Graduate Work

    At Fran Gialamas' studio
     

    Say Her Name: Women of the AAP

    Author: Emi Finkelstein

    PhD Student in History of Art and Architecture

    Say their names: Tina Williams Brewer, Fran Gialamas, Sheila Cuellar-Shaffer. A collection of works by these three artists and members of Associated Artists of Pittsburgh (AAP) are on display in the University Art Gallery through the end of March. The exhibition Three Artists (Three Women) was inspired in part by the work of Mary Ethel McAuley, an AAP artist from the early 20th century, whose paintings of Germany during wartime are on display in the front gallery of the UAG. Together, these four local women artists, whose work differs greatly in subject, form, media, and scale, share a commitment to pushing forward what it means to be a woman artist working in Pittsburgh—whether today or a century ago.

    The plans for Three Artists (Three Women) kicked off with a visit from Madeline Gent (Executive Director of AAP), Brewer, Gialamas and Cuellar-Shaffer to the UAG in January, where the artists saw McAuley’s paintings for the first time and were inspired to display work that created a dialogue between her art and their own. The following weeks were a whirlwind of research, studio visits across the city, and discussions with the artists. Our first studio visit took place at Fran Gialamas’s Aspinwall studio. Next to the front door were stacked a series of large-scale canvases, which we slowly unwrapped and examined with Gialamas. Watching the artist revisit almost four decades of her own work was an exciting perspective into her long career, which included serving for a few years as president of the AAP and advocating for artist equity. 

    The next day, we traveled to Brewer’s residence in Homewood. Seated on her living room floor, we discussed the artist’s life and work—her frequent collaborations, her materials collected from all over the world, and the way she translates her spirituality into her art quilts. One of the most memorable moments came when UAG Director Sylvia Rhor found herself wrapped up with the artist in a large dancing skirt, which is now elegantly folded and hung at the front of the UAG exhibition. Greensburg-based artist Sheila Cuellar-Shaffer’s studio was too far away for us to travel to, so we followed her process via text message as she painted three new works for our exhibition. When the works were delivered by Cuellar-Shaffer we arranged them as a tryptic against a gallery wall and sat before them, discussing the artist’s own experiences as a Columbian immigrant and Latina woman living in the US. 

    Throughout the period of research and curation, our team frequently returned to our initial conversation with the artists in the gallery in early January, when we shared the story of Mary Ethel McAuley and her nearly forgotten paintings with the artists. When Brewer heard this, she exclaimed “say her name!” quoting the title of one of her own art quilts. This phrase became an important touchstone for our team, and we decided to place the phrase on the wall of the UAG’s Rotunda space in four languages—English after Brewer’s work, Spanish for Cuellar-Shaffer, Greek to reference Gialamas’s childhood and heritage, and German, for Mary Ethel McAuley. The space will be transformed into a feminist maker space and reading room for Women’s History Month in March, casting light on the achievements of many women artists—here in Pittsburgh and across the globe.

    Categories: 
    • Graduate Work
    • UAG
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
  •  

    Replication and Revelation

    Author: Sarah Reiff Conell

    PhD Student in History of Art and Architecture

    This Valentine’s Day, members of the History of Art and Architecture Department spent some quality time with Warhol. Together with Chief Curator José Carlos Díaz, we explored the exhibition Andy Warhol: Revelation at the Andy Warhol Museum. This exhibition brought together the rich archival holdings of the museum alongside Warhol’s artworks, highlighting the influence of Catholicism on the artist’s image making. The show also includes local objects from Pittsburgh, like panels from the iconostasis (icon screen) of Warhol’s church, St. John Chrysostom Byzantine Catholic Church, located in Ruska Dolina (now known as the Four Mile Run neighborhood of Greenfield).

    Through engagement with the exhibition and in dialogue with the curator, I gained a new appreciation for Warhol’s work and was fascinated by the way that the artist engaged in the process of copying through the lens of religious image making. As mentioned in the exhibition catalog, “Warhol’s devotion was not an act but a fundamental part of his life.” Images take on meaning in the eyes of their beholders, and Warhol knowingly treads the line between objects of genuine devotion and kitsch that thwart such distinctions as he merges high and low, sacred and profane in his copies. Seemingly mundane objects can be incredibly powerful, as they are more accessible and are able to be activated by the attentiveness of viewer. Religious objects have persistently traversed the boundary between cheap copies and treasured surrogates.

    I came to this conversation from my area of expertise on miracle working images in the sixteenth century Europe. Early modern copies were understood to connect mortals with the heavenly. In the twenty-first century, replicated images can seem to lose their value, in part because of the scale of copying that can be accomplished with relative ease. Still today, the role of the copied image in Catholicism resists this characterization, as images fulfill roles that supersede artistic innovation in the everyday lives of people and their devotional practices. 

    Valuable repetition can be found in a variety of spiritual objects and devotional practices. For example, liturgical calendars mark time through a rotation of days dedicated to honoring particular saints. Repetitive actions can also be supported by specialized objects. Praying the Rosary is a way to commit to memory important scriptural events, and each iteration of the prayer cycle is primed for reflection. The “Hail Mary” prayer is a condensed version of prayerful repetition, and each reflective utterance potentially reveals new points of attention as well as a deepening connection with a central saint of the Catholic faith. 

    Warhol is well known for his pop icons, which he created in multiples. The blue and gold representations of Jacqueline Kennedy mourning the assassination of her husband are reminiscent of portrayals of the Virgin Mary responding to Her Son’s crucifixion. Both offer the opportunity for viewers to connect through the experience of traumatic loss, an empathetic response that is held in tension with the intentional flatness of the picture plane. These women are simultaneously near and distant, known and unknowable. Such images of the Virgin Mary have been copied for centuries. Iconic portraits of the Madonna have garnered legitimacy through a chain of reproduction that spans back to the earliest depiction of Her, which some believe was painted by Saint Luke. The practice of copying paintings that were produced hundreds of years apart, connects each iteration of that image to a powerful original. This topic is too large for a single blog post, but it is important to reconsider images as meaningful for the ways that they link humans to each other and to the divine.  

    The works selected for the Revelation exhibition offer examples of reference and wit that I am excited to share. Inspired by this show and eager to continue our conversation, I wrote a short reflection on a handful of objects that stirred connections with my own research area. Click here if you want to read more about the images above. 

    Categories: 
    • Graduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
  •  

    Irrespetando la frontera: un mural de la comunidad Latinx en Pittsburgh

    *You can read this text in English below the Spanish version

    Autora: Marisol Villela Balderrama

    Doctoranda en Historia del Arte y de la Arquitectura

    Irrespetando la frontera es un mural creado comunitariamente en Pittsburgh en octubre de 2019 con el fin de reflexionar y de posicionarnos en contra de las políticas y retóricas antiinmigración cada vez más violentas de la administración de Trump. Como estudiante de Historia del Arte y de la Arquitectura, soy parte del grupo interdisciplinario organizador de este proyecto de arte público que activa el diálogo acerca de la presencia Latinxs en Pittsburgh, utilizando un muro como elemento de conexión, en lugar de división. El mural refleja trayectorias de migración representadas por vehículos hechos de objetos cotidianos que cargan memorias de nuestros lugares de origen; mensajes en spanglish, referencias musicales y de intercambio de conocimientos, entre otros elementos. Los vehículos están conectados entre sí y son arrastrados por un caracol encapuchadx que brinda honor a la rebeldía y la libertad, fuerzas críticas para soportar tiempos difíciles. 

    El mural es una pintura acrílica sobre paneles de fibra de vidrio con dimensiones totales de ocho por veinte pies (2.5 x 6 metros) y fue creado durante un taller comunitario de tres días en un estudio de arte en el Hill District. Invitamos al artista Gil Rocha, originario de la ciudad fronteriza de Laredo, Texas, a dirigir el proceso creativo. La vida y trabajo de Gil están íntimamente ligados a la frontera, por lo que al compartir sus experiencias nos ayudó a conceptualizar y plasmar en imágenes nuestras propias vivencias como comunidad Latinx en Pittsburgh. Veinte personas de diversos géneros, edades, nacionalidades y profesiones nos unimos para pintar. Nuestras edades oscilaron entre los siete y cincuenta años y describimos nuestros orígenes como chilenxs, colombianxs, salvadoreñxs, guatemaltecx-estadounidenses, mexicanxs, mexicanx-estadounidenses, y estadounidenses. La colaboración de Casa San José fue crucial para contactar con la comunidad Latinx y el proyecto tuvo el apoyo del comité de Pitt's Hispanic Heritage Month y la iniciativa de Year of Creativity. La curadora fue la artista local Leah Patgorski.

    La siguiente fase del proyecto es encontrar una pared pública en Pittsburgh donde montar el mural permanentemente y así continuar dignificando y haciendo visible la presencia Latinx en la ciudad. En diciembre de 2019 el mural se exhibió durante el evento Unblurred - First Friday Gallery Crawl en Garfield, donde hubo una ocasión más para convivir. Después de participar en la creación y exhibición del mural, Jorge Jiménez, doctorando en Bioingeniería en Pitt, expresó: “Irrespetando la frontera fue la primera oportunidad desde que llegué a Pittsburgh hace tres años y medio en que pude compartir con libertad mis vivencias y experiencias culturales.” Con el proyecto de Irrespetando la frontera buscamos que la comunidad Latinx, al igual que otras comunidades minoritarias, pueda ser y sentirse siempre libre en Pittsburgh y los Estados Unidos.

     

    Disrespecting the Border: a Mural from the Latinx Community in Pittsburgh

    Author: Marisol Villela Balderrama

    PhD Student in History of Art and Architecture

    Disrespecting the Border is a community-based mural created in October 2019 with the aim of reflecting and taking a stand against the increasingly violent anti-immigration policies and rhetoric under the Trump administration. As a second-year graduate student in the Department of History of Art and Architecture, I am part of an interdisciplinary group that organizes this community project of public art project, which activates dialogue about the Latinx presence in Pittsburgh by using a wall as an element for connection rather than division. The mural reflects trajectories of migration represented in vehicles made with everyday life elements. These vehicles carry memories of our homelands, Spanglish messages, motives for migration, references to research, music, and the sharing of knowledge, among other elements. They all are connected and pulled by a caracol encapuchadx (masked snail), which honors rebelliousness and freedom, critical forces for enduring dark times.

    The mural, an 8 by 20 feet acrylic painting on fiberglass panels, was created collectively in a three-day community workshop at a local art studio in the Hill District of Pittsburgh. Artist Gil Rocha, from border-town Laredo, Texas, led the workshop, in which twenty people of diverse gender, age, nationality, and profession participated. Ten women and ten men joined the mural painting process. Participants’ ages ranged from 7 to 50 years old; they described their origins as Chilean, Colombian, Salvadorian, Guatemalan-American, Mexican, Mexican American, and American. Casa San Jose was a crucial partner for reaching out to the community, and local artist Leah Patgorski was the curator. This project was supported by Pitt's Hispanic Heritage Month committee and The Year of Creativity initiative.

    The next phase of this project is to find a public wall in Pittsburgh to mount the mural permanently, as a way to further dignify and make visible the Latinx presence in Pittsburgh. The mural was exhibited at the Unblurred - First Friday Gallery Crawl in Garfield in December 2019. After participating in the creation of the mural, Jorge Jiménez, graduate student in Bioengineering at Pitt, said: “Disrespecting the Border was the first opportunity in 3.5 years of being in Pittsburgh, where I could share my cultural and lived experiences freely.” With this project, we enable the Latinx community, and other minority communities, to express themselves freely in Pittsburgh and the rest of the United States.

    Categories: 
    • Mobility/Exchange
    • Graduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
  • Lina Bo Bardi (1914–1992), Design for museum ramp adaptation, Bahia Cinema Club, MAM-BA (Bahia Museum of Modern Art), Salvador, Brazil, 1960. Instituto Bardi/Casa de vidro, São Paulo

     

    An architect draws: Zeuler Lima on Lina Bo Bardi

    Authors: Paula Kupfer and Paulina Pardo Gaviria

    PhD Students in History of Art and Architecture

    On Saturday, January 18, scholar Zeuler Lima offered reflections on the legacy of Italian-born architect Lina Bo Bardi (1914–92), in particular on the importance that drawing held in her practice. Bo Bardi, who emigrated to São Paulo with her husband Pietro Maria Bardi in 1946, is best known today for her architectural designs for the Museum of Art of São Paulo and SESC Pompeia, a popular cultural center and sports complex, also in São Paulo. The current exhibition at CMOA, Lina Bo Bardi Draws, curated by Lima, includes a comprehensive timeline of Bo Bardi’s architectural projects and showcases close to one hundred drawings.

    As Lima’s approachable presentation made clear, drawing was an instrumental medium for Bo Bardi from an early age and throughout her life. She sketched city scenes, was drawn to botanical motifs, and left behind drafts of unbuilt structures on paper. She also used this medium to reflect on architectural practice as a whole.  For instance, in the drawing La cámara dell’architetto (The Architect’s Room, 1943), Bo Bardi represented examples of architectural styles spanning centuries, including classical Greek temple designs inhabiting the same modern room with a miniature version of Villa Savoye, Le Corbusier's quintessential modernist house. Her interest in sketching botanical elements, which initially offered a respite from the daily experience of a Rome in ruins during fascism, would manifest strongly in her interest in organic architecture beginning in the late 1950s, which she pursued after settling in Brazil. 

    In addition to her work on paper, in his presentation Lima highlighted Bo Bardi’s important work with periodical publications. In the early 1940s, Lina Bo lived in Milan, where she collaborated with architect Carlo Pagani and edited the Italian design magazine Domus; during these years she further developed her concerns with domesticity, nature, and vernacular and industrial design. Years later, after becoming an established architect and exhibition designer in São Paulo, Bo Bardi founded the arts and architecture magazine Habitat. This platform allowed her to disseminate her work, engage in international discussions about modernist architecture and its connections to art, and further develop her interests for graphic design and illustration.

    During his presentation, Lima reflected on Bo Bardi’s training as an architect, which given the constrictions on the practical application of construction in 1940s Italy focused on intellectual debates and design strategies. Lima’s assertion that Bo Bardi was a “generous humanist who saw architecture as a field of relations” is evident in the drawings included in the CMOA exhibition, most of which feature people, plants, and daily objects inhabiting the designed spaces. The richness of the material curated by Lima suggests that for Bo Bardi drawing was not only a vehicle for architecture design but the ideal medium to wonder about the multiple ways we move in space.

    Seeing nearly one hundred drawings of Bo Bardi is a rare opportunity that should not be missed. Greater emphasis throughout the exhibition and in Lima’s talk on Bo Bardi’s achievements and the relevance of her contributions––in architecture and exhibition design, as well as publishing periodicals for international circulation––would have better situated the role that these drawings played in Bo Bardi’s creative and professional practice. Her engagement with a specific place and with the social relevance of the built environment was nonetheless transmitted to Lima’s audience, both in his presentation and the exhibition in the Heinz Architectural Center on the second floor of CMOA.

    Categories: 
    • Graduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
  • Mary Ethel McAuley, Women Working on the Strassebahn, Collection of Rebecca and Tasso Spanos

     

    Say Her Name: Year of the Woman at the UAG

    Author: Sylvia Rhor

    Director, University Art Gallery

    “I refuse to be one of the forgotten women!” Artist Lila Hetzel’s defiant words were published in an editorial letter to The Bulletin Index in 1938. Hetzel was writing in response to a critic’s assessment of the annual exhibition of the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh (AAP), in which the author omitted the many women included in the organization’s inaugural exhibition in 1910. Among the excluded was a young woman named Mary Ethel McAuley. McAuley, a Pittsburgh native, was not only one of the inaugural members of the AAP, she was also a reporter, author, illustrator, painter and teacher. McAuley’s name was regularly in newspapers and on exhibition rosters, yet, despite exhortations like Hetzel’s, she has been nearly forgotten today. The upcoming exhibition in the UAG, Mary Ethel McAuley: Behind the German Lines sets out to find her again.

    Although she has been referred to as an “untrained” or “outsider” artist due to her seemingly simple visual style, the research for this exhibition has shown that McAuley was far from it: She was a trained artist, conversant in modernist styles of her time, and deeply embedded in art networks, here and abroad. The collaborative curatorial team for the show, which includes Emi Finkelstein and Ana Rodríguez, has discovered a wealth of new information about McAuley, her painting process and her career. McAuley studied with Scalp Level artist Martin B. Leisser at the Pittsburgh School of Design, and, as early as 1910, pursued further training in Europe. When in Pittsburgh, McAuley taught weekend drawing classes in a downtown studio and exhibited frequently between 1903 and 1921 in galleries, department stores and museums in Pittsburgh and New York. A prolific writer and illustrator, she contributed regular columns to the Pittsburgh Post-Dispatch and illustrated popular books. McAuley was a modern woman, forging a career as a painter and writer, and travelling the world at a time when women of her background were often expected to marry and raise families.

    The set of paintings that form the core of Behind the German Lines, was created around 1919 to illustrate McAuley’s first-hand account of life in Germany during the First World War, while she was a correspondent for the Pittsburgh Post-Dispatch. From ration lines for butter and beer to the building of the railway. McAuley’s paintings depict scenes that she witnessed as an American woman. She captures the nuances of quotidian life at that time, paying special attention to women in wartime. Her paintings depict German soldiers in uniform standing alongside chimney sweeps in town squares, women shoveling coal, mothers and children alone on the streets while fathers and brothers were on the front line. The exhibition includes objects from the collection of Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum, including German World War I helmets, to provide a context for McAuley´s work. 

    Examination of the paintings by conservator Rikke Foulke revealed more about McAuley’s unique painting process. The works were painted or mounted on materials such as artist’s portfolios and board, and McAuley seems to have used a red linen as a painting surface in other works, heavily building up the layers of paint on the canvas. Ultraviolet light inspection uncovered heavy overpainting in certain areas, raising questions about interventions at a later date.

    The ten paintings in the show – the only known extant works by McAuley – were loaned by collectors Rebecca and Tasso Spanos. Mr. Spanos purchased the works in the late 1960s from Harry Eichleay, a local art dealer, who, in turn, had seen McAuley’s works in a gallery window in New York City. Shortly after buying these paintings, Tasso Spanos contacted McAuley, who was living in Squirrel Hill at the time. Though he never had the chance to meet her (McAuley died in 1971), Spanos vowed to exhibit her works and bring more attention to an artist that he feels is on a par with other modernist artists of the early 20th century.

    The UAG has also partnered with the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh (AAP) on a companion exhibition: Three Artists (Three Women). This exhibition highlights the work of AAP artists Tina Brewer, Fran Gialamas, and Sheila Cuellar-Shaffer. The exhibition is conceived of as a dialogue – across generations and across media – with McAuley’s works. The artists in this show draw on personal and cultural symbolism to explore issues of migration, identity and history in their works. Together, the two exhibitions allow us to ponder how women artists across generations explore these topics. 

     

    Mary Ethel McAuley: Behind the German Lines and Three Artists (Three Women) will be on view through March 28th. The opening reception for both exhibitions will take place on Thursday, February 13th from 5pm to 7pm. Related programming includes a gallery conversation on March 19th at 5pm, with AAP artists Gialamas, Brewer and Cuellar-Shaffer. We will also offer drop-in maker activities in the “Say Her Name” Feminist Maker Space + Reading Room in the gallery’s historic rotunda throughout March 2020.

     

    Categories: 
    • Graduate Work
    • Faculty Work
    • UAG
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh

    Frontpage of “India in America”: East Indian Furnishings between Ahmedabad and Bryn Mawr by Katie Loney

     

    Digital Exhibition Maps Agency and Identity through Furnishings

    Author: Katie Loney

    PhD Student in History of Art and Architecture and Graduate Student Assistant in Public History

    How can furniture help us understand the world and its connections? As the Graduate Student Assistant in Public History at Pitt’s World History Center, I have developed a digital exhibition that shares the 19th century furniture from India which I study as an art historian beyond my discipline. “India in America”: East Indian Furnishings between Ahmedabad and Bryn Mawr traces the movements of a set of artistic furnishings produced by the Ahmedabad Wood Carving Company in Ahmedabad, India to explore important questions about agency and identity. In the late nineteenth century, the American heiress, philanthropist, and suffragette Mary Garrett purchased this set for her Baltimore estate, later moving it to Bryn Mawr College’s Deanery with the help of the American designer Lockwood de Forest—one of the Ahmedabad Wood Carving Company’s founders.

    Through virtual “galleries,” visitors are able to explore the transnational histories of these Indian furnishings, tracking their movements from Ahmedabad to de Forest’s New York showrooms, Garrett’s Baltimore mansion, and the Deanery, where Garrett lived with her partner, M. Carey Thomas, the then-president of Bryn Mawr College. Looking to period photographs, correspondence, inventory reports, and other archival materials, the digital exhibition reexamines the company’s artistic furnishings and their position within Orientalist interiors, which evoked an imaginary “East” for Western consumption. At each stage, issues of agency and exchange come to the fore by registering the company’s furnishings as objects of skilled craftsmanship, commodities, and exotic luxury furnishings. Taken together, these galleries illuminate the ways nineteenth-century Americans and Indians used luxury goods to navigate their identities and social relationships in an increasingly interconnected world characterized by colonialism and imperialism.

    Almost serendipitously, my project coincides with a new exhibition of de Forest’s work at Bryn Mawr College, “All-over Design:” Lockwood de Forest between Ahmedabad and Bryn Mawr, curated by Nina Blomfield (Ph.D. candidate at Bryn Mawr College). This led to a series of collaborative events at Pitt and Bryn Mawr college where we were able to discuss both our exhibitions with the public. At Pitt, we hosted a curatorial conversation in the India Nationality Room. We not only discussed our approaches to work of de Forest and the Ahmedabad Wood Carving Company but were able to compare this de Forest’s design as a turn-of-the-century venture with the twenty-first century Indian Nationality Room modeled after the Buddhist Monastic University, Nalanda (active from ca. 500-1200 CE). This comparison raised questions about the global circulation of materials, goods, and aesthetics and how they are used in places deemed new and foreign. Comparing de Forest and the Indian Nationality Room also highlighted the processes of appropriation and inequity on which nineteenth-century Orientalist interiors relied and perpetuated, while illuminating the ways in which the Indian Nationality Room negotiates issues of identity formation for Indian communities in Pittsburgh.

    This event was followed by an object study session at Bryn Mawr College, where Nina and I led an interactive tour of her physical exhibition. Bryn Mawr Special collections provided us with hand lights and gloves to share with attendees, so everyone had the opportunity to engage with the objects visually and tactically. 

    Categories: 
    • Agency
    • Identity
    • Mobility/Exchange
    • Graduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
  • Fletcher Martin, Contract Miner, 1947

     

    Who are the Workers?

    Author: Joshua McDermott

    PhD student in Sociology and Work Forces workshop participant

    There’s a long and stubborn tendency among scholars and activist to narrowly define workers and the participants of labor movements as only those workers formally employed by a firm. In recent years, concepts such as “precarious workers,” “the precariat,” and others have been employed to claim to give theoretical salience to a supposedly new type of worker in the developed world whose work is defined by intermittent and unprotected employment. 

    In reality, there has never been a neat dividing line between workers and precarious workers, except, perhaps in the exclusionary strategies employed by some forms of trade unionism. From a historical perspective, what today we might identify as precarious workers, informal workers, household workers and the like have always been important, if not central, to labor struggles. In other words, radical worker’s movements have always been comprised of individuals who many scholars, to this day, fail to recognize as workers, due to their lack of formal employment, or the degree(s) of separation of their labor processes from direct commodity production. 

    This view is not only empirically and historically inaccurate, but also exclusionary. Through my field work in the cities of the Mano River Region of West Africa, it’s clear that informality has always been a feature of the labor movement in West Africa, where upwards of 90% of workers are either casually employed or self-employed as petty traders. Despite their lack of formal employment (i.e. employment regulated by the state, ensuring a semblance of worker protections), these workers are essential to the functioning of not only their national economies, but the global capitalist economy. 

    Pittsburgh’s labor history is no exception. My week-long immersion into the visual and archival history of Pittsburgh’s labor history during the Work Forces workshop only reaffirmed this fact. It was often in the most maligned and excluded portions of the working class that I found the most radical and coherent programs for social change. Indeed, it is on the margins of the working contract where the workers are usually the most vulnerable to mistreatment, but also the most consciousness of the injustices of the prevailing order.

    Painter Fletcher Martin’s Contract Miner, stands out as a piece within the University’s art collection that calls for direct acknowledgement of marginal workers, depicting a lone, faceless coal miner, explicitly lacking union protection. The archive’s collection of pamphlets and flyers from black workers’ and communist groups, and from feminist and women’s rights organizations, further attests to the priceless insights and holistic considerations that marginalized workers gave to the history of labor struggles in Pittsburgh. It is through the struggles and actions of the most overlooked and exploited workers that labor activism has often drawn its most profound and powerful lessons, strategies, and victories. 

    Labor historians and labor activists in Pittsburgh, and around the world, would do well to remember that. 

    Categories: 
    • Graduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
  •  

    Collective Book Launch for Jennifer Josten, Caitlin Bruce, Harris Feinsod

    Author: Rebecca Giordano 

    PhD Student in History of Art and Architecture

    On October 25th, Pitt’s Humanities Center hosted a collective book launch for three scholars whose work draws out transnational networks of creative practice. Bridging three disciplines, multiple media, and several different decades, the authors each spoke about their book projects with nods to each other’s work followed by a generous and lively Q&A. HAA associate professor Jennifer Josten presented her book Mathias Goeritz: Modernist Art and Architecture in Cold War Mexico alongside Pitt Department of Communication assistant professor Caitlin Bruce who shared her book Painting Publics: Transnational Legal Graffiti Scenes as Spaces for Encounter. Chronicling different decades and locations, each presented Mexican artistic production as sites within hemispheric and transnational networks from distinct methodologies and disciplinary vantages. Harris Feinsod, now an associate professor of English at Northwestern, discussed The Poetry of the Americas: From Good Neighbors to Countercultures, a supranational history of poetry and politics he worked on while an Early Career Specialist at the Humanities Center (2015-2016). 

    Throughout the talk, the authors referenced the conversations they shared while developing their projects at Pitt. From the discipline-specific approaches to translation to the art historical methodologies designed to give principle weight to the art object, each voiced what they borrowed and what they shared. Hearing how such cross-disciplinary conversations advanced their projects shed light on the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration and the spaces which host it. During her presentation, Josten gave a close reading of all three book covers which each have artworks made in Mexico, noting that Feinsod’s book featured a work by Mathais Goertiz, the subject of her book. Feinsod and Josten both focus on the movement of ideas and people within geopolitical realities that defined Cold War cultural production. Bruce’s work brings these concerns into the present while capturing the personal and living nature of such networks through observation and interviews. 

    During the Q&A, Feinsod recounted to the audience that revered Mexican writer Octavio Paz had once graced the Cathedral of Learning for a year in 1969 during his exile in protest of the Mexican government’s actions in the 1968 Tlatelolco Massacre. Feinsod read from a letter Paz wrote during his time in Pittsburgh, which Feinsod translated into English. Paz’s witty and sharp letter is filled with funny barbs about the Cathedral’s “purest Gothic brick and cement” and quips about industrialist Andrew Mellon and poet Robert Bly. A pitch-perfect capstone to the event, the letter illustrated Pitt’s long history as a hub of hemispheric thinking, marked by intelligent criticism, a commitment to broad inquiry, and scholarly humor. 

    Categories: 
    • Graduate Work
    • Faculty Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
  • Arushi Sahai introducing the director Avijit Mukul Kishore

     

    Nostalgia for the Future

    Author: Arushi Sahai

    PhD Student in History of Art and Architecture

    Homes are machines that we live in. 

    Last month, the Department of History of Art and Architecture co-sponsored a screening and discussion with director Avijit Mukul Kishore about his documentary, Nostalgia for the Future. The film tells the story of Indian modernity through the lens of domestic architecture, exploring the bonds and ideals of the ambitious postcolonial nation and its citizens. Using four examples, the film shows how the newly-independent nation would weave a new narrative of progress and development using the idealized concept of the home.

    The film opens in 1890 focusing on the architectural language of the time by looking at Lukhshmi Vilas Palace in Baroda, the largest domestic architecture in India and a leading example of modernity in its time. The European statues and fountains which adorned the interiors of the house evoked progress and status for educated class of colonial India. The definition changed in the 1950s, where the film opens its second act. The first decade of postcolonial India reflects the vision of a new nation-state as was projected by its leader, the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru. Nehru believed in a country liberated from history: to be modern was to be new. This ideology manifested in the conception of Chandigarh – the first ‘planned’ city in India designed by Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier. Nehru ardently believed that by living in modern architecture the citizens of India would become modern. The modern had to be made of steel, concrete and sans history. The third chapter explores public housing in Delhi which was designed by the Indian government with the intention of housing refugees from Pakistan as well as bureaucrats. Designed to promote the nuclear family, the houses had a set floor plan of a living room, bedroom, kitchen and toilet: a set mechanical production of domestic space for new India. The film concludes with the present-day Gurugram where high towering domestic apartments juxtapose makeshift slums which together make the city’s landscape. Through these four places and times, Kishore weaves parallels of architectural history within broader cultural histories to elaborate on India’s aspirations for modernity and its projection on to its people. 

    An invigorating Q&A session followed the film screening where students from various departments joined the director to reflect on the film. The questions addressed a range of medium concerns including Kishore’s mixing of poetic black-white film and digital video with found footage from state propaganda films and mainstream features. Others addressed his use of unadulterated Hindi (rather than the more colloquial Hindustani) for narration. The Q&A session proved to be enlightening by highlighting the use of filmmaking as a medium to reflect on architecture. Through Kishore’s confluence of mediums including those originally used as propaganda, the film shows how architecture has been embedded in a various media and social worlds. 

    Categories: 
    • Graduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh

    Terry Smith, Iva Čukić, Milica Pekić, and Luka Knežević Strika

     

    Contemporary Art Practices in Serbia

    Author: Ilhan Ozan

    PhD Student in History of Art and Architecture

    On October 17, the Department of History of Art and Architecture and Pittsburgh’s Office of Public Art held a public lecture on Serbian contemporary art by art historian and curator Milica Pekić, photographer and visual artist Luka Knežević Strika, and architect and urban planner Iva Čukić. Moderated by HAA Professor Terry Smith, the guest speakers built on their 2018 collaboration with the Pittsburgh artist Edith Abeyta for “Keyword: International,” an initiative of the Carnegie International in 2018.

    In their talk, they shared a number of examples from the collectives they are involved, highlighting the importance of using art and culture to enhance civic dialogue and participation for local communities. In addition to their collaboration, each of the speakers is also involved in other collectives in their own field. These initiatives include Pekić in KIOSKAssociation of Independent Cultural Scene of Serbia; Strika in Belgrade RawOstavinskaMagacinMultimadeira; Čukić in Ministry of SpacePlatform for Theory and Practice of CommonsStreet Gallery

    As this event revealed, their artistic activism seeks to engage with social, political, economic issues. Pekić introduced several projects, including “Project Yugoslavia” realized by KIOSK in partnership with the Museum of Yugoslavia which explores the premise that the former Yugoslavia is not a closed chapter in history and aims to utilize this past to open up possibilities in the present and the future. In short video interviews, 100 participants contemplate key political concepts. Instead of posing specific questions, however, the participants were given a card with information about an object from the museum’s collection with its description, date or period, and origin. The project presents a dematerialized and unconventional mode of working with a museum collection. It currently exists in a digital platform, but will take place as an exhibition at the museum in December 2019. 

    Strika discussed the history of the collective Belgrade Raw, exploring social aspects of the city of Belgrade through photography, a project that significantly contributed to the development of fine art photography in Serbia. Using internet as the primary medium of communication with the public, this artist collective began on Flickr in 2009 and expanded their platforms through exhibitions and print publishing. Pursuing alternative display formats, Strika explained in his presentation that photographs were edited by the group of participants, promoting a collective decision-making process.

    Urbanism is central to Čukić’s practice. She critically approaches Belgrade’s rapid transformation, gentrification, and privatization under neoliberal policies. As she explained, her projects follow two strategic paths: to defend the existing commons and to create new commons in terms of spaces, services, and resources. In this process, they work closely with local communities as well as city government and municipal authorities, intervening and redefining the political spectrum, even influencing policy. They transform spaces and open them for public use, often temporarily, and implement horizontal decision making among their publics.

    While the individual work and practices of this trio are highly embedded in local and regional contexts, they also tackle global issues through contemporary art grounded in everyday life. As the variety of the projects reveals, their collaborations are built on a constellation of art and knowledge from their own fields through different initiatives.

    Categories: 
    • Graduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh

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