaumont on her recent research.

Megan Hines

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